Happay Re-invents Business Expense Management: Varun Rathi

Mismatch led to create a new vision for Happay and to develop a new product to support this vision

Varun Rathi, COO and Co-founder, Happay.

The entire expense management workflow, from recording of expenses to accounting them, is every bit as sluggish, broken and inefficient as it was decades before. Since 2012, Happay is present to disrupt business expense management, by cashless, paperless, mobile, like it's meant to be.

Varun Rathi, COO and Co-founder, Happay, tells us more. Excerpts:

BW CIO: How this idea of expense management came to your mind? What inspired you for this?

Varun Rathi: Happay was founded in 2012 with a simple idea: paying someone, be it friends, family or colleagues should be as easy as sending a text message. With this in mind, we built our first consumer product, a mobile wallet that allowed you to pay just about anyone, anywhere, with your mobile number; no bank account details required.

Over time, we observed that, as consumers we have a lot of freedom and flexibility when we pay for things; but same is not true for businesses. The way businesses pay for and manage their expenses has remained the same for decades. This mismatch led us to create a new vision for Happay and to develop a new product to support this vision.

One area of business payments we focused on was business expense management. We have reinvented the expense workflow from the ground up; we have stripped it off and scrubbed it clean of all its shortcomings mainly cash, paper and manual data entry.

We have made it  simple, completely streamlined and 10 times as fast and efficient as before. With Happay’s business expense cards and cloud-based platform (accessible from web and mobile), employees can add and report expenses in seconds, on-the-go.

The management has the visibility and control into how and where their company funds are being spent in real-time. Accountants can verify expense reports with receipts and expense policies in minutes. Companies can even integrate expense data into their accounting software without any data entry. Happay’s custom configurations help organizations tailor the platform to their specific requirements.

BW CIO: How has demonetization impacted your business?

Varun Rathi: At Happay, our mission is to help Indian businesses (SMEs and enterprises) make their expense management processes cashless and paperless, thereby increasing efficiencies and reducing operational costs. The demonetization move by the Government was a catalyst that enabled us to scale up our mission substantially in a short span of time.

The demonetization drive not only created an urgent need for digitization of business payments but also led SMEs and enterprises to implement new digital processes as quickly as possible to avoid the impact of cash crunch on their day-to-day operations.

Although the cash crunch post demonetization created short-term anguish, in the long run, it was a blessing in disguise. The lack of cash accelerated the shift to digital payments. Businesses that were initially reluctant to shift from cash-based processes started to look out for digital payment alternatives, actively and rigorously. For us, the results were loud and clear: 2000+ transport and trucking companies signed up for our solution post November, 2016.

BW CIO: Whenever we talk about demonetization we usually focus on B2C transactions. How has demonetization impacted the overall B2B companies?

Varun Rathi: Let’s take for example sectors like transportation and logistics, multi-chain retail, and the impact demonetization has had on these sectors. Businesses in these industries are heavily dependent on cash for their day-to-day operations. Not surprisingly, these sectors were badly hit due to the cash crunch brought about by demonetization.

Most of the truck drivers don’t have a bank account. They are paid the entire cost of the trip, along with their monthly salary, in cash. As per a report by DNA India, 45 percent of the cash given to the driver is spent on diesel and 14 percent on toll charges. With both fuel pumps and toll booths refusing to accept the old notes post demonetization, drivers had nowhere to go but halt their vehicles on highways till new cash was transferred to them. Just imagine the delays this caused and the resulting cost of the delays to businesses.

Transportation companies are now giving prepaid cards to their drivers. Drivers use the cards at toll booths, petrol stations and for maintenance and repairs. If they are in urgent need of funds, company administrators can easily transfer funds on their prepaid cards.

Even multi-chain retailers who primarily distributed physical cash to their stores and vendors are now using digital software for their day-to-day expense management. Consulting companies, hyperlocal businesses, and so on, with employees on the road, are also going digital.

Demonetization, to an extent, forced the Indian businesses to break through the shackles of age-old legacy systems and embrace digitization for good.

BW CIO: Do you think that cashless economy has a strong future, or would it fail?

Varun Rathi: Demonetization set the wheels in motion. Now, the Government, banks and fintech companies need to join forces to make this drive sustainable and scalable. We need to tackle the problem from its roots.

It may not be enough to only encourage the consumers to shift to digital payments. We also need to help the businesses that these consumers earn their livelihood from and purchase products and services from, digital. That is exactly what we are trying to do at Happay. We feel that a single business has the power to influence thousands of individuals to adopt digital means.

Here’s how. Take for example of a business with 500 employees. Every business works with vendors. More operation heavy the business is, more the number of vendors that it deals with. A business with an employee size of 500 would deal with say, around 50-200 vendors.

So, this business becomes the source of money for these 50 vendors. If the source is cashless, then 50 more businesses can adopt/accept cashless payments. The same business is also the source of income for 500 employees. If the business pays salaries only via digital modes [NEFT], all 500 employees are enabled to make cashless payments.

These employees would further go ahead and purchase their daily need items from other business, thereby completing the cashless cycle. Also, each of the 50 vendors we spoke of before would have employees and vendors to make payments to.

Hence, one business can effectively influence 1000s of individuals to adopt cashless payments and the ripple effect cannot be ignored.

With Happay, we provide businesses next-generation technology and infrastructure helps businesses go digital from within.

BW CIO: What are your growth plans for next five years?

Varun Rathi: In addition to small and medium sized businesses, we are now catering to the expense management troubles of bigger enterprises. We feel we can multiply our impact tenfold if we are able to help enterprises go digital - since the numbers of employees they employ and vendors that they do businesses can also become part of a cashless system in this way.


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