FloBiz is India’s first neo-business platform for small and medium businessmen across India. FloBiz’ easy mobile billing app can be used online and offline. Here, Rakesh Yadav, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: What are the issues faced by the SMBs in the country, and how can digitization help solve those?
Rakesh Yadav: The lack of technical abilities has pushed back a lot of small businesses in the race and decoupled with the kind of monetary involvement required for advancing technology, has become a significant issue for SMBs in the country today. Moreover, the pandemic has further aggravated the situation by bringing about the need for digital transformation for all businesses.
While this has indeed pushed the envelope for companies to adapt to operational disruptions, for some it led to the permanent shut down due to their inability to sustain growth with the cut-throat competition in the space. Hence, digital transformation and the need for organizations to adopt digital methods continue to be major challenges for SMBs. Hence, helping them bridge this technological divide is extremely essential.
Today, with India being home to more than 70 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and with an estimate that those businesses contribute 30% of the GDP to the economy; only a small portion of these SMBs are really taking advantage of digitization, while many still operate using pen and paper.
After extensive research across small to medium enterprises conducted by our team at FloBiz, and after meeting with more than 1,000 business owners to understand their pains and opportunities, it was discovered that despite a desire from SMBs to digitize, no platform catered for an easy-to-use mobile-first solution that could take care of all the invoicing and accounting needs. As a result, only around 20% of SMBs had embraced digitization.
Hence, transforming the small business economy in India through digitized invoicing, accounting, and automated workflows have become essential in the current time and age to solve SMBs’ complex data management needs online, offline and across multiple platforms.
DQ: How can tech platforms simplify accounts and invoicing for SMBs?
Rakesh Yadav: As a small business owner, it’s extremely important to have visibility into all aspects of your business. Everything from inventory shortage or excess to products sold and overall accounting can make or break your ability to succeed. However, business owners can’t wear so many hats and manage every little thing in their business, where integrated solutions can vastly improve business operations and simplify time-consuming and administrative work. Accounting, for example, is an essential part of running any business.
However, in this era of accelerated digital adoption, countless SMBs are still following the manual route. Long gone are the days of using a conventional approach of handling accounts manually because to get a competitive advantage, it is extremely important to pivot towards digitisation.
This is where technology platforms like myBillBook are helping millions of SMBs to digitize and grow. Infact as we speak, myBillBook is emerging as one of India’s leading digital accounting and business management tools. We have seen massive growth in just over two years, with more than 6.5 million downloads and 1.2 million monthly users who record trades worth over $1.5B every month. It’s still very early in India’s transformation, and the team is confident this will grow 5X in the next 18 to 24 months.
DQ: How are you enabling SMBs in the country by infusing technology to digitize the business and accelerate growth?
Rakesh Yadav: We saw an opportunity to support the small business economy of the country by developing a deep understanding and empathy for their needs. Our flagship offering — myBillBook — helps SMBs digitize their invoicing, streamline business accounting and automate the workflows of their enterprises.
It is a one-stop solution that helps SMBs create professional invoices (GST and non-GST), manage stock, collect payments and automate reminders through smart banking, and generate more than 25 business reports like GSTR, stock and sale summary, party ledger, etc.
Currently, the app is available in four languages — English, Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil. In the coming months, we also plan to make the product available in six more languages and also, we will foray into the neobanking space with integrated banking, payments, and tailored financial services.
DQ: What are the challenges faced by high-growth companies like FloBiz?
Rakesh Yadav: We have identified four key technical challenges that are a common hindrance point for high growth companies like ours.
First one being connectivity. While India has the world’s second largest internet penetration, many businesses struggled with fluctuations in internet services, outages and latency, which made it imperative to develop tools that could manage billing and inventory in both online and offline environments. It was also vital they could sync seamlessly in the background to ensure data accuracy when they came back online. This gets particularly complex when multiple people from an enterprise may be all using the app simultaneously while going online and offline.
If there is no sophisticated process for syncing and resolving conflicts (eg. two invoices submitted with the same invoice number or edits made to the same section of a document), then there’s a high chance that a customer’s data or work could get lost.
The second identified challenge is data security. When customers approach us to learn more about myBillBook, one of their critical questions is always wanting to know how secure their data is! They need their data to be available 100% of the time online and offline, and with certainty that there is no chance their data might leak out to third parties or be compromised in any way.
After data security comes data complexity as the third biggest challenge. Even when you think about creating a simple invoice, there are hundreds of potential fields of data associated with this. Everything from offering discounts, variations on products, different formats and all the individual products – all add to the sheer complexity of data handling and management.
And lastly, with customers working across multiple devices and in a combination of online and offline environments, for myBillBook the fourth and final key challenge was the need to be truly multi-platform. An app that is native to mobile (Android and iOS), but could also work on the web and a plurality of different devices.
DQ: How has MongoDB enabled them to solve these challenges?
Rakesh Yadav: MongoDB gave our engineering team the incredible flexibility we needed to manage the complex data challenges faced at FloBiz. The document model allowed them to make changes and add new integrations quickly and easily. Atlas also has best-in-class security, management tooling and monitoring built-in, so developers didn’t have to spend time managing and securing the data layer.
Early on, we ran into problems with syncing as we didn’t have a single database that was flexible enough to work across our entire platform. myBillBook isn’t just one app, rather individual apps for web, desktop and mobile, further adding to the complexity of data management. In addition, these individual applications may be used by multiple people within the business simultaneously. They all need to be interconnected to the same source of data across the entire platform, whether offline or online.
The Realm Mobile Database alongside MongoDB Realm Sync allowed the myBillBook team to build a rich and fully featured mobile application. And just as importantly, Realm’s native sync functionality made it effortless to sync data between the mobile device itself and the backend database. This meant that even if multiple users were using the same account, going offline and online, there would be no issues, duplications or data loss.
Between Realm, Atlas and MongoDB the product’s features and team’s challenges were solved. However, the biggest advantage came from all the services coming together in one unified data layer – the MongoDB Application Data Platform. With a single interface, developer language and set of APIs, the team could build and maintain the entire myBillbook offering. The platform even included native data visualization with MongoDB Charts, which the team uses to visualize the deployment and monitor data.
Having all that functionality in a single unified database was incredibly important for us. It really saved us from dealing with the complexity of managing all those different systems and we had a single source of truth. This has made us way more productive. We’ve sped up our development time and it will give us huge opportunities as we start to do more with our data.
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