There are several tools in the market that people could use to communicate, such as Email, Skype, Whatsapp, Messenger, HipChat, Slack, etc. How do you pick the right communication tool for your organization? And does it even matter which one you choose? One tool which is considered as the latest and greatest among tech startups is Slack: a chat tool designed for companies. We decided to give Slack a shot, and started using it late last year at Capital Float.
There isn’t one clear solution to choosing a chat engine for office communication, but we recommend companies give their communication channels some serious thought. Slack has features which make it distinctive from other popular tools like Skype and Whatsapp – we won’t go into that here, but do read up for more context. We’ve definitely witnessed a positive impact from using Slack.
Here are a few things a great chat tool like Slack can help you do:
1) Get things done faster
Chat enables real-time communication, and hence collaboration. Discussions can happen in real-time, rather than asynchronously over email threads. Scheduling meeting times becomes much simpler. Email communication reduces, freeing up productive time. Slack fits better into workflows: the mobile app enables people to respond on the go and great keyboard shortcuts on desktop app enable rapid usage. This leads to quicker action being taken resulting in faster decision-making.
2) Organize your information
Conversations on Slack become an archive of internal information. You can create a different “channel” for each group or topical discussion. Channels help keep discussions focused. Slack’s search feature makes it easy to find data across the medium, either by channel or by person. Files shared are compiled into a list. You can ‘star’ things for later and you can pin messages in conversations.
3) Enable people to focus on the right things at the right time
Having a separate company chat tool enables people to keep work and personal communication separate. Work related messages won’t get lost, and people will be less tempted to start replying to personal communication. On the flip side, people can choose when it’s important to tune in or out. Notifications can be customized by channel on Slack and also by time of day. People can schedule notifications to turn off in the evenings, but be notified on an urgent basis if needed. Essentially, people can focus on what they’re doing while at work, but also be engaged and plugged-in when they are with family and friends.
4) Have more control over user access
It is important to keep control of who can access company data – even conversations. You can create private channels which limited users can see, and also control what specific users can access (e.g. a consultant could be made a restricted user). With Slack, you can enable Google App login or other single sign-on (SSO) mechanisms, which has a couple of benefits. Firstly, people can add themselves without creating new accounts, and no one has to ‘add’ contacts. Secondly, it ensures your chat user list is synced to your user management. When someone leaves your company you just have to remove them in one place to ensure they no longer have access to company info.
5) Innovate, connect dots in your business, and have fun
Being a cutting-edge tech company, Slack constantly innovates and also enables innovation. Slack has integrated with many applications, enabling you to play around with a myriad of other tools your business may use. Do you use Zendesk? You could create a channel which gets notifications when a ticket is created. How about Google Hangouts? You could spin up a new Hangout link for a channel. Slack also provides API access which can allow you to create workflows even with your internal systems. Slack’s funky interface and other cool in-built features can prove useful (e.g. a bot that can remind you of stuff) or simply give you inspiration.
While we’re excited about Slack, we realize it isn’t a perfect solution. A few things to keep in mind: Slack may not quite work as well for companies with primarily external-facing communication, since it’s built for intra company conversations. Even if Slack does work for your organization, there are still kinks in the machinery with pertinent features missing from the module. Video/ voice calling can be initiated from Slack (e.g. you can create links for Google Hangouts), but this feature isn’t built into the system. And while Slack has a high uptime and reliable message delivery, for companies in India, Slack isn’t quite optimized for our existing infrastructure. When used over a flaky network, Slack can perform inconsistently while Whatsapp functions adequately.
If you do decide to go down the path of trying something like Slack out for your company (which you should!), be prepared to work initially on getting people to use it. Here are a few tactical ideas to help you get your colleagues on board: have a few champions for the product. Go for grassroots growth, not taking a top-down approach. Create shameless plugs via email with simple instructions. Create channels which people really need to be a part of, otherwise they’re missing out. Be patient, and be positive! You’ll soon see desired results!
Sakshi leads the investor facing product at Capital Float. Before that, she did product at KPCB backed Turo, a p2p car rental marketplace in SF. Her experience is in a mix of tech, design thinking, and strategy. She enjoys building delightful solutions to problems in traditional industries. At Stanford, she built her core foundation in CS, design, and economics. Beyond building products, she tries to sing and simultaneously play the piano, runs in Cubbon Park, and rolls out fresh pasta.
Sakshi is the Senior Product Manager at Capital Float.
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Capital Float, the largest digital lender to SMEs in India, has partnered with OfBusiness, a leading B2B e-commerce marketplace, to help small scale Indian manufacturers and traders avail easy funding for expanding their business. Through this partnership, buyers on the OfBusiness platform can leverage Capital Float’s Pay Later product to avail instant funds for procuring industrial materials.
Capital Float has enabled purchase financing for small scale manufacturing companies and assists them in growing their business on OfBusiness. This partnership will help in bringing these informal borrowers into the mainstream credit ecosystem. Buyers on this platform often face hurdles in obtaining timely finance to operate and expand their business, due to their lack of credit history based on traditional credit parameters. However, Capital Float’s tech and big data-driven algorithms uniquely underwrite applicants, confirming their eligibility in minutes, while also offering credit limits in real time. Some of the factors taken into consideration during the decision-making process include transaction history, cancellation rate and customer rating on the platform.
“For the first time, a partnership of this scale is focussed on enabling B2B e-commerce buyers in India. We are the pioneers of digital lending in India and the first movers in the online seller financing space. The insights we have gained by closely working with online sellers has aided us in developing this best-in-class product, custom-built to address the needs of buyers on the OfBusiness platform,” said Sashank Rishyasringa, Co-Founder, Capital Float. “Through this partnership, we aim to diversify our customer portfolio and strengthen our position in this space. Our target is to increase our present loan disbursement by three times by the end of September 2016,” he added.
Capital Float has strategic partnerships with some of the largest online marketplaces. Equipped with this rich experience in the online selling space, Capital Float is augmenting its reach by penetrating into the B2B e-commerce segment. The company is aptly placed to serve the unique needs of the sector with it’s highly customized credit offerings and swift processes.
“SME financing in the manufacturing space requires deep understanding of SME’s cash flows. We at OfBusiness, are committed to building a tech-enabled ecosystem for SMEs for all their commerce and credit needs. Partnering with Capital Float has enabled us to bring customized financing solutions in the manufacturing space,” said Ruchi Kalra, Co-founder, OfBusiness.
Publications that have covered the release:
Capital Float partners with B2B e-marketplace OfBusiness
My Big Plunge
Oct 24, 2018
Written by Shrutika Verma
Sandeep Bindra, the New Delhi-based e-commerce merchant who runs Pathways Marketing and Consulting Pvt. Ltd is the official distributor of consumer electronics brands such as Havells, Godrej, Usha and Symphony coolers for large e-commerce marketplaces such as Flipkart.com, Snapdeal.com and Amazon.in. Two months ago, Bindra ran out of money raised from family and friends and his pleas for debt for his two-year-old company were not entertained by any bank. “They (banks) ignored us as they do not consider companies that are less than three years old,” said Bindra. With the festival season round the corner, he needed immediate cash to sustain the fast-growing sales online. That is when Bengaluru-based start-up Capital Float came to his rescue.
Founded by Sashank Rishyasringa and Gaurav Hinduja, alumni of Stanford Graduate School of Business, Capital Float is a new-age lending solution that operates online and offers unsecured loans to start-ups, manufacturers and e-commerce merchants such as Bindra. Set up in 2013, the company has already lent to more than 70 borrowers and has disbursed over Rs.20 crore. Run by Zen Lefin Pvt. Ltd, Capital Float is modelled after Atlanta-based Kabbage, which recently raised $50 million from Japan’s SoftBank.
Hinduja, born and brought up in Bengaluru, initially joined his family’s garments business under Gokaldas Exports that was sold to private equity firm Blackstone in 2008-09. He later studied business management at Stanford where he met Rishyasringa. Rishyasringa, 30 looks after finance, business and product development while Hinduja, 32, handles sales and operations. Since inception, the company has grown rapidly and has attracted a total funding of close to Rs.24 crore from SAIF Partners and George Soros’s Aspada Investment. The start-up is drawing the attention of investors and small businesses as it offers fast, affordable and flexible working capital loans, an alternative to traditional lending institutions such as banks, chit funds and local money lenders.
Currently, it lends money to companies that are more than a year old. The amount of fund offered is between Rs.3 lakh and Rs.1 crore. Interest charged on the loan varies and is in line with banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs). Bindra, for instance, borrowed a sum of Rs.20 lakh at an interest rate of 18.5%.
Unlike traditional banks, Capital Float lends money to small businesses that might not have collateral, significant revenues or years of experience. But the company does not disburse loans blindly. It employs unorthodox techniques, including psychometric tests to run checks on its clients, gauages their social media reputation, and grills them on business decisions and entrepreneurial skills before lending.
According to Bindra, companies such as Capital Float take away the human element from the process of money lending and make it more data-driven with an algorithmic approach to evaluating whether the business can stand on its feet or not. “In India, a lot of access to finance is based on who you know and how good is your relationship with the branch manager of a bank,” says Bindra.
Agrees Mridul Arora, vice-president at SAIF Partners, “Lending is currently dominated by banks. However, the SME (small and medium enterprises) space is underpenetrated and given the demand perspective, a company like Capital Float has a huge potential.” Arora says online lending business makes economic sense too and counts Capital Float’s access to proprietary data from e-commerce companies as one of its strength.
Rishyasringa says the company started focusing on e-commerce as the sector was buzzing and banks failed to see the opportunity. Today, there are several thousand manufacturers who either sell directly to e-commerce portals or they sell on marketplaces. Capital Float tied up with Flipkart, Snapdeal and Myntra to meet their vendors and understand their requirements. Soon, the company realized that these small businesses were unable to grow because of working capital challenges. Today, Capital Float works with most e-commerce marketplaces and is also a part of Snapdeal’s Capital Assist, a service to provide capital assistance to small sellers.
“When we started digging into entrepreneur finance in India, the scale of the problem was staggering. Today, there is about $140 billion of formal debt provided to SMEs by banks and NBFCs but the unmet need is another $200 billion,” says Rishyasringa, who worked with consulting firms in India and in New York in the financial services and technology space before founding Capital Float
Rishyasringa calls it the “missing middle problem” that he and his partner are trying to solve in the country. “If you are a large or a mid-size corporate, banks will line up outside your door. If you are a rural farmer or artisan, the MFIs will queue up to lend you, but if you are in this missing middleRs.50 lakh to Rs.20 crore turnover range, then there are not many options available,” he explains.
Today, India has more than 30 million registered SMEs and about 35% of these are ineligible to receive any financing from banks or NBFCs. “They look at your financial statement and bank statement but there is lot more which can make these companies underwritable,” says Hinduja.
The idea to start Capital Float struck the duo during their second year at Stanford after brainstorming sessions with their professor and mentor Baba Shiv. “Nearly 10 ideas were shot down before Capital Float was conceptualized,” said Shiv, a director at the Strategic Marketing Management Executive Program at Stanford and an adviser on the board of several companies, including Capital Float. Shiv recalls how the two friends were close to developing something in the taxi services space when they discovered firms operating similar businesses.
The company today takes seven to ten days to approve a loan, which it hopes to bring down to three to five days soon. Companies such as Kabbage take only seven minutes to approve a loan in the US. However, Hinduja does not believe that a company in India can get there because of the risk involved and the lack of data available around a start-up or an entrepreneur.
To be sure, Capital Float is not the only firm in this business. It faces competition, albeit from smaller companies, such as Capital First, NeoGrowth Credit Pvt. Ltd and SMEcorner.in. A lean operation, Capital Float employees 30 people.
The company’s progress is hardly a surprise given the teamwork and similar passions of its founders. For a start, both swear by Jeff Bezos’s biography The Everything Storeas a life changing book. “We can relate to the book at professional and personal levels,” they say. Both want to get into politics at some point. “We want to solve the policy issues and see ourselves in some policymaking roles. We left the (Silicon) Valley and came to India to solve some of the problems people here face,” says Rishyasringa.
Between table tennis matches at their Bellary Road office in Bengaluru, the founders plan to make Capital Float similar to OnDeck Capital (scheduled to go public this month) or the San Francisco-based Lending Club which is all set to raise about $900 million in its initial public offering. The company is scheduled to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange this week.
These companies not just provide short-term financing but also offer a lending platform to introduce investors and institutions to the ones raising money. “Right now, we are trying to prove to the market that we know how to lend money and we know where our mouth is but we are very quickly starting to convert ourselves into a platform and the pilots have already begun,” said Hinduja.
The question is, how long can the online money lending companies avoid competition from banks? “We are now competing with some of the banks that have realized that e-commerce is becoming an area where they need to get expertise,” says Hinduja.
Among established banks that recognize the trend are Yes Bank Ltd and HDFC Bank Ltd. Both lenders did not comment for the story.
“Companies like Capital Float will not be able to compete with banks at the pricing level whenever they jump into the game. But if these companies execute better and faster they can create a platform to work with banks,” says SAIF’s Arora.
News piece sourced from Livemint. Read the full piece here.
Oct 24, 2018
The hotel industry is one of the fastest growing domains in India, and, together with the travel segment, it was valued at $136.2 billion by the end of 2016. The implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) will help the hotel and travel industry largely by bringing down costs for customers, consolidating the multiple taxes into a single tax value and decreasing transaction costs for concerned business owners. However, certain challenges accompany these outcomes as well.
A look at the conditions pre- and post-GST
Similar to other industries in India, there were multiple taxes applicable to hotel industry. These were chiefly in the form of value added tax (VAT), luxury tax and service tax. For a hotel, if a room’s tariff exceeded Rs 1000, the service tax liability was 15%. With an abatement of 40% allowed on the tariff value, the actual rate of service tax was brought down to 9%. The VAT that ranged between 12% and 14.5%, as well as the luxury tax, was applied over and above this.
The GST impact on hotels and travel industry
Under the GST regime, the hospitality domain gets the advantage of standardised and uniform tax rates. The utilisation of input tax credit (ITC) has also become simpler and better. Complimentary food (such as offer of breakfast with room) that was separately taxed under VAT will be taxed as a bundled service under the GST system.
As a positive effect of GST for hotels, the end cost to be paid by the final consumers will decrease, which will help to attract more tourists and push up the growth of businesses in this industry. Conversely, it will also increase the revenue collection of the government.
The tax rates under GST for hotel industry have been set as:
|Room Tariff Per Day||GST Rate|
|Less than Rs 1000||NIL|
|Rs 1000 – 2499||12%|
|Rs 2500 – 7499||18%|
|More than Rs 7500||28%|
Most hotels in India follow a dynamic pricing policy, where they decide upon the tariffs manually as per the number of tourists expected in a certain season. The tariff, therefore, keeps changing according to the demand and supply forces. Since the GST rates vary for different tariff levels, hotels have to ensure that their billing software also changes the tax rate as per the room tariff throughout the distribution channels comprising travel agencies and online aggregators. Making such changes in the billing systems could take some time.
Positive aspects of GST
The Goods and Services Tax has brought some relief for the hospitality industry through:
Ease of administration
With the implementation of GST, the multiple state and central taxes levied on the tariffs of hotels have been done away with. This has helped to trim down the burden of different procedures of tax application and has resulted in better streamlining of the entire process.
Less confusion for customers
Tourists staying in hotels and availing some special services were largely confused by the multiplicity of taxes in their bills. For most of them, it was difficult to understand the difference between VAT, service tax and luxury tax. Under the GST system, they will see only one consolidated tax on their invoice, which will give them a clearer picture of what they are paying in tariffs and what is the tax charged on them.
Enhanced quality of service
Many tourists and hotel guests have had the cumbersome experience of waiting in the hotel lobby while their bill was being prepared. It often took longer to add the different tax components and prepare the final version of the bill to be paid by the customer. With GST, the managers have just one tax to calculate and that makes the checking-out process from hotels quicker and simpler.
Ease of using input tax credit
Entities in the hotel and travel industry can now easily claim and get input tax credit. They are entitled to get full ITC (input tax credit) on the inputs that they add. Due to the division of revenue between the centre and state governments, the multiple taxes paid before GST regime on inputs – like cleaning supplies, uncooked edibles for meals – could not be smoothly adjusted against the output. The calculation of ITC will be easier in the GST system.
Negative aspects of GST
The GST for travel industry and hotels also comes with its share of adverse impacts. With a taxation rate of 28%, the hotels charging tariffs over Rs 7500 are worst hit, as their final prices for customers will increase significantly.
Looking at the bigger picture, GST can hit the inflow of foreign tourists to India. Other Asian countries such as Japan and Singapore impose tax rates as low as 8% and 7% on their hotel and travel industry. This can become a big factor in making them more preferred tourist locations as compared to India.
Capital Float looks at GST for hotels and tourism as a mixture of simpler, smoother rules and seemingly higher costs & compliance. The trade associations of hotels and restaurants have been protesting for a lower tax rate of 5%, but it starts at 18% for a majority of them. The value of tourism industry in India is projected to grow by up to $280.5 billion in the next 10 years. How well the positive aspects of GST outweigh its negative effects is yet to be seen. Meanwhile, despite the challenges, the credit support for the development of new hotels and restaurants by an NBFC like Capital Float will continue to be consistent.
Oct 24, 2018