OkCredit- Digital makeover to ‘Bahi/Udhar Khata’- Mr. Harsh Pokharna, Co-founder CEO, OkCredit -Interview

OkCredit is a part of the Ok network- an ecosystem of apps aimed at digitizing small and medium businesses (SMBs) across India. With technology that is simple and easy to access, OK is solving various pain points in the everyday functioning of small business owners, be it tracking their accounts, managing staff at their set-up, or the need to go online.

It is a digital book-keeping solution for small business owners and their customers to enable the recording of credit/payment transactions digitally across the country. The app also sends timely reminders making it easier for merchants to collect and settle balance amounts quickly. Addressing the gaps and challenges faced by small businesses and local retailers, OkCredit is committed to creating a network of apps/solutions to empower SMBs in India.  As of now, it comprises various solutions providing applications like – OkShop, OkStaff, and OkCredit that facilitate interaction between businesses, suppliers, customers, and employees. OkShop helps merchants to open their shop online while OkStaff is a free-to-use staff management app that lets them manage their employees’ payments, attendance & more.

Mr. Harsh Pokharna Co founder CEO OkCredit min

Mr. Harsh Pokharna Co-founder CEO OkCredit

Few Business highlights:

  • OkCredit serves over 100 types of small businesses such as Kirana stores, mobile recharge shops, medical stores, apparel amongst others
  • OkCredit has clocked in over 20 million app downloads till date.
  • Available in more than 10 Indian languages to ensure smooth interaction amongst businesses and consumers
  • OkCredit has over 5.5 million active monthly users spread across 2,800 cities pan India
  • Raised over $ 83 mn through marquee investors such as Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tiger Global

The company was started in 2017, let’s know more about OkCredit by Mr. Harsh Pokharna, Co-founder & CEO, OkCredit

 

 

1. What inspired you to establish a brand like OkCredit?

The idea to build OkCredit primarily germinated from our own personal experience. We (the co-founders-Aditya Prasad, Gaurav Kumar, and Harsh Pokharna) used to buy groceries on credit from a nearby store, but settling the bills was tedious. The problem existed in the way it was recorded – sometimes on the registers, sometimes on loose scraps of paper, leading to a mismatch in our, and shopkeeper’s accounts. We realized that it was not just happening with us but with several other customers visiting the store. There was a clear gap and consequent opportunity to build something that would help, not just the shopkeepers with record-keeping but customers as well. And thus, was born OkCredit.

OkCredit uses the power of the internet and technology to bring micro-businesses online. With the OkCredit app, every time a credit purchase is made, the merchant sends out a message to his customer. This app also enables the end customer to view his/her outstanding balance with that merchant via a web page link that provides a monthly breakdown of credit purchases. This improves transparency in business transactions and facilitates a higher degree of trust among the participating individuals.

 

2. Tell us about OkCredit and how it works for small business owners? & How does OkCredit simplify the accounting and bookkeeping process for smaller businesses?

OkCredit empowers small business owners such as small shops and neighborhood stores by digitizing their bookkeeping function through a simple and easy-to-access mobile app. The company is a pioneer in the digital bookkeeping sector, creating the category where none existed.

OkCredit app not just helps small businesses to keep track of credit transactions – both payments and receivables, it sends timely reminders and makes it easier for them to collect and settle balance amounts quickly through an integrated reminder feature via WhatsApp and SMS. Once a merchant registers a transaction on the platform in a customer’s name, the customer is simultaneously informed through text or WhatsApp. This app allows merchants to send collection notifications to customers in case of delayed or missed payments and enables credit payments digitally across the country.

To understand how significant a problem OkCredit is solving, it’s important to understand the context in which we function. A large part of buying at unorganized retail stores in India happens on credit. For shopkeepers, it brings repeat customers and for shoppers, it offers the convenience of making a purchase. However, recording credit via traditional methods is prone to error and often leads to trust issues with the customer. Not only that, getting back credit is a painful exercise. For a shopkeeper, it means calling up the customer several times and even visiting him, wasting his precious work hours. There are instances where credit doesn’t come back, throwing shopkeepers into huge losses, leading to store shutdowns.

OkCredit, therefore, is making buying and selling on credit easier for millions of shopkeepers across India. With the OkCredit app, every time something is bought on credit, the merchant sends out a message to his customer. This app also enables the end customer to view his/her outstanding balance with that merchant via a web page link that provides a monthly breakdown of credit purchases. This improves transparency in business transactions and facilitates a higher degree of trust among the participating individuals.

 

3. How has the pandemic impacted your business, please share your learning during the pandemic?

 Just like any other business, the digital bookkeeping segment too had to go through its ups and downs last year amidst the Covid pandemic. Our business dipped 26%, 31%, and 38% in tier 3, tier 2, and tier 1 cities respectively in April last year. Things however changed with heightened business activity among the micro, small, and medium enterprise sector and rapid adoption of digital business tools among them to drive efficiency and growth.

Our growth, in the unlock phase of the Covid pandemic, was particularly strong in small towns and hinterlands as OkCredit witnessed a strong recovery in demand from tier 3 cities followed by tier 2 and tier 1 cities. At a business category level, different magnitudes and paces of recovery have been observed by OkCredit since February 2020. We witnessed double-digit growth in business from medical and Kirana stores at 21% and 15% respectively in September 2020. This was after a dip of 12% in business from medical stores and 22% from Kirana stores in April last year.

Before the second wave, OkCredit has seen an increase in both the number of transactions and transacting merchants. Compared to February 2020, our transactions were 15% higher in February 2021. Our user base has grown by 34% since March’20. The merchants adopting digital payments has also increased by 250%

In all, OkCredit captured 0.5% of India’s total GDP of $2.6 trillion in 2020 in terms of the total value of transactions on the platform. This was made possible through over 800 million transactions on the platform in 2020 amounting to $40 billion worth of transactions. Our merchants added 70 million new customers last year.

The 2nd phase of the pandemic however has been relatively less severe as more merchants adopt digital business tools. We have registered an overall decline of 15% in transaction value in April this year as compared to a 53% decline in March last year before the nationwide lockdown was imposed.

As per our data, the micro-retail players are adopting digital bookkeeping solutions and enrolling more customers when compared to the first wave. This is reflected in an overall 15% increase in transacting customers on our platform in the period between March last year to April this year.

Similarly, transacting merchant data indicate only a 9% drop in April this year in comparison to a 32% drop in March 2020. This is true for all business categories including essential services, like grocery and medical stores.

As Covid rages, we have doubled our efforts to create awareness about OkCredit and the convenience it brings to small businesses. We have already launched our innovative new solution called OkShop which allows small merchants to set up their online presence.

We are undertaking focused campaigns as well to engage business communities during this difficult period, onboard new customers, and increase usage of the app. These steps yield desired results with the micro, small, and medium enterprise sectors rapidly adopting our solutions to drive efficiency and growth.

 

4. What is unique about OKCredit?

Our strength is in the robust, feature-rich product that improves the transparency in business transactions and helps in building a higher degree of trust among the participating individuals. The OkCredit app is completely free to access and ensures 100% safety, data security, and accuracy.

The unique thing about the product is that it has both virality and network effects built-in. The credit reminders have installed links and in case the customer also happens to be a merchant, it gets circulated in his circle as well. This product-led distribution has brought the cost of customer acquisition significantly lower for OkCredit.

For merchants, the ability to see their ledger at any time of the day is very critical and that’s why OkCredit’s functionality of offline access becomes super important for them.

 

5. What are the immediate business goals of OkCredit for the year 2021-22?

We will continue to focus on our main product- OkCredit and two other products that we launched last year. And as we grow, we will be concentrating a lot more on retaining users. Retention is a very important metric for us. We are also conducting a few monetization experiments. But it’s too early to talk about them.

 

6. What are your company’s long-term expansion and growth plans? Will you add new areas of development and services?

At OkCredit, we intend to create an ecosystem of digital solutions for small businesses to help them manage their business tasks such as digital bookkeeping, staff management besides creating an online presence to compete with more organized players.

We see the number of SMBs who will be interested in exploring digital solutions towards business objectives going up significantly in the coming years. Hence, we are scaling up from a single product to a multi-product company solving problems for different SMB base segments. We also identify the unique value of network effects in this and have started pursuing that towards delivering more value to them.

We sincerely believe that increased investment in digital infrastructure development, smartphone penetration, and increased consumer spending will write the story of the growth of the segment in the coming decade. The fact that our digital solutions make key business tasks simpler, digitized, and secure will form the crux of increased demand for such solutions going forward.

As a company working to empower small businesses, we want to help them at every stage of their business cycle by helping them grow their profits, by going online and integrating with the growing digital economy. We have already taken some steps in the form of launching OkShop and OkStaff by solving another set of pain points for some other types of businesses. We will intend to empower the underserved SMBs by democratizing access to technology and capital for them.

We are working towards solving some more problems for business users. We will be happy to share more about them once we ship these to our users and as they get delighted by our innovative solutions.

 

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.