The ongoing digital transformation urged every business to get digitalized. Gone are the days of SMB’s avoiding digital mediums to handle and maintain the business transactions. Still, many less-savvy micro-merchants and shop owners follow traditional bookkeeping and struggle to settle their month-end credit balance. There are grocery stores that rely on maintaining separate Khata books for every customer and losing track of a few payments as the number of customers increases. To solve the problems encountered by the traditional bookkeeping method of all the small business owners, Harsh Pokarna, Co-founder and CEO of OkCredit, and his two other friends Gaurav and Aditya, found the digital accounting app named OkCredit. “We aim to motivate the local merchants of the country to be technologically advanced by letting them manage all their monthly settlements of the customers and clients digitally,” says Harsh. He also adds, “Established in 2017; we have seen tremendous growth of our app. The installed audience base was skyrocketed to almost 250% from August 2019 to March 2020. As of now, we have over 5.5 million active users who recorded transactions worth $ 7.5 million in October, and it continues to grow at a good pace.”
Graduated from IIT Kanpur in 2014, Harsh Pokarna started his career as an entrepreneur. He co-founded two other startups before OkCredit; one to update contact lists and another to plan events with the same team. Acknowledging the importance of adapting technology to SMB’s to manage their monthly ledgers, Harsh, Aditya, and Gaurav came up with the idea of OkCredit. The intuitive mechanism, single click accessible, personalized log made the app a one-stop-shop solution for all the macro, micro-businesses to maintain and monitor their transaction records while identifying different customers’ credit dues.
The First Steps
As the CEO and Co-founder of OkCredit, Harsh sees the app as an agile solution that can penetrate small businesses’ digital transformation process. “The uniqueness of our products lies in its simplicity. It is easy to use, secure, and technologically advanced. The app runs on a basic smartphone and helps the business owners automate the entire process of the users’ mobile transactions with their clients”, says Harsh. The idea for OkCredit rang a bell in their minds when the team visited a local grocery store to settle their month-end credit balance in Bangalore. Harsh recounts, “We saw how hard it is for the store owner to record, track, and close all his regular customers’ credit transactions. Being profound entrepreneurs with ample of experience into technology, it is right at that moment we decided to simplify the process by developing the digital ledger app.”
Talking about the team, Harsh says that “It’s just not us (co-founders) who made our app a success. We are lucky enough to be associated with some potential people who enabled us to acquire an active merchant scale by bringing an initial critical mass of SMBs. At OkCredit, we give every employee their level of ownership and freedom to make business decisions, which helped us builds the most trusted culture in the organization.” From being a small office at a small house in Koramangala, the app today emerged as a complete digital makeover to the traditional register book -‘Bahi/Udhar Khata.’ It made the bookkeeping task simpler and useful for millions of small businesses. Apart from just tracking the credit transactions, the app also sends timely reminders to the customers regarding the dues with an integrated reminder feature via WhatsApp and SMS.
Towards the Future
“With the exponential increase in the smartphone users, towards the later part of 2020, we have seen a majority of small business owners’ pro-actively exploring internet-enabled, mobile-first alternatives. A vernacular, voice-first solution to ease out the data entry part would be key to building product solutions to penetrate the market segment starting 2021 fully,” says Harsh. He also adds, “As of now, our app covers 19,000 pin codes across India. We have decided to maximize our growth by reaching out to small businesses that are not aware of our products and services. We will also ramp up our efforts on OkShop and OkStaff, which will help our business users reap the benefits of digitization.”
Through the workshop, merchants can display their products and offers to customers. Whereas OkStaff can be used for the staff and payroll management application for the relatively bigger SMB’s who have staff members running their business operations.
The daunting COVID challenges of a CEO
The attack of the dreadful coronavirus has brought much business to stand still. The pandemic significantly affected the small business owners. Due to the lockdown, many of them were forced to shut down the businesses. “During the lockdown, we noticed that merchants were not selling on credit due to the uncertainty of payment when compared to regular times. We saw a dip in our business. Post lockdown, gradually company started picking up. “The fear of getting out to buy daily essentials during pandemic has turned out to be an advantage to all the businesses who sell their products online. Our merchants started using apps like WhatsApp to sell their products by creating product catalogues that ease their consumers’ purchase. This way of offering has spiked customers’ interest to buy products promoting contactless transactions. With this flow, our user retention and revival post covid has been remarkable and completely organic. We have successfully surpassed the pre covid business “, exclaims Harsh.
Harsh and his team are planning to expand the business to other regions of the country in the future. “The app is already available in thirteen regional languages; our recent voice note feature enhanced the usability of the app by allowing the shop owners to record their transactions. We have raised $67 million in Series B funding by Light Speed Ventures and Tiger Global that took our total to $83 million. We are soon planning to increase the digital awareness among the SMB’s which would drive loyalty and boost the revenue generated for our business”, concludes Harsh.