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Interviews

“AI, IoT and ML will enable businesses to become highly adapted and suitable to customer needs”— CA Vikram Seth, CEO and Founder, Software@Work

CA Vikram Seth, CEO and Founder, Software@Work

As organizations grow, they need to handle many aspects beyond accounting such as customers, production, operations, employees, assets, etc. When data across departments and teams is not seamlessly flowing, it hampers the growth of the organization.

With an ERP, there is a seamless flow of information across the organization and all team members get empowered to become a part of the process flow. Information required to make important decisions is easily available and stake holders have updated access to various business parameters.

Traditionally ERPs have been costly and only larger organizations could afford them. Thankfully times are changing and affordable ERPs that can be implemented quickly, are available.

We took an exclusive interview of CA Vikram Seth, CEO and Founder of Software@Work, to discuss the benefits of ERP solutions, challenges businesses face in automating business processes and ways to overcome them, as well as his ideas on growing a business.

1. Congratulations on featuring among the 20 Most Promising ERP Solution Providers 2018 by CIO Review. How does it feel to be recognized as a leader in the ERP sector?

Thanks. It’s great to get this recognition. It motivates us even more to progress with our principles of taking a customer friendly solution approach rather than the traditional sales approach. SMEs have traditionally had a raw deal when it came to business apps.

ERPs have been costly to buy and difficult to implement.  This has resulted in the extensive usage of outdated software and spreadsheets to manage key business processes. We hope to keep working on changing that and want to enable Indian SMEs with the best and most affordable business software solutions.

2. How did you start your first business Software@Work? Please take us through the journey of Software At Work from its inception till today.

In 1991, we started with developing a customized accounting and inventory application for a client. As that progressed, we faced many challenges due to the clients changing requirements and absence of standard processes. Hence, we felt that it’s better for the SMEs to start with off-the-shelf software and then move on from there.

We happened to see Tally and were very impressed with how it could automate accounts with simplicity. From then on, we pitched it as a solution to our customers and in many cases also implemented the default functionality in a way that it met customer needs. Our experience with Tally has been outstanding as a product and as a principal company to deal with. It’s no surprise that it’s the choice of software for accountants across the country!

Through the years, we also added Microsoft Navision (now MS Dynamics NAV / 365) and GoldMine CRM to our offerings. During this time, we spent time customizing these solutions and adapting them for customers.

In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the offerings for business apps / ERPs, but users still continue to have manual/outdated processes for operations, production, customer management etc. We are currently focused on helping them by educating them on the availability and benefits of new software apps.

3. Software@Work has been engaged by some of India’s leading organizations to implement solutions for them. What is that one aspect of your business that makes it unique and valuable to them?

Customer satisfaction has been one of our core values. Hence, a lot of our business comes from referrals by existing customers.  We do not want to be known for the highest sales but for the most satisfied customers.

Just like a good doctor does not give all patients the same medicine, we too offer our clients a solution only after we have studied their needs.  This requires us to think beyond sales targets and put the customer first. Our offerings are not limited to what we want to sell but what meets the client needs.   This requires us to have multiple products in our bouquet of offerings rather than just one offering.

4. Why companies running on spreadsheets should reconsider automation?

It has been observed that so many businesses still use manual processes / spreadsheets. When a business starts, it’s great to use spreadsheets, since it’s easy to get started and adopt to changing needs. However, somehow this continues even after the   business has grown.

Apart from being costly (due to duplication), there are many risks also.  We regularly post blogs to educate our customers and recently posted a blog specifically on this topic (See www.sawindia.com/blog).

5. Brief us about the challenges that SMEs face in automating their business processes. How do you help them overcome these challenges?

The first issue is that everyone becomes comfortable with their current manual processes. Hence, a change requires some efforts – which needs to be initiated by the management.

Secondly, not much effort is put into automation unless it becomes super critical. Setting up new processes require some skills and follow-up.  SMEs are busy with their day-to-day activities and hence overlook this.

Thirdly, when SMEs start to look for software, they find it a daunting task to find the right software, which is affordable and meets their current and upcoming needs. The expertise required to diagnose issues and map them to the best technologies requires some skills plus IT related experience, which may be missing within the organization. Plus, an inherent mis-trust in sales people also makes businesses uncomfortable about buying an ERP.

We setup SoftwareHunt specifically to address these challenges and become a trusted advisor for our clients. Unlike a traditional sales organization, we do not approach a client with a specific solution, but first ask them to do an internal review of their challenges and needs. We also help them with this process and then finally find the right solution for them.  For this, we have to invest a lot of time evaluating available solutions and scanning the software product landscape.

6. Please brief us about your Tally offerings, their core features and benefits for various industries.

Tally.ERP 9 is a great product for SMEs. We offer a complete suite of services for it, including training, implementation, support and customization. It smoothly handles almost all aspects on financial accounting that a small business requires, including Sales, Purchases, Inventories, Banking, Compliance, MIS etc. Its popularity has resulted in it being used across segments including trading, manufacturing, services, retail etc.

7. What are the benefits of an ERP and why should SMEs go for it?

As an organization grows, it needs to handle many aspects beyond accounting such as customers, production, operations, employees, assets, etc. When data across departments and teams is not seamlessly flowing, it hampers the growth of the organization. A recent blog on our web site titled: “12 signs that your business has outgrown its software” gives more information on this.

With an ERP, there is a seamless flow of information across the organization and all team members get empowered to become a part of the process flow. Information required to make important decisions is easily available and stake holders have updated access to various business parameters.

Traditionally ERPs have been costly and only larger organizations could afford them. Thankfully times are changing and affordable ERPs that can be implemented quickly, are available.

8. How should an organization go about finding the right software? Please share your thoughts.

The right software can make an organization move ahead towards its goals, whereas the wrong one can be a costly affair.

Any business buys and implements software assuming that it will help them grow. However, if not done properly, things can go wrong and valuable time and money can be lost. To get the right software, businesses should first look within and do a diagnostic of their needs, current issues and growth plans.  We have observed that this does not usually happen.

It’s so easy to go on Google and get a couple of vendors to come and make presentations. That’s a risky way and we keep educating our customers for this. Software vendors should be called in only after the above exercise is done, else it can result in an incorrect decision.

Suggested reading: "Future ERPs to incorporate ML & AI to minimize human efforts, integrate with cryptocurrency along with blockchain based accounting modules": CA Kunal Singhal, MD Eazy ERP   

9. How can investing in the right software make a considerable difference in a business’s growth?

A good business software such as an ERP will bring about numerous improvements in the working of any organization. Some of them are:

  1. Seamless flow of information and collaboration across departments and teams
  2. Quick access to reliable information, without manual intervention
  3. Reduction in the complexity of managing the business
  4. Employees adhere to pre-set processes, and everyone knows what to do and when
  5. Important decisions can be taken without guess work or manual reporting
  6. Data access is controlled and only available to authorized people, thereby preventing misuse
  7. The management has clear visibility of the operations across departments
  8. Managers can control the operations better with the use of standardized workflows, alerts and notifications
  9. Costs and margins are accurately known
  10. Improved cost control with easy identification of all the costs and revenue leakages
  11. Customer satisfaction increases due to the proper flow of information and adherence to commitments make

10. You started SoftwareHunt in 2016, please shed some light on this service and how is it helping businesses to overcome software selection challenges?

SoftwareHunt was conceived to help SMEs and growing organizations find and use the best business apps available. Traditionally, large organizations have always had access to good technology, but not SMEs. This is mainly because technology was expensive and difficult to maintain. But today, that’s thankfully changed.

We have been putting in efforts in educating them about the need and availability of the best of breed business apps at affordable prices. We offer free and paid services to help them:

  • Defining their needs
  • Matching the needs to available functionality
  • Making the right choice for the organisation based on their specific needs

Our goal is to help them get business software that is:

  • Affordable to buy and maintain year-on-year
  • Easy to use and implement
  • Rapidly deployable and yet customisable as needs change

11. Across which categories do you offer software solutions to SMEs?

We cover a wide span of categories such as ERP, CRM, Fixed Assets Management, Payroll & HRMS, Sales Force Automation, Distribution Management, CA Office Automation and more.

The big gap we are seeing is that apart from accounting software, most other functions are managed manually and hence there is a need to get an integrated business solution / an ERP that works across departments.

12. Being in the IT industry for so long, what trends do you foresee regarding advanced IT technologies and their adoption by SMEs in the coming years?

Some thoughts in this regard are:

  • Unlike in the past, small businesses will want to make use of the best software products and technologies to stay competitive. They will have access to such solutions at affordable prices.
  • Businesses will want to have automation at the very start of their journey and not at some future date when they grow big.
  • Business apps will become even more affordable and easier to use. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine Learning (ML) will enable them to become highly adapted and suitable to customer needs.
  • Technology will not be a luxury, but a necessity for all types of businesses.
  • Data – which is currently stored in islands across departments and organisations will be shared to save time, cost and increase productivity.
  • Supply chains will become very efficient, since data will get interchanged and available across them for quick decision making.
  • GST, once settled, will create a huge technology push and showcase how technology can be used to ease business processes and compliance. Many other taxation and governance systems will get fully IT enabled demonstrating big benefits to users.
  • Business applications will become plug and play and allow for out-of-the box integration. There may not be a need for heavy \ monolithic applications.
  • Technology will grow due to its easy availability on a pay per use model.

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