Why SMEs should go digital

The Digital SME

If you’ve been reading the papers over the last year, you must have come across the words ‘digital’ and ‘SME’ on almost a daily basis. From the the ‘Digital India’ initiative by the government to cut red-tape, bureaucracy and dare I say even corruption, to the KPMG-Snapdeal report on how going digital (or selling online) has helped SMEs increase their turnover and profitability, there’s a lot of excitement in India about SMEs going digital.

Over the past few months I’ve been asking myself a couple of questions:

  • Do SMEs really understand what “going digital” means?
  • Do SMEs know what are the benefits of going digital?


Going Digital: What does this really mean?

Depending on which report you read, SMEs can sell products online for prices between ₹1500- ₹3000. So does this mean the SME has now gone digital? I think not. This just means the SME now sells its products online and therefore has a greater reach, which to be honest is a great achievement in itself, but the SME still has to adopt technology internally for it to go truly digital. A modern digital SME is powered by solutions that are spread across multiple functions: From Customer Acquisition to Risk Management to Operational Efficiency to Enabling/Empowering Workforce. Adopting new age technological solutions internally will allow an SME to achieve scale and more importantly operational efficiency at a lower cost. Some of the largest start-ups have managed to scale globally because they have successfully done this. Firms like Practo, AirBnB and Uber for example, have successfully incorporated technology in their internal processes which has allowed them to grow globally at a rapid pace.

The rapid growth of technology has given SMEs:

  • Access to Enabling Infrastructure through increasing device penetration and an enhancement in internet connectivity.
  • Availability of economically feasible enterprise solutions and services along with a thriving mobile applications (apps) ecosystem.
  • Customers who have adopted technology and ecosystems that are allowing this adoption through key initiatives.
     

Going Digital: Key Benefits

4 areas are likely to be directly benefited if SMEs adopt technology:

A) Customer Acquisition

Technology can be leveraged to access clients in distant geographies and create a greater visibility among target segments. Personalisation in engagement and customer relationships, for both new and existing clients, can be managed in a more efficient manner. The immense data that is captured using technology will allow SMEs to develop customer intelligence which will then allow them to optimize sales and engage with various ecosystems to open new sales channels.

B) Operational Efficiency

Automation and streamlining of core processes will allow the SME to become more efficient, reduce wastage and utilize resources in an optimal manner. This will allow them to enhance the customer experience and optimize their supply chain management through better visibility and control over logistics. With efficient processes in place, SMEs will be able to choose suitable potential partnerships that will fit their internal processes and not cause any disruption,

C) Workforce Enablement

Technology can go a long way in identifying workforce shortfall and identifying key areas of skill development needed within the organisation. A number of digital tools are now available for employees to collaborate and for the SME to monitor employee productivity. Web based solutions for skill development and training for employees will help the SME ensure that employees are empowered with new tools and concepts on a regular basis

D) Risk Management

With use of technology comes the responsibility to protect the information the firm has gathered. Data Security becomes paramount for customer/employee data as well as the company’s financial information. Digital solutions for preventing such leaks would strengthen the organisation. Technology can also be used to safeguard and monitor physical assets through the use of surveillance, asset control and tracking solutions.

There has never been a better time for SMEs in India to “go digital” and leverage technology to incorporate financially feasible solutions.

Akshay_Sarma

Akshay joined Capital Float after completing MBA from Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. Following 6 years with Deutsche Bank across various functions and geographies, he opened a French Italian bistro in India. At Deutsche Bank, Akshay worked across risk management, structuring derivative products, trading Indian government bonds and structuring and executing assets financing trades.
Akshay manages Capital Markets at Capital Float.

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6 Types of Business Loans Available to SMEs In India

The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector is of key importance to the Indian economy given that it employs the second largest workforce in the country after the agricultural sector.

Statistics offer a clearer picture. Accounting for 45% of industrial output and 40% of exports, the SME sector can be a significant driver of economic growth. SMEs also produces more than 8000 quality products for the Indian and international markets.

In recognition of their significant contribution, SMEs are receiving a welcome push from industrial associations and government bodies. Yet their biggest challenge continues to be business loan requirements. Lack of timely financial help wreaks havoc on the growth of small businesses. Funding, if not received at the right time is of no use. Often, SMEs are turned away by traditional banks for a number of reasons. Further, the inflexible and complex loan application and approval processes of conventional lenders are discouraging for most small enterprises.

Fortunately, change is in the offing. Thanks to the growing presence of FinTech lenders, small and medium enterprises have reason to cheer. Business loan requirements for two different companies can never be the same. Keeping this mind, online lenders like Capital Float have stepped in to offer a wide variety of customized loans for business in India.

Here is a quick look at the bouquet of flexible credit products that Capital Float provides to SMEs.

Term Finance:

A quickly disbursed working capital loan, Term Finance is a great product for B2B service providers, manufacturers, traders and distributors alike. It helps fast-track business growth and boost profit margins. Term Finance is a convenient means to acquire fast business funding needed to meet your short-term requirements and ensure a positive monthly cash flow.

Online Seller Finance:

With the online selling space growing exponentially, there is an omnipresent demand for high liquidity. Our Online Seller Finance has made loans for businesses in India, especially e-commerce merchants, easily available. B2C and B2B marketplaces can get ahead of competition, expand to new markets and diversify into new product categories with the help of this customized credit solution. Attuned to your business ambitions, this collateral-free business funding ensures you have liquidity in the swiftest manner possible.

Pay Later:

An innovative financial product, Pay Later is ideal for SMEs with increasing orders in the pipeline and need to make supplier payments regularly. It greatly benefits those that can avail large cash discounts from suppliers. Pay Later works well for an enterprise with a base of blue chip suppliers, too. Carrying a predefined credit capacity customized for every applicant, Our Pay Later credit facility helps a variety of SMEs in times of cash crunch.

Merchant Cash Advance:

A simple and user-friendly business funding solution, Merchant Cash Advance ensures you have access to liquidity as and when required. Most suitable for restaurateurs and retail store owners, your unique business loan requirements are met in the most affordable manner. Active use of card payment devices offers an easy experience to customers. Point-of-sale machines aren’t just means of cashless transactions; they can become instruments for availing working capital finance. Merchants who earn revenue from debit and credit card swipes can avail of business funding through this tailor-made financial product. We offer working capital finance up to 200% on the merchant’s sales from monthly card swipes. Capital Float has partnered with multiple point-of-sale (POS) card machine vendors such as MRL Posnet, Pine Labs, Bijlipay Mswipe, ICICI Merchant Services, etc. Partnering with these vendors helps merchants access their customized working capital solutions.

Supply Chain Finance:

Enterprises often need to work with multiple suppliers. Using bills as financial instruments then becomes a given. Delays in payment are likely to impact the growth of a business. Fully comprehending the importance of correct timing, Capital Float’s Supply Chain Finance has been designed to come to the aid of small and medium business owners. This unique loan product takes care of cash crunch situations through accounts receivable financing, which instantly liquidates the SMEs bills into cash. A revolutionary way to put more money into your business by collateralizing your business’ outstanding bills, Supply Chain Finance enables SMEs to procure an advance of up to 80% of their bill value.

Taxi Finance:

India is witness to the recent boom in the radio taxi business. Finding an Ola taxi or an Uber cab is convenient and something one can do round the clock. Inspired by these success stories a number of people from diverse walks of life are looking at taking up work as drivers for tech-based taxi services. While it offers an easy means to earn a good income and hold a steady job, the taxi business needs basic investment in the tools of the trade— a car wired into a tech-based platform.

Taxi Finance, Capital Float’s innovative financial product, offers taxi drivers the freedom to earn more. With this loan, a taxi driver can now own a car, operate independently, and enjoy the benefit of flexible working hours. Capital Float has partnered with several reputed taxi aggregators to enable cab drivers to ply their cars on their platforms and substantially increase their revenue. The aggregator repays the loan installments by deducting the amount from the driver’s earnings on a weekly basis.

Taxi Finance offers a simple, affordable way to earn on the driver’s terms, providing easy business funding that is in stark contrast to business loans in India offered by traditional banking institutions.

Conclusion:

Unique business loan requirements underline the need for tailor-made financial products. We have financial solutions that cater to any SME’s working capital need. Minimal documentation and zero-collateral are among the unique selling points of these business funding solutions. Additionally, easy eligibility criteria combined with no pre-closure or hidden charges make these funding options SME-friendly. With instant approvals and quick disbursal of business loans, it makes sense to choose from one of our many innovatively designed financial products.

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Oct 24, 2018

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Budget 2021 – Let’s Ideate

“Send me your inputs so that we can see a Budget which is a Budget like never before, in a way. 100 years of India wouldn’t have seen a Budget being made post-pandemic like this. And that is not going to be possible unless I get your inputs and wish list, clear observation of what has put you through the challenge… Without that, it is impossible for me to draft something which is going to be that Budget like never before” – Hon’ble Finance Minister of India.

In the spirit of the aforementioned words of the Hon’ble Finance Minister, this article attempts to deliberate on certain aspects of the tax law, and how certain changes may help the respective classes of taxpayers and businesses concerned.

1. Liberalization of the scheme for voluntary declaration of unaccounted income
At present, the effective tax rate for declaring unaccounted income voluntarily in your income tax return is 78%. The very thought of losing 78% of the fortune deters such declarations. Can this regime be replaced with an effective tax rate of about 35% on declared unaccounted income coupled with a compulsory deposit of 40% of the declared amount in 15-year bonds? In such a case, the declarant gets to keep 65% of their declared amount though they get 40% back in their hands after 15 years. The government can allow banks to issue these 15-year bonds and use the money for credit expansion at low rates of interest to boost the economy.

2. Cashback to the final consumer a portion of GST paid if the purchase is through cashless means
An incentive like this from the government for a limited duration will encourage people to increase their purchases, thereby boosting the consumption demand and subsequently, the economy. Cashback to the final consumer will be more effective than cutting the GST rates as oftentimes rate cuts are not passed on by businesses. The Government may consider adding an additional condition that only “Made In India” products be eligible for cashbacks.

3. Discussion points arising out of Covid-19
Many individuals have got stuck in India due to travel restrictions, necessitating stay with family in India while working for foreign employers. The government released a clarification in May 2020 excluding the period between 22 March 2020 and 31 March 2020, while determining the residential status for FY 2019-20. Similar clarification is expected for FY 2020-21 as well since a change in residential status may result in increased tax liability for some individuals who have been forced to stay in India.

Furthermore, the Government may also consider providing additional tax deductions for expenses incurred on Covid-19 tests and treatment in private hospitals, which is a need of the hour.

4. Measures for easing the cash flow burden
Relaxation of advance tax norms with respect to Dividend income
India has moved to the traditional system of taxation of dividend, whereby the shareholder pays tax on the dividend income as compared to the company paying tax on such dividend declared, which was previously the case. Thus, it may be beneficial for the advance tax provisions to be amended suitably to provide relaxation from levy of interest if the shortfall in payment of advance tax is attributable to under-estimation of the dividend income.

Enhance the scope to apply for lower tax collection certificate
The scope of Tax Collected at Source (TCS) has been widened to cover the sale of motor vehicles, remittance of foreign currency under LRS or sale of an overseas tour package and sale of goods. This has resulted in persons covered by the said TCS provisions paying something more (in the form of TCS) at the time of purchasing goods or vehicles or making foreign remittances, as the case may be. A budget proposal enabling such persons (if their estimated tax liability justifies collection of tax at a lower rate) to apply for a lower tax collection certificate would go a long way in easing the crunch in cash flow resulting from an increase in cash outflow on account of TCS at the time of purchase.

With the promise of a Budget like never before, the nation waits in anticipation for the clock to strike 11 on the morning of 1st February 2021 – the date and time when the Budget speech will be delivered!

The author Rishi Dabrai can be reached at ndjandassociates@gmail.com or at +919945236982

Rishi Dabrai
Chartered Accountant
Partner, NDJ & Associates

“DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely based on the opinion of the author and Capital Float (CapFloat Financial Services Pvt Ltd) does not necessarily endorse or subscribe to it. Capital Float (CapFloat Financial Services Pvt Ltd) shall not be liable for any loss/damage caused to any person/organization directly or indirectly. Capital Float does not guarantee the contents of the views expressed and the same are not binding on Capital Float.”

Oct 24, 2018

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Old May Not Always Be Gold

Like most college friends, Ankit, Murthy and Kumanan lost touch with each other soon after graduating. Unlike most friends who lose touch with each other, they ran into each other while vacationing in the same resort at the same time to celebrate new years’ eve. While their career paths had diverged 15 years out of college, they were soon reminiscing the good old days with an equally old bottle of scotch. After rewinding and replaying the past a few times, the conversation caught up with time and they started talking about work.

After several years of working in a traditional bank, Ankit got bored and joined a new age digital lending company as the head of credit. Kumanan worked at large garment manufacturing units in India, Bangladesh and China. Watching the industry disappear around him, he sensed opportunity and had recently started his own T-shirt design and manufacturing company where he was riding the e-commerce boom and sold most of his inventory online. He had ambitions of starting his own brand soon. Murthy had joined his father’s business and expanded a single department store into a chain across the entire city. He also supplied snacks, beverages, toiletries, cleaning equipment to the largest software company of his city and they were constantly demanding that he supply paper, ink and most other consumables as they grew and expanded.

With the scotch taking care of any and all inhibitions, Murthy and Kumanan’s frustrations surfaced and they started talking about how they love their work, the sense of independence, the sense of control over their destiny but how they absolutely hated dealing with lenders and banks. In their mind, Ankit personified this opaque, insensitive, slow lender and they wanted him to explain why all their past loan and credit card applications had been declined. The barrage of questions targeted at Ankit reached a point where Kumanan even wanted Ankit to explain why his voter ID had the wrong address! Ankit smiled and surprised them by saying he shared their frustration of being unable to provide the right loan to the right person at the right time in his old bank and that he also moved to a new age digital company with the intent to redefine lending in India.

Ankit then asked Kumanan and Murthy to explain how they went about getting a loan and got the answer he expected. Like most business owners, they did not have the time to deal with multiple banks and they used an agent to help them get loans. While they did not particularly like their agents, they did send a guy over to their office to fill forms, collect documents, organize bank discussions and get them their funding without them having to figure out every bank, product and process. In addition, Murthy and Kumanan both had multiple suppliers who they had worked out individual credit terms with. They also admitted that whenever they needed urgent money or large sums that banks would not provide, they got it from local moneylenders at exorbitant terms. It was quite beyond them as to why a bank would think they cannot repay a larger loan when they were clearly taking multiple loans and successfully paying them off.

Ankit explained that traditional banks and lenders had very limited scope for loan officers to think out of the box and act beyond established policies.  Banks did not have significantly different products or processes and ended up providing 2-3 year lump sum loans that were not large enough for Kumanan or Murthy.  They always ended up spending time allocating money across various activities such as expansion, payroll, supplier payments, seasonal demands, online vs offline sales where payment cycles were vastly different. The advantage of Ankit’s new age company was three fold: custom products designed to address specific financial needs of businesses, high speed customer experience with minimal documentation, and low pricing due to product features that enable non-conservative underwriting. Kumanan and Murthy’s curiosity was piqued and they wanted to know more.

Ankit asked Kumanan to imagine a world in which he downloaded a mobile app, added all his suppliers and had a line of credit with standard terms available that he could use to pay any supplier any time. He could pick his repayment period and the payment goes through immediately! No need to haggle with each supplier and the credit line grew with usage and regularity of payments. Since he sold online, he also had the option of picking a tailor made e-commerce loan where repayments were mapped to the payment cycle and a transparent cash flow control mechanism ensured that many more people qualified for affordable large loans. These loans even adjusted themselves for seasonality of his business and he could request top-ups as and when he needed them. Kumanan was very impressed that these products were not restricted to his imagination but were actual products that Ankit was able to provide via his new age digital lending company.

Murthy wanted to know if there was something for folks like him who did not sell online. Ankit told him that instead of taking long term loans that may not be utilized all the time but keep accruing interest, Murthy should opt for an invoice financing loan wherein all his supplies to the large software company could be funded as and when they make a purchase from him. That way, he does not have to plan for their expansion and is confident of the right amount of money at the right time and the right rate. Murthy agreed that while this product did sound interesting, he preferred if somebody came to his office to explain the product and handle the paperwork. Ankit mentioned that his company did not have any “paperwork” since most customer information was collected digitally but he is happy to send over a person to Murthy’s office to help guide him through the product and process. Murthy then wanted to know why he could not get a larger loan and Ankit explained that lenders and banks are happy to lend when they have some visibility into the cash flow of a business. As an example, Ankit’s company had recently launched a merchant cash advance product that collected daily payments directly from the credit card machines that Murthy had in all his stores. Typically, it was a lot easier to qualify for such a loan, there was minimal documentation and there was no need to think about payment due dates!

Having given up hope of ever hitting the gym, Kumanan and Murthy were happy with their new year resolution of trying out custom financial products from new age digital companies and keeping in mind that old may not always be gold!

Tushar Garimalla

Tushar has deep expertise in credit, risk management, portfolio management and analytics gained during his 10-year career with HSBC and Capital One in India and the US. Most recently, he worked on a small business credit card portfolio purchase for Capital One including business development valuations, due diligence, system integration and credit policy development. Tushar graduated from IIT Madras with a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering.

Tushar heads Decision Sciences at Capital Float. 

Oct 24, 2018