If the pandemic does not destroy the country’s 70m MSMEs old-school businesses, it will probably make them stronger …

Despite the digital push by India’s Union government through initiatives such as Digital India, the country’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector is still lagging in terms of technology adoption.

Day-to-day bookkeeping is one major pain point for most businesses, as many of the owners, including traders, retailers and wholesalers, are not comfortable with even basic tools like spreadsheets.

Cloud-based solutions can help with administrative tasks such as invoicing, bookkeeping, payment vouchers and salary slips, yet they are not being used.

To find out the answer, DigiconAsia had a chance to interview the founder of one such service in India: Yash Raj Agarwal of GimBooks.

Yash Raj Agarwal, Founder, GimBooks

DigiconAsia: Why are almost 85% of 70 million Indian MSMEs still relying on pen and paper for their business bookkeeping, despite the Union government’s digital push?

Yash Raj Agarwal (Yash): Traditionally, even though the paper-oriented manual processes are cumbersome and time-consuming, there was a time when MSMEs felt they had no other option because the awareness of technology and digital tools was abysmally low among MSME owners in India.

Another possible reason could be that they felt the upfront cost of technology integration into their business bookkeeping operations was too high. Hence they would not want to invest that money, given that MSMEs usually have limited money and resources.

However, the scenario is slowly, yet steadily changing for the better. Especially in current pandemic era, when everything is going online and digital, millions of businesses in the MSME sector are gradually waking up to the immense possibilities of digital bookkeeping and accounting solutions. Going forward, more and more businesses in our country will continue to show an increased inclination towards going digital.

DigiconAsia: How can this group of MSMEs be convinced that they should adopt mobile-based accounting and bookkeeping platforms?

Yash: Essentially, it is about catering to holistic accounting, bookkeeping, banking and business finance management needs of MSMEs. The idea is to make life and business operations easier and more seamless for them by providing them a mobile-first, easy-to-use, affordable solution to all their existing problems.

This, in turn, enables them to be more efficient and also helps them in saving a lot of manpower, resources and time. Furthermore, since a simplistic mobile platform can be used by someone without any prior accounting knowledge, one does not need to invest in learning and or expensive accounting software.

With the push for e-invoicing among Indian MSMEs accelerated by similar platforms, information gets populated directly in the billing software, thereby reducing human errors. With fewer human errors, payments are processed quickly and less time is spent following up, and so on.

Also, transparency is one of the added benefits. E-invoicing greatly eliminates correcting and re-sending of the invoices to the suppliers or vendors and ensures a smooth flow.

DigiconAsia.net: What kind of technologies do you employ to sensitize your target groups on the need to use such platforms?

Yash: Mainly through blogs and social media. We have detailed tutorial videos on the app to explain every topic relevant to managing their business bookkeeping, accounting and finances.

Additionally, we also have a team to respond to customer queries and help them with technology issues or any other issues. Apart from just mail support, there is also 24×7 phone support and WhatsApp support to assist users.

DigiconAsia: How does domain-based bookkeeping work, especially in ensuring regulatory compliance and filing goods-and-services tax (GST) returns?

Yash: Our domain-based bookkeeping feature does no directly contribute in ensuring compliance and filing GST returns for small businesses. But it allows our users to perform their bookkeeping in a customized manner based on their industry/sector.

Many software/tools available in the Indian market are mostly generic, wherein users do not get a customized bookkeeping version for their specific vertical.

DigiconAsia: How is the GST returns filing process simplified via mobile handsets?

Yash: The GST returns filing process is quite complicated, and more so for MSMEs in India, which usually have comparatively fewer resources and technology know-how to help.

With our platform, businesses can automatically push their data into the Goods and Services Tax Network portal, which in turn saves a lot of time that otherwise would have gone into doing a lot of manual entries every month.

Also, an intelligent and intuitive algorithm on our platform that users from making errors, and helps MSMEs to generate and manage GST-compliant invoices by choosing the necessary fields, thus saving a lot of time and effort.

DigiconAsia thanks Yash for shedding light on the current digitalization situation in India.