NEW DELHI - The Indian government's open e-commerce network ONDC has expanded its operations into 236 cities in the country while adding more than 36,000 merchants, a senior company official said on Thursday.

The government launched the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) last year to give small businesses and retailers access to processes and technologies usually provided by big e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Walmart .

The non-profit company's network currently displays products and services from all participating e-commerce platforms in search results across all apps on its network.

"ONDC is handholding small merchants while aiming to make e-commerce more inclusive and accessible for consumers," T. Koshy, CEO of the company told reporters.

The network is slowly and steadily recording an uptick in transactions, he said.

The government has said existing platforms are tightly controlled, keeping out many small players. It expects ONDC to increase competition and foster start-up innovation.

T. Koshy said the company was in talks with cab operators to launch operations in at least four cities, after successfully launching mobility operations in two cities in South India.

More than 55,000 taxi cab owners have already joined the network, and consumers were using it for about 35,000 rides a day, he said.

The platform has helped cab owners to provide services while saving on hefty commissions paid to other platforms and offer lower rates to passengers, said Shaikh Salauddin, head of Telengana Four Wheeler Drivers Association, and a taxi driver.

"The ONDC move has helped to promote fair competition in the e-commerce and helping consumers and small players." ONDC aims to raise e-commerce penetration in the next two years to 25% of India's consumer purchases, from nearly 8% now, in a country of 1.4 billion people.

On Tuesday, the government said the state-run Indian postal service, which has a network of nearly 160,000 post offices, will also join the ONDC network to provide logistics services to small traders across the country.

(Reporting by Manoj Kumar. Editing by Jane Merriman)