When you visit a trusted neighbourhood grocer or salon, you may wish its owner could make it big. After all, it has won your loyalty with consistent good service and by accommodating last-minute requests. You may even suggest ideas to grow the business and attract customers, but all of that is most likely to fall on deaf ears. In India, small business owners do not have the time to think of expansion strategies. They spend most of their day troubleshooting problem points such as cash pilferages, staff management and maintaining records. Every day is the same struggle.
Enter Raseedbook. Co-founded by IIM-graduate Vivek Kumar and IIT-graduate Ashutosh Pathak, it is a billing and record keeping app looking to solve all pain points by taking local businesses digital. Kumar had run two businesses — a laundromat and a restaurant — before working as a product manager in Volksy Tech, and Pathak had worked as back-end developer in VMock.
The idea behind this app came from a problem Kumar faced while running the laundromat. He had opened this business when he was a student at IIM Indore, running it from the students’ hostel. In 2016, when he was away for a vacation, the manager of the laundromat swindled Rs.60,000. “That is when I realised the need for a mobile app using which owners could completely manage their business online and that would give him/her the flexibility to focus on other things,” says Kumar. Raseedbook digitises everything, including receipts, so the owner can manage business revenue from anywhere. Kumar joined hands with his childhood friend Pathak, a computer science engineer, who helped build the app that was finally launched in September 2019.
Here’s how it works. Any business owner can download the app from Play Store and register with their mobile number. During the registration process, he/she has to enter details about the kind of business they are operating, be it a restaurant, a pharmacy, a meat shop, a salon or a grocery store. Once in, the owner can now send e-bills to customers, create staff login to manage their tasks, track day-to-day sales, build product catalogue to sell online and supervise deliveries. For each step, Raseedbook team has recorded detailed videos demonstrating the process to help the merchants.
“The most widely used feature is that of e-bills as it helps owners save money on a desktop, power backup, ledgers and paper rolls,” says Kumar. To generate an e-bill, the shopkeeper simply needs to feed the product, quantity purchased, the price and finally the recipient’s number in Raseedbook, and the app automatically sends the bill to the customer via SMS or Whatsapp. The payment can be done by cash or online, using cards or netbanking, if the shopkeeper has enabled that option. “If the shop allows online payment, then there is an option to add UPI link in the e-bill as well,” says Kumar. As more and more e-bills are generated, the business owner can maintain a database, check purchase history and offer discounts to retain trust of old customers. They can also send direct messages informing customers about offers, new arrivals and campaigns.
To use this feature, Raseedbook charges no money from the merchants. Currently, over 10,000 local businesses across India are using the app for its e-billing feature. Of this, around 450 businesses have signed up with the platform to set up their online shop, and this is where the founders hope to make money. “The vendor has to pay Rs. 2,000 as a one-time, listing-facilitation service fee,” explains Kumar. Like clockwork, the team of five reaches out to the business owner to help build a product catalogue and set up the online shop. “If the shop gets online orders worth Rs.50,000 or more in a month, only then the owner has to pay a minimal amount of Rs.500 to Raseedbook… It’s just 1%,” explains Kumar adding that the pricing is still in experimental stages.
A team of five to serve 300 businesses may seem too little, but Kumar says that owners rarely need the start-up’s help once the online shop is up and running. He says that the owners contact Raseedbook to calibrate their delivery details, such as increase the delivery radius or reset the delivery fee. All the shops with Raseedbook are listed on its app and a daily notification sent from the app to users increases activity for these businesses.
With the Rs.2.5 million raised in funding from Sanjay Mehta-led 100X.VC, the founders plan to advertise the platform to small business owners and aim to have 100,000 users by the end of the year. Ninad Karpe, partner at 100XVC, says, “We believe that this start-up has huge potential to cater to more than 50 million small businesses across the country, who need a simple technology to solve their immediate problems… It offers a friction-free and low-touch model of implementation and does not require a large employee base to rapidly scale its business.”
After the pandemic lockdown, most business owners have a new-found appreciation for digitisation of their functions. In such a scenario, the start-up's ambition to grow its client base by 10x does not seem impossible. However it must work fast to retain its market, since this seems a highly lucrative space and competition could swagger in any minute.