Leveraging GST data for Flow based Lending

Access to formal credit continues to be one of the largest challenges faced by MSMEs in India due to lack of verifiable data about their business.Digital payments data combined with GST data has the potential to unlock millions of SMEs & bring them into the formal system. India is going through a Cambrian explosion of data usage. It is estimated that the monthly data consumption on every smartphone in India is estimated to grow nearly five times from 3.9 GB in 2017 to 18 GB by 2023 as per a report by Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson.

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Picture Source: Digital Desh

As businesses and their processes get digitized, it provides us a unique opportunity to re-imagine credit products for MSMEs like never before.

In order to move from traditional Asset-based lending to Data based lending it is important to make the following design considerations:

  • Underwriting based on Data – Assess creditworthiness in real time based on the consented data provided by the user
  • Low-Value – Bringing down the cost of processing a loan using digital platforms like eKYC, eSign & UPI enables one to process sachet sized loans
  • Smaller Tenures – Offer small tenures to reduce risk and thereby build better credit history of a customer
  • Customised Loan Offers – In the old world, loan products were designed to be one size fits all; With data & better underwriting, create a “loan offer on the fly” for a borrower based on his need

Getting started with GST Data Based Lending – Basics

  • Over 8M+ businesses in India will file GST returns
  • Every invoice in the GSTN system is verified by the counterparty
  • GST returns are digitally signed and this data can be accessed through consent of a small business

To access this data, you need the understand the three types of GST APIs:

  • Authentication – Allows a taxpayer to login into his GST account from any application
  • Returns – Allows a taxpayer to file his returns from any application
  • Ledger – Allows a taxpayer to view & share his tax data with any application

You can access the GSTN Sandbox & APIs here: bit.ly/GSTAPIs

If you want more insights, do join the GSTN Discussion Forum here: bit.ly/GSTgroup

The GSTN Tech Ecosystem

Goods and Service Tax Network is a section 8 company set up to provide common and shared IT infrastructure and services to the Central and State Governments, Tax Payers and other stakeholders for the implementation of the Goods & Services Tax (GST).

In this context, it is important to understand the below two roles of GSTN:

  1. Direct portal for taxpayers – https://services.gst.gov.in/services/login
  2. Expose APIs thru GSPs (GST Suvidha Provider) – http://www.gstn.org/gsp-list/

GST Introduction (1)

GST Suvidha Provider (GSP) – Companies which provide GST API Gateway as a service to application service providers; They are appointed by the GSTN and list of the GSPs can be accessed here: li style=”font-weight: 200;”>http://www.gstn.org/gsp-list/

ASPs – Companies which provide the user interface for business to file or fetch their returns from the GSTN

Naturally, ASPs are a great fit as distribution partners for lending as they own and control the end user experience of small businesses. Some of the examples are:

Accounting Software Providers

    • They help small business manage their accounting, inventory & even payroll;
    • They have rich data sets about the small business including their GST returns Eg: Tally (Desktop), Zoho/Cleartax/Profitbooks (Cloud-based)

Tax Filing Software Providers

    • These companies help business who use excel/manual billing/custom software to prepare their GST return & file it every month;
    • One of the key stakeholders here is the accountant who essentially is the business advisor for an SMB and tapping into them as an influencer channel is a great opportunity Eg: Cleartax, SahiGST etc.

Supply Chain Automation Companies:

    • Today many FMCGs and Large manufacturing companies are using software to track their sales/inventory in their supply chain; For e.g: Asian Paints, Tata Steel, ITC etc.
    • As these companies enable a large of wholesalers, retailers to use their software problem, there is a great opportunity to extend credit to their entire ecosystem
    • Eg: Moglix, Channel Konnekt, Bizom etc.

Example of a Lender – ASP Partnership

  • Consider a services-based company which provides advertising services to multiple companies
  • Let’s assume they use an accounting software like for example Cleartax or Zoho
  • In the software, the SMB sees a one-click credit button (This is enabled through an integration with the ASP & lender)
  • In a few clicks, the SMB is able to share multiple types of data like – GST, Payroll, Balance Sheet, Bank Statement etc. with the lender
  • With consent, the lender uses this data for underwriting, build a credit score and makes a credit offer to the SMB
  • The SMB provides his bank account details for real-time loan disbursement and based on the type of the business you can complete KYC
  • Take mandate either digitally or physically based on the customer for repayments

There are various other data sources one could use to improve the underwriting like – Smartphone, Payments Data from the Bank, Bill Payments, Electronic Toll Collection & various others. Algorithms can use these data sources along with other other public data sets like – Seasonal demand for a product, Import/Export, GDP, Consumption Patterns to do contextual lending.

We recommend you go through the presentation above to understand these basics & do watch the pre-recorded webinar session below on How to Leverage GST data for Flow-based lending for more details.

At iSPIRT, we are working with multiple stakeholders to create a winning implementation of Flow-Based Lending. Do watch out for future announcements from us for entrepreneurs working in this space or write to us community@ispirt.in to know more.

About the Author

Nikhil Kumar is a full-time fellow with iSPIRT Foundation, a non for profit think-thank and has been focussed on building the developer ecosystem for the India Stack.

Twitter: @nikhilkumarks

Why We Started A Change.org Petition Fighting India’s Late Payment Culture

 

(Our petition against India’s late payment culture can be found here)

The Late Payment Problem

We’re going to keep this short. Now that 97% of Indian SMBs were reportedly paid late in 2015, the late payment culture in our business environment has gotten out of hand.

Today, India officially carries the longest average payment delays in the Asia Pacific for B2B SMB invoices, 51% of which are always paid late.

The system currently in place is flawed, and heavily skewed in favor of the largest buyers on the market. The judicial system is over-burdened. It consequently delivers justice far too late to save businesses whose money is trapped in clients’ accounts.

What’s more is that the entire idea of justice by law in business is a debunked protection. Smaller businesses almost never take non-paying clients to court because they fear losing out on future contracts. They would rather suffer through the impact of being paid 90 to 120 days late, while their salaries go unpaid or they miss out on larger opportunities to thrive.

This isn’t guesswork either. Not only has this been verified to us in our hundreds of interactions with Indian CFOs and CEOs, but a commission established to study the impact of the EU directive against late payment found that 60% of European small businesses never even consider a legal battle as an option because they don’t want to spoil working relationships.

And why would hard-working Indian businesses, which prefer compromising to build strong working relationships with clients, be any different?

Our Motivation

As supporters of the business reforms espoused by our esteemed Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, we believe that unorthodox action begets change. And yet, the late payment protections for businesses in India have stagnated in the same state for the last twenty years.

The last committee set up in 2014-15 to study further updates required on the MSMED Act – which provides these legal protections to SMBs – did not even consider the necessity for better options. This was despite the comprehensive database of studies measuring the horrendous effects of late payments on the Indian business environment.

Instead, they directly skipped over the issue of late payment protections, and jumped to the question of “How can we provide more access to loans for these companies?” And all we ask is, why? While access to credit is vital for businesses in any growth economy, late payment is the root of significant troubles in the world. It causes bankruptcy and unemployment, and increases barriers to survival in the business world. It also has a significant impact on inflation since businesses up and down the supply chain mark up prices to survive late payments from their clients.

As a single factor, trade credit is indispensable because it allows companies to keep running operations even during temporary working capital shortfalls. But when it extends to the point where clients refuse to pay their suppliers intentionally, as was the case with 38% of Indian SMBs paid late last year, it needs to be addressed.

A late payment culture which forces sellers and suppliers to simply accept it as an unaddressable pain is the equivalent of a cancerous tumor. It creates chaos, and no one can entirely predict which sections of the body it will hit next if left unchecked.

And this tumor isn’t very difficult to target either. Rather that It’s grown this large from a lack of trying than a lack of successful solutions. While we sit and attempt to convince you of the horrific effects of this problem, the UK government has now passed legislation mandating all large companies to release the details of their payment practices twice a year.

This means that SMBs and startups dealing with larger companies will now be able to check beforehand what the average payment term for their prospective client actually is even before signing them on.

Singlehandedly, this increased visibility has become the best prospective protection against large businesses which exploit their financial influence on their supply chain. Now, with the reputation of their leadership on the line, larger companies have lesser incentive to hoard cash while not paying suppliers.

Even though this may not be immediately possible in India’s current business and political environment, our motivation is to bring about similar unorthodox solutions to protect the average Indian business.

What We Want

What we want is simple – for you to sign the petition, and support us by sharing it among your professional and personal circles. This is no longer a problem which affects business alone, but is also a big contributor to why life in India is getting significantly more expensive year on year.

Next, we want the government to approve another sitting committee which will accept input and feedback from the private sector for meaningful practical solutions rather than laws which look good on paper.

Instead of adding more courts alone, which will be overwhelmed just as soon by India’s burgeoning case burdens, we are pushing for the establishment of a first line of defense. We want for policy to allow for out-of-court protections which can be enforced in straightforward non-payment cases, thus clearing the line in courts for more complicated business disputes.

To this end, as some of the most prolific activists pushing for more awareness of the phenomenon of late payment in India, Hummingbill intends to release a policy white-paper for the Indian government as well in the coming month.

Keep an eye on this space for more updates on this exciting journey. Now that we can depend on your support, click here to read and sign the petition.

But, before you leave, what policy recommendations would you put forth from experience, which could help fight the late payment culture in India? Leave your answers in the comments section below.

change.org

 

 

 

Why Flipkart Taking Clients to Court For Non Payment Is A Big Deal

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What’s The Scoop With Flipkart?

 

“The digital industry is suffering because there have been several cases where advertisers default on payment… We do not have a strong industry body in terms of payment collection yet.” –  Amar Deep Singh, CEO, Interactive Avenues

 

(article originally posted here)

Between April and May 2016, one of India’s e-commerce leaders – Flipkartfiled cases against 20 of its clients for payment, to collect unpaid advertising dues.

 

Unlike Snapdeal and Amazon, who charge their clients ahead of time,Flipkart provided advertising services to clients on credit.

 

Though this move made sense as an advantageous proposition to attract more clients away from competitors, they have now initiated legal procedures against non-paying patrons who respectively owe them anywhere from Rs. 90,000 ($1,350) to Rs.1 crore ($150,000).

 

Is This Non-Payment A Common Problem?

The Indian business culture is infamous for the chaotic state of its payment practices. In fact, India has the longest average payment delays in the Asia Pacific region (Atradius Payment Practice Barometer).

 

Furthermore, 97% of Indian SMBs were paid late by their clients last year.38% of these businesses claimed that the late payment was an intentional move by clients. It was a means of using trade credit to finance their own working capital needs.

 

What’s more is that most of these companies will never enforce their contractual terms on overdue Accounts Receivables. Even when 1 in 2 B2B SMB invoices are paid late. And 1 in 7 B2B invoices are still pending past 90 days.

 

This is because enforcing a contract in court for non-payment by a client can take up to 3 years and 40% of the claim value to resolve (Doing Business India). By the time suppliers manage to get their money from the over-burdened court system, they’re already sinking under.

 

Which means that larger clients and buyers run pretty roughshod all over smaller SMBs in their supply chain. They even threaten to withhold payment altogether if their suppliers don’t give them unreasonable discounts to get paid faster.

 

Large buyers are well aware that their smaller suppliers are:

  • Either not aware of their legal rights in such situations;
  • Won’t act upon their legal rights because they would choose preserving business relationships over getting paid faster;
  • Will be tied up in an expensive legal case for years if they try to take matters to court.

 

This has created an environment where only the most exclusive businesses can demand payments upfront. While others are usually forced to roll the dice on the kind of client they land up with. Or have to face being ignored altogether by prospective customers.

 

To put this in perspective, for all the talk of “Why don’t businesses just demand payments upfront”, 98% of Indian SMBs extended goods and services on credit to their clients in 2015.

 

And if you think the situation is bad for regular Indian SMBs, it’s even worse for businesses which deal in digital services or mass communication products.

where in the world is that payment

So Why Does This Story Matter?

Because the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has used the publicity provided by this issue to push for the development of a payment recovery mechanism for their industry.

 

Several of the largest digital communication platforms and services are members of the IAMAI. And the organization is wisely using this move by Flipkart to justify enforcing meaningful out-of-court payment protections for the digital communication service industry in India.

 

The issue of late payment has been a given in the Indian business culture for a long time, to the point where it’s barely mentioned in mainstream media. Even according to law firms interviewed on the Flipkart matter by YourStory staff, this case has gained significance in the media only because a large brand like Flipkart was involved.

 

This is why, by this point, we’re sure you’re asking – How does this affect me as a small business? Of course Flipkart, a well-known brand, would be able to afford taking its clients to court. Yet if we, as small businesses, did the same – we’d probably be bankrupt by the time a verdict came in.

 

First, most late or non-payment situations can be addressed by integrating global best payment practices into your business – which Hummingbill’s Gmail plugin automatically does for you for free.

 

SecondIndian companies are gradually getting less court-shy in getting back money they’re owed by non-paying clients.

 

Third, the actions of the IAMAI shine a light on the necessity of out-of-court payment mechanisms.

 

Yet, none of the mechanisms put in place by the IAMAI’s committee will protect other non-member small businesses like you or us. Even though we need these defenses just as sorely.

 

With that in mind, we at Hummingbill are scaling up our war to break India’s late payment culture in the immediate future. The Indian business culture needs a concentrated effort to create better non-litigious protections which can be enforced. SMBs and startups need shielding from larger buyers who wish to exploit their position on the supply chain.

 

And for that effort, we will need the support of every single one of you. Keep an eye on this space for more information over the next few days.

 

In the meanwhile, let us know in the comments section below. If you had the ability to enact out-of-court enforceable protections against late paying clients, what measures (except straightforward mediation) would you put in place?

– Adam Walker & Aniket Saksena

Success Factor: Idea with Business Potential

Every engineer dreams of building his/her own product. Most ideas don’t progress any further, either because it was idle thinking, or on further reflection, they become less interesting. When a concept refuses to die, and you feel driven to explore it further, then some basic analysis must follow. What problem does it solve? Who benefits from the solution? Can you quantify its impact on the beneficiaries?

Ideas emanate in a number of ways. They can be a solution to problems that you observed at work or elsewhere. Perhaps you have spotted new opportunities arising from evolution or disruptive change in technology, environment or circumstances. For example, the advent of the PC, internet, and broadband connectivity over the past three decades, led to software that provided unique new functionality (e-mail, internet chat) or simply a new and better way of doing old things (online purchases).

Many companies have succeeded by catching a new technology curve early, and overcoming existing players (Microsoft with PC operating system, Novell with networking, Hotmail with internet mail, and recently SalesForce.com with SaaS).

Responsiveness to technology shifts is not an attribute of only small companies. IBM, for instance, has adapted to several generational changes in hardware and software. After its formal naming in 1924, IBM has seen competitors appear and fade away in the punched card, mainframe, minicomputer, PC, networking and the internet eras. Through them all, it has remained the No.1 technology company by re-inventing itself.

In comparison, here is what the CEO (Ken Olson) of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a mini-computer vendor and strong IBM competitor, had to say in 1977, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home”.

Not surprisingly, DEC was eventually over-run by the PC revolution. IBM, on the other hand, launched its PC in 1981, and tied up with Intel and Micro- soft, to emerge stronger.

Your generic idea should be transformed into a rough product concept. Entrepreneurs should have sufficient domain and technical expertise to conceptualize how the idea, combined with its practical implementation, can address specific user or industry challenges. You can then, scope the problem and formulate a distinct and bounded solution.

The next step is to explore who your customers will be. At the most basic level, the product should provide a good solution to a known problem for a reasonably large set of people. The product may enhance a capability (what it can do), process (how to do it), performance (speed of doing it), or usability (ease of use) relative to the current methods. It must be reasonably unique and fairly difficult for someone else to quickly emulate.

Ideas don’t have to be unique to be successful. Excel overtook Lotus 1-2-3, the leading DOS spreadsheet, only because Lotus failed to make the transition to Windows quickly.

Sometimes, leaders don’t recognize disruptive changes. In a 1998 paper, Google’s founders described an innovative concept called PageRank, which took advantage of the Web’s link structure to produce a global importance ranking of every web page. This helped users quickly make sense of the vast heterogeneity of the World Wide Web. AltaVista, the leading search engine amongst 30+ others at the time, turned down the chance to buy Google for $1 million, saying spam would make PageRank useless. Yahoo also declined to purchase Google, supposedly because they didn’t want to focus on search, which they felt only sent users away from Yahoo.com.

Size also does not guarantee success. After their search engine and Gmail made Google into a challenger to Microsoft, they attempted to target Microsoft’s cash cow (MS-Office) with an online spreadsheet in 2006. Analysts expected this to eat into Excel (and Office) market share, but the latter continues to dominate. Still, in 2009, this competition forced Microsoft into announcing a future online, free version of MS-Office.

Ideas are like movie scripts. Most of them sound familiar. They are often a combination of previously seen sub-plots, with new twists added. Still, many of them become successful, especially if they have some novelty and are executed well. Even remakes succeed if presented differently. Very rarely do you see a hit movie with a truly unique script.

Reprinted from From Entrepreneurs to Leaders by permission of Tata McGraw-Hill Education Private Limited.

Managing business is about having the right data at your fingertips

Hindsight, they say, is 20/20.  The advantage of hindsight is that all the data that affects a decision has been revealed and is known.  Unfortunately, real life never works that way.  As an entrepreneur, you have to operate on a combination of one part data, one part intelligent guesses, and, if we are really frank about it, one part luck.

Managing a business, when broken down into its simplest form, is about making a series of decisions. And how those decisions are made can make all the difference.  Most entrepreneurs have a lot of faith in their gut or instincts. And why not? The decision to become an entrepreneur itself is one that is based on passion, the belief that you have a winning product or service idea, and the unquenchable desire to do something on your own. Just look at the words – passion, belief, desire. Not really things you can measure and make data points about. But, combine or guide your gut feeling with the right data at the right time, and it could lead to better business decisions.

The trick, of course, is to have access to the right data at the right time.

The data that you need to make decisions while managing your business, in many cases, is about your business itself.  It is about how much you spend, how much is due to you, what is your inventory situation – seemingly simple things. But if you are able to have this information at your fingertips, accessible whenever you want it, it makes your decisions not just faster, but more sound as well.

The first step to having the right data is to collect it.  Do you have systems and processes that ensure that every important piece of information is captured? It could be your CRM, or your financial management software.  Unless the data is captured and categorized, it cannot be utilized to distil useful information. Because raw data is just that, raw; and what you need is the analysis to make an informed decision.

When you are managing a business, you have to have your eye on the ball at all times. And that means having all your data accessible in a form that makes it easy for you to interpret and make decisions.  For example, if you are able to track overdue payments as soon they become overdue, or are able to see the payment pattern of a specific customer with a bad payment record in just a few clicks, it makes it easier to track and take remedial measures.  Having anywhere, anytime access to the right data empowers you with knowledge, and helps you monitor and manage your business with complete and up-to-the-minute information. The closest you can get to the 20/20 vision that hindsight promises.

Which brings me back to my starting point. I have found that the more relevant data I have, the more intelligent my guesses are. And the more confidence I have in going with my gut feeling.

Differentiate or Die – learning’s from the NPC -12 session

Coming back to busy corporate life after NPC (NASSCOM Product Conclave – 2012) is like starting the second innings 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed being a core volunteer managing 140+ speakers, and the speaker lounge itself on the day of the event. Not just that but was also managing, choreographing and moderating the session “Differentiate or Die – there is a brutal market outside” with the speakers being Rajesh Setty and Bob Wright both from silicon valley and are champions in their own way in the field of marketing and has been delivering guest lectures and speeches on this topic for a long time, and many companies across the world are thoroughly benefited by them. It was time at NPC for Indian product startups to be benefitted by them.

As much as I enjoyed being a moderator, creator and actually a spectator of his event, would like to bring the summary and core points to those who could not attend the event.  It was a 90 minute event with Raj going first on the stage and man he will tickle your funny bone but make no mistake, he will drive the point firm and hard and this is what I can summarize form his session:

“Being part of crowd is cheap; being different is premium and just be different even if you are addressing a small segment” was his clear message. His idea was very clearly driven that if you have the will you can differentiate and still stand out in the crowd and best is he took an example of overcrowded and saturated market of cars to drive his point. He showed that even today and even in that “overcrowded-saturated-done & dusted” market people are finding ways to differentiate and thrive and survive and more important with profits. Take this: buy a car and there are 100s of brands and each one has a different story to tell – one is on safety, one is on family, one is on fast, one is luxury – all done and now you want to enter and how will you do? The common attribute among all is “owning the car”. Let’s change that to “renting the car” and then came a bunch of companies who do it, better, faster, quicker service, cheaper etc. and started another industry around this saturated car industry. Now what – further saturated and cannot go further – say most people but comes smart entrepreneurs who say the common attribute for all is “renting from airport” and lets change it to “renting from home or anywhere” and a new rental company comes up and again created a niche for itself!! Ok that’s it and you cannot do anything further on this market – come-on there should be a limit on a saturated market. So we all l thought but someone came out with a nice idea about renting cars in the locality of those which are sitting idle and why not rent it in the community and there starts another industry which says “why rent from a company” attribute – amazing isn’t it. If that is not enough another company comes and says “rent and drive” when you can “rent with a driver” and if that is not enough, there comes another company which says ride along so that we can zip faster on the “car-pool” lane. Isn’t it amazing on how an over saturated legacy industry can be even now differentiated!! And we complain how crowded the technology market is and we cannot differentiate at all – I think this should be an inspiring as well as an awakening story for all of us who complain about saturation in the technology market!!!

Raj concluded with his Mantras which I feel are very critical and we should follow religiously which I list below:

(Really) Decide to be different

Don’t forget to create meaning – empathize with the people and their problems

Most important, tell a good story

More important than that, live up to the story (otherwise 1,2 & 3 has no meaning and will hit you on the face)

And he ended up with a famous Buddhist Quote

“When deciding among opportunities choose the most difficult path” – So true!!

What an amazing presentation it was!!

Then Bob followed with his presentation and was another amazing one straight to the point.  He is an expert in positioning which is nothing but differentiation and how you drive that differentiation into the minds of the prospect so that it is “positioned” well in that whatever mm by whatever mm size the brain is. Actually my theory is just create the best product and it will sell automatically with no gtm, positioning, marketing, branding, advertising, etc. etc. as long as  they are selected by a set of machines and not humans but as long as humans make the choice, make sure you do all these right!!!! 🙂

He quoted Al Ries “Positioning in the mind of the prospect. It’s how you differentiate your solution in their mind. It cuts through the clutter. It focuses on the perceptions of the prospect”. According to Bob you should position customer centric and around his problem and what you are trying to solve and not product centric.  The 7 gems he stated which I repeat here are:

Fortune 500 or SMB is not a market

Who is your “Mary”? (Manju: Find that right person to who you like to sell and write down his characteristics – not all are same and you need to know the position and characteristics of the person you likely to sell)

Own a problem (Manju: try stating the problem you own in less than 140 characters – give it a shot – if you can’t I say you are suffering from Laser Focus 🙂 )

Have a point of view

Take a corner of the room (Manju: assume room is the market you are jumping into and don’t try to be everywhere in the room)

Communicate with Stories (this story should answer why your company, how are you different and how will be life be better with your product)

No geek-speak  (Manju: please don’t do this like talking on how many layers in TCP/IP and how you get through that network stack and how that packet flows and how IPSEC works and why the IPS and the IDS works the way it works etc etc – please address what problem you are solving for him)

He ended his wonderful speech with a proposed 10-slide solution, which are

  • Slide 1: Big results from customers like you
  • Slide 2: recent market dynamics: your world has changed
  • Slide 3: Causing a big problem
  • Slide4: …And you may lose your job
  • Slide 5: Traditional approaches no longer work
  • Slide 6: what you need to fix the problem
  • Slide 7:The Answer: Our Company
  • Slide 8: 3-4 reasons why customers like to choose us
  • Slide 9: Cleaned up problem: How your life will be different
  • Slide 10: Call to Action

I am just curious, how many slides talk about your technology? Almost None. Now have a look into your deck and see how different it is from the above. Call to action????

Next, I will come out exclusively for “ProductNation” on not just differentiation but how to find one 🙂 🙂 Watch out this space!!!!

Conversation with Customer Interaction Management Provider, Drishti-Soft Solutions

Launched in 2003, Drishti-Soft Solutions specializes in software products for Customer Interaction Management and now empowers more than 10 million customer interactions per day for customers in 40 countries. We interviewed CEO Bishal Lachhiramka about the company’s product development journey and other advice for startup CEOs.

SandHill.com: How did your company originate?

Bishal Lachhiramka: When I and the other founders (Sachin Bhatia, VP Business Development, and Nayan Jain, CTO) were in college 10 years ago, an idea clicked in our heads to build a technology to manage information better than existing ways, something that would stand ahead of its time even if we take today’s scenario.

While talking to seniors and advisors, we were told that India was not the location for building software products. Call it youthful exuberance or passion — whatever it was, we believed that we could succeed. This was the seed of Drishti, but we wanted to learn business fundamentals first before turning on our geek personas.

We provide innovative solutions that help businesses improve and manage their customer experience and customer reach. We were adamant that this technology would change how information is managed. Looking towards the future now, we aspire to be one of the top 10 recognized CIM solution providers across the globe.

SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name?

Bishal Lachhiramka: The meaning of the word Drishti is “vision.” When we started the company, we only had a vision. That vision was to build a successful technology from India and change people’s perception on our capability. The strongest thing we had when we started the company was purpose and vision.

SandHill.com: What is your target market, and did it change from what you envisioned at the outset?

Bishal Lachhiramka: Our target customers include: Hospitality, Healthcare, BPO providers, BFSI, Entertainment, Travel & Tourism, and B2C enterprises.

We initially catered our solution to enterprises and BPO providers. But small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have always been an important segment for our company. Our biggest challenge to date is scaling our solution to this segment, not only in terms of acquiring new clientele but to also help their businesses grow in the long-term.

Through hard work, several revisions and iterations, and constant learning with external help, we developed a better understanding of the SMB customer segment, sales process and success criteria. Thereafter, we were able to establish effective sales practices (including CRM development) that helped us address the challenges in this market.

Read the complete article here

Software Products Industry: Transforming India at Large

In my mind transformation is something that takes place when there is a significant change that happens and a whole genre of populace move from one condition or state to another. It is palpable, widely felt and very tangible right down to the grassroot level. One such occurrence that comes to mind is the Indian Railways reservation portal which was launched a few years back where millions across the country suddenly had the facility of bypassing greasy touts and getting a seat on a train of their choice in an honest way.

I believe another such transformation is already being felt. The phenomenon is criss-crossing the country like never before. Suddenly from the bylanes of Indiranagar and Koramangala in Bangalore and the swank office blocks of the NCR region, not to mention localities like Aundh in Pune and other such places, a breed of software product entrepreneurs are willing to stand up and be counted. But again, mistake me not, these entrepreneurs do not necessarily come from the Tier 1 and 2 cities (as demographers like to classify) but indeed from cities like Belgaum, Udupi and Bhopal, Agra, Jalandhar and Coimbatore and so on.

These new breeds of entrepreneurs are not those who have a blueprint in mind but have actually launched a software product of their own because they have identified a need in the market. These needs are not necessarily easy opportunistic needs that some early generation product companies took but those which require a sound architecture and robust package (including pricing) to positively influence the market. So why am I excited?

The first undeniable fact (and Zinnov says so, not me) is that there are about 100 million lives being transformed across 10 million SMBs in the country. To put this in another perspective, this is virtually like CK Prahlad’s “Bottom of the Pyramid”. While the software industry has been renowned for its transformational activities among the Fortune Global 2000 list, this is a bottom up revolution.

Secondly, these recently started software product enterprises offer job opportunities not far from “home”. What I mean here is that no longer will engineering graduates have to uproot themselves from hearth and home to travel across the length and breadth of the country to the large cities in search of employment. There is already evidence of companies in towns which have a population of less than a million who have demand for such skills.

Thirdly and most importantly, these software product companies have mushroomed because of a demand that has arisen from manufacturers. Small entrepreneurs, retail enterprises, cooperative banks and a variety of other organizations have made it a point to adopt best practices that once seemed to be the preserve of only the larger conglomerates. Efficiency is the buzzword down the enterprise chain and the attraction to software products has only become greater given that it is often available on a “pay for use” model. Very often the software could come bundled with the hardware at an even more attractive price. What more could a customer ask for?

Just consider this. If a pickle manufacturer in Jaipur can streamline his inventory and manage his complex distribution and invoicing using a software product that is made locally and sold on a SaaS model and for every kilo of pickle he retails he saves 20% of the cost because of efficiency and is able to achieve lesser wastage in the process because of better inventory management, then why would he not consider using local software that is easily accessible and where service is only a call away.

The transformation has already begun and there’s no turning back.

This is part of a series and watch out for the next one.