The automotive industry has moved towards digitalization and connected mobility, resulting in a significant rise in the use of electronics and technology in vehicles. Vehicle-to-Everything [V2X] is one such technology which is still a nascent market that has managed to offer a wide range of everyday convenience benefits. Today, it has grown to be a critical component in providing vehicles with the ability to communicate with each other and beyond. In fact, the automotive V2X communication market is expected to reach a staggering $26.72 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research.

Image Source – V2V V2I

Interestingly, some of the key reasons why OEMs today are forced to incorporate V2X communication systems into vehicles are due to the several benefits that the systems provide in terms of advanced route guidance systems, roadway efficiency, driver convenience and traffic optimization. Allowing vehicles to ‘talk’ to each other, V2X systems are geared towards safety and are essential for hundreds of thousands of self-driving cars to operate safely.

Sasken understands the importance of disruption to address the need for autonomous driving. They have achieved a breakthrough in this area and are engaged with a Tier-1 OEM and provide services for the V2X platform to enable actionable insights in the connected automobile. Today, we have a Q&A session with Ashwin Ramachandra, VP and Head – Product Engineering Services, Sasken Technologies, on how players in the automotive industry are re-defining the electronics segment through the advent of advanced communication technologies like Vehicle-to-Everything [V2X]. So, let’s get started with the Q&A…

Can you please talk about yourself, your experience so far with Sasken Technologies ?

I have more than 20 years of experience and am currently the head of the Embedded Practice at Sasken Technologies Pvt. Limited. The Embedded Practice group consists of the following divisions:

  • Semiconductors and Platform devices
  • Industrials
  • Automotive
  • Digital [Cloud and Analytics]

When it comes to the automotive domain, the amount of software & intelligence in the car is increasing day by day and that intelligence executes on the chips that are manufactured by the semiconductor companies. In order to appreciate what Sasken is doing in the automotive segment, it is very important to deep dive into what Sasken does in the semiconductors segment. The amount of software and intelligence in the car has increased in three different areas:

  • Software on the cockpit [In-cockpit entertainment]
  • Autonomous Driving
  • Telematics

The rise has been majorly seen in the last five years. Silicon vendors are bringing out chipsets that are much more powerful so that customers can enjoy a richer audio experience and exceptional performance for these offerings. Sasken starts working with the semiconductor vendors through the Development and Testing phase. Companies like Qualcomm have chipsets like MSM820 that are meant for richer infotainment experience. On a similar line, there are silicon vendors that are working on powerful chipsets for the autonomous driving sector and in future, we would see many more companies bringing out much richer solutions for that segment.

Telematics would be typically seen in the form of communication modems. In the western world, you would have an LTE Modem connected to the car for a whole bunch of communication. These are the three major areas where semiconductor companies and Sasken are co-working together to revolutionize the overall automotive industry.

Please comment on the rise of the infotainment options in car and where do you see Android in the automotive segment ?

Many years back, we only had the option of FM Radio, which gradually moved to CD Player, and now you have a plethora of playback options on the touchscreen located on the dashboard of your car which provides a whole new world of entertainment. Previously, these systems were based on Vanilla Linux, but now Android is playing a vital role even in the automotive sector. As we all know, Android already has a huge market share in the mobile space and now its share in the auto segment is gradually increasing.

By the year 2020, we expect that Android would be present on more than forty percent of mid-range and high-end cars, which means that Android is at a huge inflection point in the auto segment. Sasken has extensive experience in Android and our team of engineers has been working on Android since the first public release of Android. This experience gives us a huge edge over our competitors since when companies need expertise on Android for the car segment; they need someone like us who have gone through the complete development cycle. The mobile expertise and experience in bringing products to the market would definitely help us in achieving an edge in the auto segment!

Based on the queries and projects that Sasken has been approached for in the auto segment, we believe that Android is very much in line to be the default operating system for cars. This would bring in a major change in the infotainment space for automobiles.

Image Source – Ashwin Ramachandra

Can you walk us through some of the technical challenges for porting Android on the automotive platform ?

The use-cases that you see on the phone are quite different from the use-cases that you see in the car. For example, you would never plug a music player like an iPod to your phone, but that is a very natural use-case when it comes to a car. You expect that the device and its type is recognized when it is plugged into the dashboard and it should also start the playback. This means that there are a lot of changes that are required to the Android stack in order to accompany such use-cases. From the UI and UX point of view, a lot more changes are required. Also, unlike India, users in the western countries use a lot more voice commands, and those commands vary when used on car vis-a-vis mobile.

You need to have a good amount of Android expertise in order to realize such use-cases and though Androidauto would evolve over a period of time. Expertise does come in very handy since time-to-market is very critical for any product. Also, the time-to-market for an automobile is typically 18~24 months, which in itself speaks for the complexity.

What are some of the cost implications for the car manufacturers in order to realize V2V/V2X/V2I use-cases ?

As far as Android for auto is concerned, it would take a fair amount of time to make its way into the entry-level automobile segment. Just take a case where you do not use Android, even in such a scenario, you need to have the silicon, an in-house R&D team, an operating system like Linux, middleware, etc. i.e. You need a significant number of engineers, hence a good amount of R&D cost is involved. Also, as mentioned earlier the number of features in the car always keeps on increasing. Hence, if you need to have your own in-house infotainment system [in absence of Android], the R&D cost itself would look similar or even lesser with a platform like Android.

Whether it is V2V, V2X, V2I, there is a lot of data that would be used to ensure that the objective is met. How secure are these protocols and how do two vehicles from different manufacturers talk to each other ensuring that there is no breach of important data ?

In case of V2V and V2I scenarios, the information is almost anonymous. For example, if a car is driving ahead of another vehicle [on a freeway], either of the vehicles can transmit information that is generic in nature and is useful for both the parties. It could transmit road-related data, climatic data, etc. There is no personal or confidential information exchanged between the two of them.

The information is completely momentary and the moment you get off the freeway, the information is gone. This data is non-threating in nature and hence, we need not worry when such data is sent over V2V/V2I channels. Also, in order to ensure that the necessary security protocols have adhered, the exchanged data goes through an approved/certified channel and it is almost impossible to fake the information. There has been a significant amount of effort that is spent to ensure that the information [irrespective of its nature] is tamper-proof and all the necessary security measures are taken.

The second part is about ‘Telematics’ i.e. the information that is shared between your car and the cloud infrastructure. This exchange has nothing to do with the co-operative network, but it is more about the route that it takes for transmission of the data. You can poll a lot of peripherals on the car to get data about the health of the car, battery, fuel, etc. This data is completely owned by the car owner but sometimes by accident, you agree to share this information in which case, this data can be used by third-party companies for targeted advertising. For example, in the current scenario, there are many cases where a particular company does not charge the consumer to use their services but instead use their data to push some relevant advertisements, coupons, etc. As a matter of fact, the millennial generation is willing to share such information in lieu of product discounts [only after providing consent].

Can you comment on some of the B2B as well as B2C use cases for the V2V/V2I/V2X technologies ?

Ride-hailing companies are already leveraging these technologies, especially the V2V and V2I to ensure that their vehicle’s health is in-tact so that the riders can enjoy a smooth ride.. They are using onboard telematics to get the necessary information. This also includes details about the driver’s characteristics, which are provided after consent by the car driver e.g. average speed at which the driver drives the car, how many times he over-speeds, angle at which he takes turns, how many times he jumps signals, etc.

This information can be used by all the necessary parties involved in the journey i.e. the car driver to improve his driving skills and average customer ratings. It can be used by the ride-hailing company to ensure that they have the best drivers on-board thereby providing a superior customer experience and it gives an additional parameter to the customer on basis on which they can rate their journey. This is currently under testing by a couple of ride-hailing companies for their premium car segment.

How wireless communications and WLAN technology have evolved over the years to be well-suited for V2X communication, due to its low latency and the ability to communicate instantly. Can you also touch upon DSRC [Dedicated Short Range Communication] ?

This is one of the points that we have discussed earlier about the co-operative network. There are a couple of emerging technologies like DSRC and Cellular V2X [CV2X] and each of them has its pros & cons. As per our understanding, the CV2X is much better-designed technology and has better technology roadmap. DSRC is loosely based on the WLAN/WiFi technology and the base standards remain the same. On the other hand, CV2X is based on the Cellular LTE technology. The US government is gearing towards usage of DSRC for V2V/V2X use cases and with wider adoption, the governments across the world would mandate what technology should be used further down the line.

As expected, both these technologies have very low latency due to nature of the use cases associated with the vehicle. This is the overall landscape of the Intelligent Transport System [ITS], both from the technical and non-technical perspective. As an organization, we are working on both these technologies and are gearing up for testing with some of our automobile clients.

Please walk us through the opportunities in the autonomous driving segment and what are some of the tech and regulatory hurdles being faced by this sector ?

The single most important requirement of this sector is that the information should be kept safe & secure. In the future, governments would also mandate a certain amount of certification and testing to ensure that there is no compromise on quality. Apart from these, standards would evolve as it autonomous driving becomes mainstream.

Technology is evolving at a very rapid pace, where do see the automobile technology 5~10 years down the line and the role that technology would play to make that dream a reality ?

As far as the automobile sector is concerned, the internal combustion engines occupy 99% of the market share, whereas electric engines have a fairly minuscule market share. However, things would take a drastic turn as we move forward. The trend is likely to change as electric engines would play a much larger role in the overall automobile ecosystem.

Sasken, as an embedded company,is looking at this area very closely but our main focus areas are in the ares of In-car infotainment, Autonomous driving and Telematics. These three pillars would change the entire automobile landscape. Some of the use cases in autonomous and assisted driving might not be directly applicable to a country like India due to the nature of traffic, road conditions, etc. but over a period of time, the entire ecosystem in India would also evolve and we would observe wider adoption.

We thank Mr. Ashwin Ramachandra for sharing his insights with our readers. If you have any questions for Ashwin about autonomous driving, opportunities in V2X/V2V/V2I, etc. please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.

A very famous quote on investing says – ‘Risk & Rewards are two sides of the same coin’. This means that in most of the cases, higher the amount of risk involved chances of maximizing the returns are also very high! The investment portfolio of every person would differ since it is dependent on various factors like risk appetite, assets, liabilities, dependencies, etc. and hence, it becomes virtually impossible for any investment firm to cater to varied investment requirements of such a large audience.

Image Source – Fintech

This is where emerging technologies like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence can play a vital role in creating a tailor-made investment plan based on your long-term and short financial requirements. Machine Learning has already the paved way into the Fintech market, be it approving loans, documentation, managing assets, etc. Many Fintech startups are leveraging machine learning, AI, Chatbots and helping banking institutions to either enhance the existing banking experience or creating kick-ass products in the areas of wealth management, personal finance, customer service, etc.

According to a report by Bloomberg, less than 1.5% of the Indian population invested in equity markets and only 2% of India’s household savings were exposed to equity. However, there is a rising interest to invest in financial instruments like Mutual Funds if they are given proper guidance.

This is the problem being solved by Sqrrl, a Fintech startup that was incubated at Reliance GenNext Hub and seeks to help young people save & invest in Mutual Funds in a hassle-free manner. Sqrrl also recommends great tax saving investments for its customers, keeping in mind a seamless experience. All this with the aim to help young Indians financially prosper! Today we have a chat with Mr. Samant Sikka, Founder of Sqrrl about the app, Fintech, Personal Finance, etc. so let’s get started with the Q&A…

How did your team come up with the idea of Sqrrl ?

Having spent almost two decades in financial services domain one was constantly exposed to challenges of building distribution in a country as diverse as India. I was always intrigued by the fact that in spite of six decades since independence financial services ecosystem was still struggling to provide access of financial services to its citizens. To my mind the single most important reason that came in the way of expanding financial services footprint was ‘Unit Economics’. Unit economics basically dictated who got access to financial products & services and also which type of products got sold.

Sometime in 2015 I started to absorb the impact that culmination of technology & internet was starting to have on democratizing ‘access’. E-commerce was starting to grain traction and people started getting access to goods and services hitherto restricted to larger cities and towns. 2 things stood out, given the economic prosperity over the 2 decades people had both aspirations and means to consume and were demanding better experiences. Internet had started to travel deeper in the country and social and digital were starting to have an impact on consumers behavior and consumption patterns.

Meanwhile, silently but surely there the impact of #RegTech and benefits of India Stack which were started to make tremendous traction on the two biggest friction areas in financial services, on-boarding & payments. The timing seemed to be just right neither too late neither too early.

Can you take us through the founding team of Sqrrl ?

Putting the challenges & opportunity together gave birth to the idea of Sqrrl. The vision being to build a digital platform aimed at millennials with an Initial offering is around savings & investment products powered by Mutual Funds and will expand to Loans, Insurance, Payments ultimately aspiring to morph into a digital bank. The idea aligned the founding team which brought wealth if experience & complementary skills sets .

Sqrrl is an interesting name for a ‘Fintech startup, how did you zero in on the name and how does the brand ‘Sqrrl’ get along with the moto of ‘building financial literacy among Indians’ ?

Sqrrl name was chosen with care. The animal embodies certain character that we stand for

  • Doer and Prudent,
  • Natural Intelligence,
  • Hi-Energy-Active-Nimble,
  • Saver and plans for future. hoards for winters in summers,
  • Good at balancing work & play,
  • Social

What is the TAM of the Fintech market that Sqrrl is trying to address ?

  • India’s Asset management Industry has grown at a CAGR of 21% over the last 17 years [ 2000-2017] is expected to grow to USD 700 billion by 2022.
  • Sqrrl aspires to be amongst the Top 10 players by 2022 with an Asset Under Management [AUM] of approx USD 14 billion and 12 million customers

There are number of Fintech platforms that are targeting a similar problem [as well as market], what according to you are some of the core USPs of Sqrrl when compared to its competitors ?

Sqrrl is different from existing players in many ways. Important ones are highlighted below:

  • Sqrrl has a customer persona which is in the age group of 25-35 years, salaried class, upwardly mobile and digitally savvy.
  • Sqrrl is a not a marketplace unlike many others. We personalize investments needs of individuals and match them with funds available in the industry.

Can you please walk us through the funding of Sqrrl ?

We have been bootstrapped from beginning of our journey. We are currently in funding raise discussion of about 1M USD with some VCs.

Once user has created an account on Sqrrl [and all his investments from various AMCs are under one window], what other services does your team provide to the investors so that they can get more returns from their investments ?

Sqrrl keeps monitoring all of the funds recommended by its team. We stay with our customers in their investment journey and keep guiding him with right decisions from time to time.

Can you give a small glimpse about the tech behind Sqrrl ?

We are app only offering on iOS and Android

  • Our API layer is powered by Python [Falcon framework]
  • Our database is AWS RDS on PostgreSQL
  • Other than this we use many third party APIs

Sqrrl is currently limited to Mutual Funds, are there any plans/timeline on whether it would be expanded to cover other financial instruments ?

Yes, we have plans to launch loans and insurance products in future.

What are some of the methodologies that your team use in order to keep the investors hooked on to the platform ?

We have a way to connect with customers in 360 degree way. Our customer success team keeps talking them on Email, Phone, SMS, Whatsapp in addition to in-app communications.

L-R : Sanjeev Sharma, Co-Founder; Samant Sikka, Founder and Dhananjay Kumar Singh, Co-Founder

Sqrrl was incubated in Reliance GenNext Hub, how was the experience in the accelerator program and how did the program help your team to validate & scale the startup ?

The program was really of great help in helping us with product market fit study and beyond. They really helped in methodical product market fit. In addition to product market fit, customer traction strategy and its execution planning was done with them.

Are there any setup charges or any other charges that customers have to pay to use the Platform ? Do you charge any withdrawal or closure charges for the Sqrrl’s recommended funds ?

There are no setup charges to use Sqrrl. However there may be early withdrawal charges for some funds before initial lock-in period.

Which are some of the AMC’s that are currently on-boarded on the Sqrrl platform ?

There are 17 AMC that are there with Sqrrl. It covers 91% of the industry AUM

As you have mentioned earlier, Sqrrl aims to encourage Indians to save more. There are various investor initiatives like #MFDayon7th by Reliance MF and CNBC TV18, does Sqrrl have plans of starting an investor education initiative [or something else] in order to widen the horizon of passive investors [that could be an integral part of the investors eco-system, but don’t know where to get started] ?

The ecosystem is doing a great job in educating investors. AMFI is doing great job in communication like ‘Mutual Funds Sahi Hai’. AMCs themselves have different plans. Sqrrl plans to use these and some of its own to launch education awareness. We are working on them.

Many fintech companies, namely PayTm [or PaytmMoney], FreeCharge, PhonePe, etc. are planning to have boutique of finance products on their platform, does this growing competition have an impact on a startup like Sqrrl and how it would the competition result in expansion of the fintech ecosystem ?

It is good that this space is getting its validation by entry of bigger players. There will always be space for early movers like Sqrrl based on its customer service differentiation.

Can you comment on the ‘Customer/Investor’ demographics that are currently using the Sqrrl Platform ?

  • 90% of the users are under age 40 years.
  • 61% of the users are from B15 [beyond top 15] cities.
  • We have coverage from over 700 cities of India.

What is the revenue model of Sqrrl and does it follow the Freemium model ?

We get distribution fee from the underlying Mutual Funds.

Along with the integrated AMC approach, building investor portfolio as per his requirements, etc. does your team also provide advisory services ? If not, what are some of the services that you plan to offer in future [especially with the Mutual Fund Products] ?

We are not providing advisory services now but we are open to embrace this in future.

How Fintech is shaping up the Financial Eco-system in India and how technologies like Blockchain will bring the next wave of Fintech revolution ?

Blockchain and its acceptance is in very early stage. Most of the work is happening in Crypto exchanges. We are open to exploring something on blockchain which is widely accepted.

Some books that you highly recommend for entrepreneurs

  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
  • The Lean Statup by Eric Ries
  • Traction : How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg

Some closing thoughts for our readers!

As Bill Gates says, ‘If you are born poor its not your mistake, But if you die poor its your mistake.‘ Sqrrl is a platform available for every Indian to manage their money.

We thank Mr. Samant Sikka for sharing his insights with our readers. If you are planning to put your money to work via smart investments, then you should download Sqrrl. If you have any questions for Samant or the Sqrrl Team, please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.

There is a saying by the well-known investor Warren Buffet – ‘Never become dependent on a single source of income’. This saying is also applicable to someone who has a stable job but has to invest his money in order to get better returns. Everyone has some hobby e.g. photography, music, writing, etc. but few of them might be aware that there is a manner in which they can convert their ‘hidden talent and passion’ into a tangible business. Many times it is about identifying a lingering problem and finding an effective solution to solve that problem.

There are close to 3 million Indians living in the United States but there was not a single reliable portal where they could buy stuff like Puja Items, Sarees, Mandirs, etc. online. There are India based websites that ship abroad but shipping, tracking, and returns is always a huge hassle. This is the problem that entrepreneur couple Deepak Agarwal & Sadhana Bothra, who are settled in the US since last 19 years wanted to solve and also make that a secondary source of income. With this intention, they founded [earlier called] in 2014, a vertical e-commerce marketplace that addresses the above mentioned problem and also provides Indian homepreneurs in the US an opportunity to sell online through their platform.

Today, we have a chat with Deepak Agarwal, Co-founder of US-based The discussion revolves around their e-commerce foray, overall market, competition, etc. So, let’s get started with the Q&A….

Can you please give a small background about the company and its founders ? was started by us, an Indian couple named Deepak Agarwal and Sadhana Bothra in 2014.

I [Deepak Agarwal] am from Udaipur and grew up in Kolkata. Apart from a degree in commerce, I hold a diploma in computer science from NCC Education, UK. I completed my Masters Certification in Business Management from Tulane University as well because I wanted to have some formal knowledge of growing a business. I have been in the US for 19 years.

Sadhana also grew up in Kolkata. A commerce graduate from Calcutta University, she too holds an honours Diploma in Computer Science from NCC Education, UK. She is a Java Certified Programmer from Sun Microsystems who quit her top-notch position in the IT industry as an Assistant Vice-President with Whitehall Bank on Wall Street when our first child was born.

After Sadhana gave up her career to be with our first born, we realised it was not easy to survive in the US on a single paycheque. So we were looking at creating some extra income while letting Sadhana also enjoy motherhood. After a lot of research, we found out that there was a huge demand for Indian apparel for kids. That’s how we started Desi Vastra. We didn’t have any competition at that point and the business did well till 2008.

While the recession brought bad tidings to Desi Vastra after four years, we decided to use the competition in the market to our advantage by bringing together our competitors through a marketplace. In 2010 we started, which we re-branded as in 2014. Today is the largest US-based vertical e-commerce marketplace specialising in Indian products that span apparel, jewellery, handicraft, gifts, furniture, grocery, restaurant equipment, religious and puja items, festive goods and household items.

What is the problem you are trying to solve and how has the overall response been from the Indian diaspora ?

The response from the Indian diaspora has been quite positive and encouraging. There are many towns in the US where people have to drive for not less than an hour to find an Indian grocery store. With more than 3 million Indians living in America, and the expanding space and possibilities of online shopping, there was no single shopping portal where people could find everything Indian and talk to someone in their language while shopping for them. Added to this was the fact that when they bought from sites in India, delivery took longer, there was no easy way to return goods and service was not reliable. It is this yawning market gap that we have tapped into.

DesiClik is a very interesting name, what are some of the other potential names that you explored before you zeroed in on this name ?

Our team went through a significant list before zeroing in on We wanted a name that wouldn’t exceed eight characters, is easy to remember and connects people instantly with what the site is about.

We evaluated Mangoes, Mirchi, Jhalak, Spicykart to name a few. Prior to DesiClik, our site was call which was lost among others, was too long, hard to spell and was very generic.

What are some of the items being sold on DesiClik and if you can highlight details about the top-5 bestselling items on the website ?

We have broadly classified the products into nine main categories – Clothing, Accessories, Jewellery, Home & Garden, Indian Grocery, Music & Movies, Books & Magazines, Puja & Festivals, Toys & Games. As for categories, Puja & Festival, Home & Garden are our top sellers. Apart from seasonal items, mandirs, gifts, kids’ clothes, utensils and puja items are the top 5 bestselling items on the site.

How does your venture promote homepreneurs and what is some of the hand-holding that your team does in order to get the sellers started [and accelerated] on the platform ?

We have managed to bring together more than 50 Indian women home entrepreneurs in the US to sell their products online on our site. These are women who want to build their business without sacrificing their family goals.

For immigrant women, it is quite a challenge to set up a business from scratch, beginning with networking and figuring out everything about running a business. As Sadhana was faced with several hurdles when we started off, she felt there were many women like her who could do with help to build their businesses. As Desiclik is a vertical marketplace, we used the platform to help these women to sell their products online. We offer guidance in terms of product optimization, competitive pricing, service and internals of doing business online.

Logistics is a very important aspect of the e-commerce experience, how do your sellers manage logistics to provide an enhanced shopping experience ?

At this time, sellers use their own preferred method of shipping. DesiClik does help them in finding better options for shipping the products faster and reliably.

Deepak and Sadhana, Founders of DesiClik

e-commerce sector is clogged with Fake Products Problem [especially if it follows a marketplace model], how does your team ensure the authenticity of the items being sold on the platform ?

We work very closely with vendors so that the DesiClik brand and customer satisfaction are maintained. We have implemented a good feedback mechanism. Since orders are fulfilled directly by the vendor, our main source of feedback is from the customer. Once an order is received by the customer, we reach out to the customer to get feedback about the quality and the service to help us rate the vendor.

Can you please comment on the Return Policy and what is the Rate Of Return for the items being sold on DesiClik since Reverse Logistics plays a very important role in optimizing of the e-commerce supply-chain ?

We have guidelines on return policy for each seller and they all set their own return policy. In case of material defect, products can be returned for no cost to the customer and in most other cases – customer pays for the shipping. Our rate of return is less than 2 per cent.

Is DesiClik serving only the B2C segment or you have also cater to the B2B segment ?

At present we are only catering to the B2C segment. We have plans to expand with a B2B offering sometime this year which will help connect manufacturers in India with vendors in the USA.

What is the metric your team uses to calculate the overall growth [GMV, etc.] and can you comment on the Daily Active Users [DAU] & total number of active sellers on the platform ?

We have more than 10,000 products listed on the site from 100 plus vendors. Daily page views at DesiClik is 12,000 plus and over 25 per cent returning visitors.

Since DesiClik follows a marketplace model, can you let us know if your sellers also sell on other marketplaces like Amazon, etc. ?

Many of the sellers exclusively sell at Desiclik. Some of them do sell at other marketplaces such as Amazon, Rokutan and others.

Repeat Customer Rate and Customer Retention are two important parameters for growth in any venture, what are some of the measures taken by your team to ensure that there is customer delight ?

As mentioned before, we do have a feedback mechanism and are actively looking to improve based on customer feedback. Our testimonials and reviews do speak for themselves.

Can you walk us through the funding of DesiClik & are you looking out for institutional funding ?

DesiClik has been completely bootstrapped, with no external funding till date. We had started with an investment of $15,000 initially and have so far invested around $150,000 over the past few years. We are looking for investments to take the business to the next level – both in terms of the B2B platform as well as for our worldwide expansion

Right now there is no mobile app for DesiClik, is there any definitive plan for releasing the same ?

By mid 2018, we will evaluate the potential of having an app and based on the analysis, we will release it at the end of 2018.

How exactly is the Startup Eco-system in US different as compared to that in a country like India ?

The recent boost in the startup eco-system is not too different from the US. Many of the venture capitalists who invest in India have their headquarters in the US. Good validated ideas with good execution team make the difference.

AI, ML, AR/VR, etc. are some of the emerging trends, what according to you would be technological highlights of 2018 ?

I feel that AR/VR related technology will become more prominent in areas that have not been seen earlier.

DesiClik is a bootstrapped company, when according to you should an entrepreneur approach for external funding and if you can highlight some pros/cons of being a bootstrapper ?

I feel that the idea must be validated by the entrepreneur with their own initial investment. Once the company becomes a real business with a path to the future, it should approach the VC. Many of the start-ups have failed due to a lack of vision and as they wanted to grow too big, too fast without an idea on how to get there. This is true both in India and in the US. Lack of funds in a bootstrapped company may slow the growth and is built on solid foundation.

Any closing thoughts for aspiring entrepreneurs and what keeps you motivated in your entrepreneurial journey ?

To all the young entrepreneurs – If you have a good idea, sit on it like sitting on a needle. It should make you jump and do something about it. Validate your idea, assemble a good team and go for it. Do not be scared of failure.

We thank Deepak for sharing her insights with our readers and walking us through his journey. If you have any questions for him, please share them via a comment to this article.

India currently has around 3 million developers and has the second largest Android developer community in the world after the US. As per a study from Deloitte, India will have the largest base of developers by 2019. Developers will be drivers of customers’ adoption of cloud and cognitive solutions. About 60% of the developers in India have been experimenting with AI [Artificial Intelligence] and machine learning, compared to 39% in the rest of the world. This shows developers in India are receptive towards AI, Cognitive and data science technologies.

Image Source – Cognitive Computing

AI, Machine Learning, Cognitive computing, Data analytics, etc. are some of the emerging technology trends and they are now  observing widespread adoption. Today, IBM stands at the forefront of a worldwide industry to lead the next phase of change revolutionizing the way in which businesses work and grow. With rapid changes in the technology landscape and open source movement, top-down approach is no longer being followed in organizations and developers are now playing role in the entire technology eco-system. Cloud related technologies are a boon for the developers and the barrier to entry has become limited.

IBM, as a part of the ‘Developer Relations Group‘ works with clients, students, developers, startups amd support them in understanding technology, helping them and get their job done effectively. Seema Kumar leads the IBM Developer Relations group which is a part of the IBM Digital Business group. We had a chat with Seems Kumar about IBM’s eco-system efforts, its involvement with startups, role of Watson in shaping up AI industry, etc. So, let’s get started with the Q&A…

Every organization is involved with top tier institutes, what are some of the steps that IBM Evangelism team is taking in order to connect with the student community in lesser known institutes ?

Every student is important to us, irrespective of whether the student is from IIT/IIM or from colleges that are located in tier-2/tier-3 cities. This is mainly because lot of innovation is happening from universities that do not carry the IIT/IIM tag. Students from these colleges are continually learning and the credit goes to the low barrier to entry. IBM has a developer platform called OnTheHub where any university can enroll, students get IBM Credits and they can also use IBM tools for software development.

In some colleges, we also have some development courses as a part of the curriculum where we train faculty members on Watson, Chatbots, AI, etc. and most of the association is with tier-2 institutes.

What are some of the initiatives that IBM is taking to connect with the startup and the entreprenurial community in India [be it TiE, NASSCOM, etc.] ?

Startup eco-system in India is very vibrant. IBM works directly with startups as well as with other partners. IBM has partnered with TiE, NASSCOM 10000, etc. where in some cases, IBM participates in community events.

In case of NASSCOM 10K, IBM works with startups where we monitor and mentor them. Our programme is called as Global Entrepreneur Programme [GEG], there are different plans namely Standard, Basic and Premium Plan. IBM has been actively involved in mentoring startups across different sectors like EdTech, HealthCare, etc. from technology, business expansion, market readiness, etc. point of view.

More than 200 startups are working with IBM  in the technology space. In fact, lot of startups are using Watson API’s for building meaningful apps around Chatbots. For example, a startup that we are mentoring built a chatbot named ValleyBot to identify fake news and they are getting good amount of traction.

There are lot of cloud solutions available in the market, what are some of the major advantages for moving to the IBM cloud [both from the developer as well as enterprise perspective] ?

IBM has various solutions for different audiences. IBM’s cloud offering is a combination of Public, Private and Hybrid cloud. As a matter of fact, lot of apps available in the existing data centers are not cloud ready i.e. Even if they are migrated to the cloud, they cannot capitalize on the benefits of virtualization, effective resource utilization, etc. Cloud solutions from IBM helps you build cloud native applications. Developers are always on the look-out for their own choice of technologies.

IBM Cloud is a Platform As a Service [PAAS] offering that has various API’s for different programming languages. Choice, flexibility to use what developers want and the way they want are some of the key differentiators. Most of the apps of the future would have some sort of cognitive capabilities built into it and Natural Language Processing [NLP], visual recognition features to build conversation interfaces would be some of the basic building blocks to build a cognitive application. These features are available in the Watson APIs and using these APIs, apps are enterprise ready from day one of development!

To summarize, choice of catalogue, breadth of services, flexibility to choose between Public/Private/Hybrid cloud and ability to build secure, cognitive, enterprise ready software on the cloud are some of the inherent advantages.

Image Source – Seema Kumar

Can you comment on Chatbots and what are some of the core ingredients of a Chatbot kind of application ?

Context of conversation and Intent are very important ingredients in building a Chatbot and hence, training & design of the oervall interface are very important factors when building a Chatbot. Watson APIs are very powerful and are specifically designed by keeping these important factors in mind. With every interaction, learning happens and it gets better with more data.

There is buzz about Blockchain, what according to you are some of the ideal use-cases where Blockchain might be useful for a ‘Digitally Growing’ like India ?

Blockchain as a technology is constantly evolving and it is definitely here to stay. Blockchain offers powerful Usecases for any usecase that involves multiple parties and multiple transactions. In a nutshell, it is nothing but a distributed ledger. Initial usecases have obvisouly evolved in the Finance sector but Blockchain would be relevant in other sectors as well.

Blockchain when used in conjunction with IoT, lot of powerful usecases would eveolve. For example, IBM recently worked with the Mahindra Group to build a Blockchain solution for supply chain finance across India. This solution improved the transparency of overall operations. IBM also announced a Trade Finance platform using the IBM Blockchain platform that can be used by banks. Blockchain can also be extended across other sectors like Healthcare, Insurance, etc.

Your comments on Digital India and how IBM’s involvement in the overall journey ?

There is definitely a robust infrastructure in place with Aadhar API’s, eKYC, India Stack, UPI, etc. have led to a huge thrust in digital payments in India. As far as IBM is concerned, we work closely with iSpirt where we also participate as an eco-system partner.

India is a country with rich amount of data and this is where the aspect of Data Science becomes very critical as we need to draw valuable insights from the data. IBM has also tied-up with NASSCOM and Government Of Karnataka to build Center Of Excellence [COE] in Data Science where IBM will be the core technology partner. IBM will not only groom talent in data science but will also work on Proof Of Concept [POC] and support startups in that category.

What are some of the certifications that a student/professional can opt for, in order to gain expertise/know-how in Cognitive Computing, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, IBM BlueMix, etc. ?

IBM has partnered with an EdTech partner where we launched Cognitive Class previously called as Big Data University. IBM has also tied-up with JigSaw Academy where they use IBM’s Big data expertise for all their courses. In the area of certification, IBM has partnered with Global Knowledge that offers on Cloud computing, DevOps, AI, etc.

There has been lot of scepticism that AI, Robotics & other ‘Automation/Machine related technologies’ would wipe off many jobs in future, what are your thoughts on the same and how can AI [and other technologies] go hand-in-hand with human jobs ?

Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO believes in three principles that are applicable in the cognitive era – Purpose, Transparency and Skills. The purpose of a cognitive app is to augment human intelligence and not to replace humans. Products and Services from IBM are built with this principle in mind and human intelligence is a key aspect.

IBM is helping human beings being more productive, realize their potential and focus on more important jobs rather than working on mundane & repetitive jobs. You must be clear as you build AI platforms how they are trained, and what data was used in training. When we talk about transparency, IBM has always been cognizant of data. AI platforms must be built with people in the industry and companies must prepare to train human workers on how to use these tools to their advantage.

We thank Seema Kumar for sharing her insights with our readers and walking us through the awesome work done by IBM for shaping up the developer ecosystem. If you have any questions for Seema about Watson, Chatbots, how solutions from IBM can accelerate your development, etc. please share them via a comment to this article.

There is a very interesting thread on Quora about the ‘Percentage of Salaried Class’ in India and though the thread has very interesting answers, one thing that is common across any salaried person [be it employee in  the organized or unorganized sector] is that each one of them wants to maximize their take-home salary. Salaried professionals who are paying tax are always on the look-out to save extra so that can pay less taxes. If you consider the Blue-collar workers, many workers might not fit in the ‘Tax Slab’ and some of them might still not even have a salaried account.

There was a definitive requirement for a product – ‘Digital Banking system‘, that could cater to both the White-collar and the Blue-collar segment. There has been very little innovation made in the banking requirements for the SME and MSME segment. This is where two entrepreneurs Vinay Bagri and Virender Bisht sensed an opportunity and they co-founded NiYO, a fintech company based out of Bengaluru. NiYO helps you maximize your take home salary by enabling you to track, manage and claim various tax benefits like food, gift, medical, fuel, travel, phone etc. NiYO consists of three important components, namely NiYO app that makes mobile banking easy, NiYO corporate portal that is accessible by its corporate clients and NiYO all-in-one card that has role-based entity.

The core-objective of NiYO is ‘Put salary where it truly belongs – in the employee’s hands.’ We had a discussion with Vinay Bagri, Co-founder and CEO, NiYO Solutions about the NiYO app, the overall market being addressed, how NiYO can help employees increase their take home salary, their fintech platform, future road-map, etc. So, let’s get started with the Q&A…

Can you walk us through the NiYO platform that can be used by white-collar employees ?

NiYO is a digital platform for salaried employees. When we talk about salaried employees, they are broadly classified into two categories – White collar employees and Blue collar employees.

NiYO started with a product for white collar employees that is primarily into taxation. There are total 22 items where tax can be saved by the employees. Employees can avail tax benefits across 10~11 items like LIC Premium, Savings under 80C/80G, HRA, etc. Employees have control over other 10~11 items namely LTA, medical allowance, gift vouchers, meal vouchers, etc. Employee and Employer have to work in tandem in order to avail these tax benefits.

How does NiYO helps in maximizing an employee’s take-home salary ?

What NiYO does is that it optimizes these taxation items for employee as well as employer. For employer perspective, NiYO makes these items paperless, easy to maintain and ensure that they are audit and tax compliant.

From employee perspective, employees can avail more benefits since the employer is now able to pass more benefits to the employee. In that process, emoployees are now able to significantly increase their take-home salary. NiYO also offers a virtual bank account.

What are some of the core components of the NiYO platform and what are some of the USP’s of the product ?

The core product of NiYO consists of three main components:

NiYO offers a virtual as well as physical card. Unlike other cards that are offered by other companies, the card offered by NiYO is a combination of debit, credit and prepaid card and it plays an appropriate role based on the outlet/location where the card is being used. For example, when a NiYO user tries to withdraw money, it acts as a ‘Debit Card‘. When user swipes the card at a food outlet, it automatically pulls money from the ‘Food Wallet‘. When an employee/user uses the card for a transaction when (s)he is on an official trip and swipes the card for a reimburseable item, it takes the shape of a ‘Credit Card‘.

In a nutshell, the card that is offered from NiYO is a combination of Debit card, Prepaid card and Credit card.

What are some of the main pain points that are solved by NiYO ?

NiYO solves two major pain points:

  1. Users now have the convinience, where they need not carry more number of cards since the card offering from NiYO is an all-in-one card.
  2. Since our system is intelligent enough to identify the ‘type’ of transaction, it helps employees in saving more from their salary.
Founders of NiYO [L to R] – Virender Bisht and Vinay Bagri [Source]

Please walk us through the NiYO mobile app and walk us through some of the interesting features of the app ?

The mobile app from NiYO has all the major mobile banking features. Employees can attach bills/other expense reports used for official purpose as a proof of expense to the mobile app. In order to ensure that there are no submission of fake bills by the employees, employer gets an intimation when the card is swiped for a transaction. This step acts as a ‘Proof of Payment‘. To take the security to the next level, employee has to also attach the copy of the bill at the location where the card is used. This mechanism is termed as a ‘Proof of Expenditure‘.

This lethal combination of Proof of Payment and Proof of Expenditure is an ideal way for our customers/organizations to make the reimbursement process tax & audit compliant and at the same time ensure that there is ‘zero fraud’ done during the time of submission of bills.

How do your ‘corporate’ clients ensure the authenticity of the transactions and facilities available at their front ?

HR department from NiYO’s client organizations would have access to the corporate portal where they can view the details of the transactions incurred by an employee ‘X’. The employer would have access to the details of the transactions where employees have applied for a reimbursement.

What are some of the advantages of the NiYO card over offerings by players like Sodexho ?

There are number of benefits of the card offered by NiYO when compared to offerings from Sodexho, some of them are listed below:

  1. Sodexho is a single wallet card that can only be used for food items. On the other hand, the card from NiYO can do much more as already discussed earlier and these facilities are availble on a single platform.
  2. With NiYO, you can use the card at any food outlet where they accept payment via VISA/Master/RuPay cards. Sodexho can only be used at around 40K food outlets where they have tie-ups. NiYO has more reach which is close to around one million outlets.
  3. NiYO also has a very interesting feature – split wallet. For example, if 3K is spent at a food outlet but NiYO’s customer [Employee] has only 2K in the food wallet, split wallet feature comes into action. In such a scenario, NiYO would automatically deduct 2K from the the Food card and remaining 1K would be deducted from the Credit card. In this process, a single transaction is automatically optimized for taxation benefits. NiYO acts as a technology provider and for the card, NiYO has tied-up with couple of banks.

Can you talk about the market size for a service like NiYO ?

There are close to 27 ~ 30 million salaried people in India who pay some kind of taxes. NiYO can be used as a salaried account/travel expense product/a fintech product where an employee can do ‘Financial Planning‘. Hence, NiYO would become a full fledged banking product for the employee.

Please share some insights into the Gift card aspects of the NiYO card ?

As far as corporate gifting is concerned, gifts worth INR 4900 are tax-free, beyond which the expense becomes taxable. There is a ‘segregation’ feature on the gift card wallet in order to ensure that an employee gets maximum tax benefits. Hence, there is no requirement for a seperate gift card and NiYO’s client [organization] can seamlessly load money in the gift wallet.

Morever, all the features on the card are customizable and they can be controlled via the ‘Employer portal’. Employers are free to keep it as an ‘open system‘ or a ‘closed system‘. To summarize, NiYO is currently the only player that has all these features with no competition as of now.

What are some of the features around financial planning on the NiYO platform

For tax and financial planning, NiYO has tied-up with H&R Block, which is one of the largest tax planning companies in India. From the NiYO app, an employee can do tax planning, plan savings, etc. There is an option for ‘Self tax planning & assisted filing‘, where someone from the H&R Block would call NiYO corporate customer and provide necessary support.

How has been the overall response to the NiYO App ?

Feedback has been very good, but there is an increasing demand for features like add-on card, etc. The core USP of the NiYO app is the best in-class ‘field process’. For example, you can attach a proof of insurance towards 80D on the NiYO app itself and the review would be either performed by the employee’s finance team or finance experts from the NiYO team. With such facilities at their persual, employees need not visit any other portal for financial planning.

As of today, NiYO has more than one Lakh customers/corporate employees using the NiYO platform. Out of one Lakh customers, around 60K customers use NiYO as a ‘salary account’. NiYO is also used by blue-collar workers that have salary of less than 15,000. None of the financial institutions want to open salary accounts for blue-collar segment and even if the bank does so, they charge fees and there is a minimum balance requirement.

With a nominal fee, NiYO can open a digital salary account. Everything is eKYC compliant and there is no paperwork involved. Messages sent to NiYO’s blue-collar customers are in vernacular language i.e. Hindi since NiYO for blue-collar workers is only rolled-out in North India. Card is charged for everyone, which is close to around 200 INR per year.

Can you share the product roadmap of NiYO?

In the future, NiYO will provide our customers with all the advice related to taxation and financial planning. Unlike other financial platforms, NiYO would consider taxation as a major factor for financial planning. For example, investing in a good Mutual Fund would yield 12~14% returns on a CAGR basis whereas investmets made via the NiYO platform would result in much more returns on the same investment.

Also, our customers can use the NiYO app to do a QR Code transaction since it would be leveraging the Bharat QR code mechanism. Our customers can opt for doing a payment via Unified Payment Interface [UPI]. The end goal of NiYO is to encourage employees go shift to ‘Spend and Forget mode’ since NiYO would be responsible for complete tax planning and savings.

We thank  Vinay Bagri for sharing his insights with our readers. If you are an SME and on the look-out for some good payroll solution, do give NiYO a spin. If have any questions for him or the NiYO Team, please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.

With business processes becoming more human centric in their ways to deal transactions, it has become crucial for entities to invest in corporate travel – a key operational business activity for Indian enterprises as they visit clients, suppliers and investors and pursue the ongoing aim of building their business both domestically and internationally. However, a recent study done by the CFO Innovations Asia reveals that as large as 74% organisations have more than 21 people that travel on business purpose on a regular basis leading to a need for greater visibility and control over the travel and expenses process.

Indian enterprises are at a tipping point of technology adoption in terms of managing their Travel and Expenses [T&E] expenditure. Organisations deploying automatic T&E processes, have an in-house platform and are not linked to any cloud-based architecture. The present system for Travel and Expense function cites difficulties in obtaining more granular information on individual employee patterns of usage and compliance, and a lack of flexibility in obtaining best pricing for hotels, car rental and airline costs.

Compliance and showcasing information ready for the audit process happens to be other relevant challenges that this industry needs to overcome at the earliest. With successful cloud adoption, systems and processes for the travel business in organisation will see a streamline of operations, resulting in a greater compliance, visibility and control to deliver better data management to senior managers, and also into improving the audit process. This is where Concur, a SaaS company providing travel and expense management services to businesses is creating a dent in the T&E space. We spoke with Neeraj Dotel, Managing Director, India and SAARC Concur around the current challenges that is faced by the Travel and Expense industry in the market and how cloud adoption can act as a transforming wave in the T&E sector. So let’s get started with the Q&A…

Note : ‘I’ in the interview refers to Neeraj Dotel.

Can you give a brief introduction about yourself and some insights into Concur India

Am currently working as the Managing Director for Concur Technologies for its India and SAARC operations. Prior to Concur, I have worked with Compuware as their MD for a period of 3 years and earlier before that, I was associated with Microsoft in different roles for almost 11 years.

With more than 21 years’ experience in sales and marketing overall, my expertise also lies in financial services and technological transformations in the banking sector.  In my current role, I have been helping Concur diversify its business in India.

Concur, n SAP company, is a global leader in travel and expense management and is in its fifth year of operations in India. Our founder is of Indian origin and along with Mike Eberhard our President, we are very passionate about our focus in the country. We are continuously increasing our presence in India with stronger investments and in roads.

We have setup the Bengaluru delivery centre with over a thousand employees working there. India is an evolving market for the travel and expense segment and one of the top 20 markets for business travel globally. The estimated expenditure last year on business travel alone was $33 bn and expected to grow at double digit rates [Source]. Eyeing this opportunity, we have been planning several investments around business travel through booking websites, with the recent one being an equity investment in Cleartrip.

Concur has helped companies to recover Input Tax Credit taking companies of all sizes and stages beyond automation to a completely connected spend management solution encompassing travel, expense, invoice, compliance and risk. In India, post GST implementation, Indian companies have become very sensitive towards their employees and clients. Customer experience and bottom of the pyramid is the most crucial element here. Indian enterprises are looking out for methods to reduce investments and operational costs, at the same time provide a superlative employee experience. We tend to leverage this, and provide them with tools that cater to the aspirational needs of their employees and ensure business growth in the process.

Even in large MNC’s in India, the Business Travel & Expense Management is not yet automated [i.e. still there is lot of paper work involved], how can Concur help such organizations so that they can take the Digital leap in the T&E process ?

Digital transformation is not just a process but a philosophy of business. It is a drive to make a complete paperless economy. It impacts a CFO’s job in terms of expense visibility, employee productivity and policy compliance. About 98% of business travellers in India feel that it is painful to not only deal with the stress of travel but also with the stress of claiming expenses.

We at Concur believe that digital transformation of an organization should be such that it is easy and intuitive to use and the people using it should be able to reap its benefits. We provide these CFOs with advanced solutions that automatically synchronise their financial data of the entire spend process. The automation of these processes enhances the experience of business travel, reduces time, and increases transparency and visibility. Our intention is to become the most preferred application for business travel and expense management. We abide by the philosophy that you cannot save what you cannot see, and try to deliver on the same lines.

Can you touch upon the current scenario of Travel & Expense industry, especially from an Indian perspective ?

The travel and expense industry is evolving in response to the growth of mobile technology. Travel professionals are realising that they need to modernize their tools and programs for improved efficiency. A study by GBTA foundation, explores that direct booking behaviour in employees is becoming increasingly popular, with nearly 40% of business travellers regularly contacting the suppliers directly. Employees are sometimes not satisfied with company-preferred tools and therefore they are adopting a self-service approach.

Companies realising this are now looking towards integrating mobile technology and corporate travel processes, realising the importance of implementation of streamlined solutions to cater to the needs and requirements of their employees, to ensure the safety and security of employees, especially those traveling on behalf of the company and minimise cost. When it comes to corporate travel, Duty of Care is an important business challenge. The Business Travel Show 2017 forecast reveals Duty of Care as one of the top concerns for organizations in managing business travel, along with curbing spends and enforcing compliance [Source]. Duty of Care is defined by organisational culture and the local context under which an organisation operates. In all of Asia, as also in India, relationships with co-workers are highly valued.

Another trend is that many business travellers are using ride sharing services – Uber, Ola and shared accommodation like Airbnb, while on a business trip. The sharing economy is a big push towards being business relevant. Through our robust travel and expense management solution, Concur is providing clients with greater control and application of travel policies, and enabling seamless processes through an integration of Concur’s online booking tool and travel request authorisation.

Concur now offers access to low cost carriers like IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir along with hotel options like Accor and Airbnb, all of which is absent in traditional channels. With disruption present in every sphere of business today, the relevance of a sharing economy is also growing considerably.

What are some of the major advantages of taking the T&E to the cloud [using solutions from Concur] and how would it benefit [in terms of savings] to the organization adopting your solution ?

The most basic advantage for companies to take travel and expense to the cloud is to reduce the cost of operations. The traditional methods of capex investments, building your own solutions, and customising is not just complicated,  but also consumes a lot of time and money. Concur’s idea is to make travel and expense management easier. Our innovative solutions improve customer experience for the modern business traveller. We integrate the T&E process to give managers visibility, compliance and control over expenses. It enables you to compare spend data, analyse cash flow and eliminate any errors. It’s not just about automation, we also care about the customer’s needs as well, understanding the relevancy of the approach to be taken.

One of the major issues that companies face while dealing with Travel Expenses is ‘Submission of Fake Bills’ from employees, how does moving to the cloud curb such malpractices by employees ?

A research conducted by Concur observed that 20% of expense reports submitted have some problem or other which might be a compliance default or a fraud or fake bill that caused it. In India the risk is higher because we are also operating with hand written bills, which are admissible most of the time. An employee can easily use this to get wrong bills into the system. So, the magnitude of the problem is huge and we believe that if a solution like ours is not adopted to manage those bills and eliminate errors for on the T&E process. Inflating bills or submitting forged bills which happen in every company, whether it’s unintentional or intentional which eventually exposes the company to litigation and fraud of things.

Concur captures expenses which prevents unintentional padding [inflating expenses] and there is no scope of inaccuracy. Additionally, certain things cannot be captured at source, especially fraud analytics, however, we have invested in a technology that analyses the patterns and numbers that people are putting in the expense reports with regards to the point of events.

There are various ways by which Concur curbs padding, such as manager and auditor approval, or keeping track of bills and tickets. Employees who do not have receipts will have to submit an affidavit which has to also go through the approval process. Lastly, we have app centre partners who provide sophisticated recording of journals and study and detect the patterns by tracking the actual number of miles travelled through synchronization with google maps. So, this is the sense of promise and vision we offer to our clients.

Neeraj Dotel, MD – Concur (India)

There are lot of fin-tech startups that are integrating payments, T&E, Insurance/Finance services, etc. into a single product, how does Concur plan to stay ahead of its competition in terms of innovation and adaptability ?

Mobile micro services is the next big thing with the ability to capture expenses at source and the ability to sync with your email and Outlook calendars. Gaining popularity amongst Indian enterprises, it will be the next big tool in business travel. Concur provides an integrated approach towards management, tracking and evaluating employee expenses. For example, hotels, airline ticketing and conveyance. We have partnered with 100 plus service providers globally and in India which includes financial integrators, payment companies, hotel and restaurants, travel management companies, cab aggregators and ground transportation companies to benefit our customers.

In the Indian context, we presume to have spreadsheets as our only competitor. Spreadsheets are typically adopted by companies who haven’t understood the concept of spend management and not figured out a way to optimize cost. Concur proposes an array of solutions to ease the management process: Invoice Capture using

SAP Leonardo

The tool helps to capture expense at its source, by letting the end user capture invoice data real time and provides a wide scale accuracy.

Expenselt Pro App

The tool has the ability to leverage several data points [card data along with OCR, user history, company history etc.] to analyse the type of expense when formulating expense reports.

Fraud Detection Analytics with Concur App centre partner Oversight

Oversight proprietary software applies multidimensional artificial intelligence techniques to monitor and report on the behaviour related to cardholders, merchants, spend categories and items purchased. The tool detects risk activity including unusual spend patterns, duplicate expenses, split transactions and suspicious out-of- pocket expenses.

Rocketrip: Real-time pricing algorithm technology

Rocketrip gives employees real time budgets and allows them to save from the estimated budget. The algorithm tracks actual prices for transportation and incorporates this information with the available budget. It provides the company with insights and analytics about travel spend, irrespective of which travel site used by the employee for booking.

Mileage Rate Service

With Concur Drive, employees will be able to automatically capture the routes travelled using GPS. The user can set days/times in order to capture their mileage. They are then provided a log of mileage that they can select the trips they wish to expense. This is seen as a huge time-saver for employees while granting approvers visibility into actual mileage and hence prevent misuse and padding.

Your views on Digital India and how that movement has paved the way for automation in Travel, Expense, Invoicing, etc.

India is in the throes of a digital transformation with digital adoption spanning all businesses across the corporate spectrum. IDC reports that work process automation in companies is leading to increased employee productivity, more cost savings and reduced time spent on expense management with a lesser propensity for errors. Automation is also resulting in better compliance practices in organizations through efficient management. A recent CFO Innovation Asia Study reveals that in India, about 39% organizations are fully automated, with online processes for employee travel and expense [Source]. Around 23% organizations use a mix of methods for travel and expense, indicating that automation is catching up in India.

Digital transformation is positively impacting the CFO’s job, in terms of value proposition, visibility, employee productivity and compliance. Concur is offering CFOs end-to-end solutions that automatically synchronize financial data across the entire employee spend process, from pre-spend approval to reconciliation. With Concur, companies can automate expenses and streamline business travel, save their employees’ time, and have more visibility into important line items, helping them focus on what matters most.

There are still lot of issues with GST [both implementation and understanding based], how does Concur support its customers to make their Bill Submission, Invoicing and other processes smoother and less time consuming ?

We have dealt with countries with similar tax reforms such as Canada, Australia, and UK and do understand the pain points associated with tax reforms. We have built experience of 38,500 customers across the globe in over 60 countries. We keep ourselves very well prepared and with the tax reforms.

With GST in India, we have been constantly responding to the need of our customers and guiding them on the impact of GST on T&E and the efficient use of budget. With end-to-end spend transparency, companies can uncover insights that lend to more effective spend management. As a result, business leaders can make smarter and more informed decisions.

We thank  Neeraj Dotel for sharing his insights with our readers. If your organization is planning to adopt the more tech-savvy route to T&E functions, please have a look at Concur. If you have any questions for Neeraj or the Concur Team, please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.

The realty industry faces trust issues owing to market conditions and other factors. Despite having the financial means, a lot of home buyers are reluctant to invest in property as they are suspicious whether they would get back the returns, if they will be able to rent out the property to the right tenant who will keep it in good conditions and many such fears. Such mindsets have further deteriorated the market conditions for the property sector.

Technology is also evolving at a very rapid pace, with technologies like Machine Learning, AR/VR, Artificial Intelligence [AI], etc. acting as change-agents for the real-estate industry. However, technology can only act as a catalyst to ease the buying-selling process and the industry earnestly waits for a solution for the rental and property management problems.

Though there are many players in the market, the problem still exists. The industry needs a solution that will streamline the processes and make renting a hassle-free experience. Rentprop4u, a Bengaluru based realty start-up is trying to solve these problems by streamlining the entire rental process. Rentprop4u offers property management and rental solutions to owners and tenants. Backed by its cutting-edge technology platform and data-driven analytics, the company aims to take the worry out of owning and renting a home. Established in 2016, Rentprop4u currently has 250 plus registered properties and more than 400 users.

Today we have a chat with Nagaraju M, Co-founder & CEO of Rentprop4u about the product, problem being solved, impact of technology on real-estate sector, etc. So let’s get started with the Q&A….

Can you please walk through the idea of RentProp4u, team, etc.

During the time that I was pursuing my MBA, I came across a common but a major stress among some friends – getting an accommodation in and around the city in a limited time. It came to my knowledge that landlords too faced difficulties to rent out their properties around the city due to several tenant issues.

One of my friends from Bihar came to Bengaluru to pursue his Masters degree. He hunted for weeks together to find an accommodation but had no luck. The fact that he was a student added to his woes. Meanwhile, my uncle was a landlord of a dozen moderate 1 BHK homes which he had built just then. I got an idea – why not help my friend by convincing my uncle to rent out one of his houses to my bachelor friend. My uncle was convinced. He offered him the accommodation under my assurance about the property, its security and maintenance. My friend had a peaceful stay throughout his Masters days and my uncle too was a happy landlord.

That’s when it struck me that a landlord needs a trustee and a tenant needs a hassle-free accommodation provider, which was ‘I’ in this case. As I saw many of my other friends undergo this pain, I thought I could help a lot more people if I took it up as a business. This encouraged me to start a property management service to bridge the gap between owners and tenants. This is how I came up with Rentprop4u.

Online consumer rental market is largely dominated by Makaan, Housing, PropTiger, etc. What according to you are some of vital differentiators of RentProp4u vis-a-vis its competitors?

To be precise, we have an entirely different business model than above-mentioned players in the market. While they are property search portals, we are into end-to-end management of properties [promoting the property, property inspection, tenant screening, preparing legal documents, rent collection, property repair and maintenance, etc] while serving as a one-stop solution for all the rental needs of customers.

There are other startups that are addressing similar issue [to remove hassles like language barrier, interaction with brokers, etc.] like NoBroker, what are some of RentProp4u’s unique features that sets itself apart from such emerging startups?

RentProp4u becomes the platform ‘a click away from’ to find your desired property and good tenant for your property. More than special features, we are very specialized in making the customer happy and becoming more of the customized residential management company which is the biggest edge we have over our competitors. We believe that ‘customer is the king for us’, therefore, we more keen on keeping the customers happy and satisfied. The special features include – Zero brokerage, Assured rent for a property, property end to end managementRentProp4u’s USP seems to be attracting the NRI client base who have purchased properties in India for investments.

The Rentprop4u team – (from left to right) Nagaraju M, CEO; Asha M, Managing Director; and Ravi M, Managing Director

How does your team ensure that the bridge between the Tenant & NRI Owner is burnt with the use of emerging technologies like AI, ML, AR, VR, etc.

According to the UN reports, India has the largest diaspora in the world at 16 million. If we consider 1 per cent of 16 million NRIs as having a property in India, it is a big number and we are aiming to capture this segment on priority. Technically the property might be used either by their own relatives or locked out. The chances of these properties being rented out are slim as it is difficult for them to monitor them. In such conditions, RentProp4u will be an ideal platform for them to use to have a hassle-free renting experience. We do use automation to analyse the data we obtain from our ground staff and online transactions. The analytics help us stay up to date with the market rates and consumer behaviour. VR and AR are definitely great tools to enhance user experience. We intend to incorporate them in the future.

How has been the traction so far for RentProp4u, can you share some vital stats about properties rented, clients on-boarded and the overall response from your clients

We have on-boarded 470 plus properties and more than 650 customers.

Apart from helping the owner to rent out property, does your startup help in other aspects of property management [in order to provide valuable services in the rental eco-system]

Most of our property owners are not sure of the market rental rates for their properties and the type of tenants they can get. Our primary task is to educate the property owner about the current market rents. From finding the right tenant, performing a complete background check to offering assured rentals, managing the property and rent collection, we provide full-service rental and property management for owners. We also share property updates with property owners on a monthly basis with relevant photographs.

Currently there is no mobile app for RentProp4u, is there any timeline when you plan to launch the Android or iOS app [considering that the NRI segment would own an iPhone] since mobile has become an integral part in the buy/sell cycle

The app is on top of our list of priorities. Yes, we intend to have a separate app for owners and tenants.

RentProp4u is currently operational in how many cities and what is your future road-map w.r.t expansion [either in terms of market segment like commercial properties or expansion in other cities]

We aim to have 2,000 properties in Bengaluru in the next 2 years. At the same time we intend to replicate the model in other cities such as Hyderabad and Chennai and then take it across the country. We have plans for overseas expansion too.

What is the revenue model of RentProp4u ?

We help tenants find the home of their choice at zero brokerage. We do not charge them a single penny. As for owners, we charge them a month’s rent as a service fee for managing their property. That’s our revenue stream. However, we do not charge them for property visits, paperwork and other services. We act as a bridge between the owner and the tenant throughout the rental cycle. We help the owner find the right tenant and the tenant find the right home.

There was a big slowdown in the real-estate market first due to demonetisation,than due to GST, RERA, etc. How is the overall market situation right now & whether there are positive synergies leading to the growth in momentum.

Home rentals did not have any direct impact either by demonetisation, GST or RERA. Property selling and buying has been slowed due to these reforms. Probably 2018 will be an ideal time to assess whether home rental will have an impact because of the reforms. If the buying and selling reduces further, we will definitely have a problem.

Can you talk about the funding status of RentProp4u, whether it is bootstrapped/angel funded/seed funded/etc. and are you looking for any external/strategic investment ?

Thus far it has been self-funded and since we are planning to expand our business to other cities and building various apps for our business, we are definitely looking for funding from those who understand our business model.

What are some of the marketing strategies used by your team in order to market the core product ?

Our portal supports us in a lot of our marketing efforts. We have an in-house team for digital marketing. Our other marketing activities include branding, PR, offline promotions such as banners, pamphlets and others.

How big is the Total addressable market [TAM] of the online consumer rental segment ?

The Indian residential rental market is worth $20 billion, as per a report in Forbes. This consists of $13.5 billion in urban, $0.8 billion in rural and $5.7 billion in vacant Non-Resident Indian property brokerage.

The NRI segment is definitely our main target and they prefer to use technology to communicate with us and with the tenants as they are away. While this works in our favour, a large portion of the urban property owners are also increasingly using the Internet to manage their property needs. This is the audience we intend to capture.

There are has been lot of talks about AI, Machine Learning [ML] in the real-estate sector, how much impact will AI and ML have on the online real-estate sector ?

All those technologies are going to have a great impact on buying & selling since every transaction has been digitized and these technologies come handy to minimize the task and make it quick too. More over the data will be secure.

When it comes to residential rental management, the technologies can help not only in securing our data but also in crunching huge amounts of data and making sense of it. It will also help in minimizing human error and oversight. In the future, AI will play a great role in responding to our client queries and storing their requirements which will be help us in resolving them much better when they recur.

What are some of the measures taken by your product/tech team to provide ‘customized residential management experience and to ensure that there is a maximum conversion rate ?

Our product team has been phenomenal in maximising the technologies we have implemented. The team has taken all aspects into consideration while building our platform to ensure that it is responsive to our customer needs, allowing them to interact with us in a convenient manner and helping us in resolving their queries.

The team is working on a unique app for our clients to give them a better experience with property maintenance, repair and rent collection.

Chat bots are now becoming main stream with Fintech, Banks, etc. how can chat bots be used to enhance the overall renting experience ?

The instantaneous feature of chat bots is its greatest strength. It is definitely a big boon for companies with a huge customer base. At this point we are more focused on personalized human communication as we are still trying to understand our customer requirements and pain points. So we have not incorporated the chatbot feature. We might include it in the future when we feel the need.

With the advent of sub 1500 phones, new segment of customers have emerged that could be first-time data users. Are there any plans of RentProp4u to cater to this market [be it a light-weight app/site, etc.] ?

It is too early to comment on this segment. We want to wait and watch how this segment responds to data and then take a call.

What are some of the emerging trends in the tech-space and where do you see the real-estate sector [from a tech point of view] couple of years down the line ?

As you rightly pointed out earlier, VR and AR are already making waves in the rental space globally. It might take time to see traction in India because of the price factor. By integrating VR into property platforms, tenants are able to view available places from anywhere without needing to be physically present at the property, thereby saving them a lot of time on visits. Augmented reality helps in taking this to the next level.

However, it is AI and Machine Learning that has found takers in the rental space. A lot of property search portals and property management start-ups are using these for data crunching and analyzing customer behaviour. These technologies will see more use in the future.

2016 was a tough year for startups [especially from a funding point of view], how according to you should entrepreneurs deal with such adverse situations ?

I advise them to stay patient during the initial few years as a start-up needs time to take off. There will be several ups and downs; you cannot have success without overcoming these hurdles. Continuous learning is a must since change is the only constant in today’s fast-paced world. Also be a leader and not a ruler.

Can you share some tips for building an effective team for startups [especially the initial core team] ?

The most significant part of startup success totally depends on the kind of team that you build. Therefore you must be very careful in selecting your team. Besides the core skills, it is important to focus on whether the candidate is a team player with a never-give up attitude who is able to handle stress and if he/she shares the same kind of passion as the company.

As per your entrepreneurial experience, when should an entrepreneur look out for external funding ?

According to me, it is best to seek funds after a year of existence in the market wen you have adequate knowledge about our product/business and its scalability.

Some books that you highly recommend for entrepreneurs ?

These are some titles that I mostly recommend to entrepreneurs

  • Zero to One
  • The Entrepreneur Mind
  • Venture Deals
  • Realty Check

Some closing thoughts for our readers!

If you have the vision and are passionate about your business, and you are willing to work hard, there is nothing that will stop you from reaching your dream. RentProp4u is one stop solution for all your rental problems. We are here to burn the bridge between owner ant tenant.

We thank Nagaraju M for sharing his insights with our readers. If you have any questions for him or the RentProp4u Team, please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.

Technology is evolving at a very rapid pace, with technologies & trends like Artificial Intelligence [AI], Machine Learning [ML], Chatbots, Augmented Reality [AR], etc. creating a dent in every possible sector. Few years back, when you were interested in buying a property, you had to personally visit the site, evaluate & inspect it and than come at some logical conclusion.

With the advent of AR/VR, consumers can now have a look at the property/flat from the comfort of their homes thereby saving time as well as money [for the real-estate company that mostly bears the cost of the site-visits]! Artificial Intelligence is already disrupting the real-estate sector.

When we talk about online real-estate, and immediately comes to our minds. All these companies have been game changers in their own respect, having varied business models. Today, we have a chat with Ravi Bhushan, Group CPTO,, and about emerging technological trends, AR/VR, Chatbots, etc.

Being a CPTO of multiple portals which are into real-estate, as a PM what are some of the data points that you use to ensure that the right set of features are deployed in the respective portals ?

For all the three platforms, i.e., and, we have different business models that cater to both common and unique use cases. At a high level, I keep a close watch on the following data points

  • Traffic growth and quality
  • Engagement and conversion metrics
  • Supply growth
  • Demand supply match metrics
  • Quality score of content on a platform
  • Customer’s satisfaction score

There are has been lot of talks about AI, Machine Learning [ML] in the real-estate sector, how much impact will AI and ML have on the sector ?

I feel that there is tremendous scope of AI and ML in the digital real estate sector. Some of the areas wherein we are deploying and evaluating these technologies include:

  • AVM for price estimation in real estate
  • Lead quality scoring, based on the consumer’s behaviour [online + offline] data
  • Sentiment analysis around projects and developers based on the UGC data on IREF
  • Image classification and image quality check of listings
  • Automatic response by bots on real estate queries based on the knowledge base we have across platforms

How will emerging trends like AR/VR enhance the buying experience and how it can act as a compliment to physical site visits ?

Technology in the AR/VR sector is growing at a fast pace. Most of the global powerhouses are extensively investing in AR/VR related technology. An immersive viewing experience of a property [which does not exist] by using virtual reality, significantly solves the use case of visiting a sample flat. This technology can complement physical site visits in two ways

  • With these technologies one can do virtual site visits without any risk as visiting the site physically to experience the progress can be risky during construction
  • AR can be of immense value when it comes to customizing your house and get a near to a real glimpse of your future house

Can you list down top five features of PropTiger, Makaan, Housing from technological point of view vis-a-vis its competitors ?

I have listed the top five features that set us apart from our competitors

  • Comprehensive coverage of ratings and reviews of agents provided by genuine home seekers on solving the issue quality differentiation between sellers.
  • First platform with real time authentic transaction data in Indian real estate
  • Category’s most innovative and user friendly maps based experience of 100% verified listings on solving the issue of information asymmetry.
  • Category’s first ever web based virtual reality solution for most advanced visualisation [Sample flat, unit plan, construction updates, locality] targeting millions of internet users without any tech. barrier.
  • Deep learning based lead quality scoring engine based on consumer’s behaviour [Online + Offline].
Ravi Bhushan – Group CPTO (, and

Chatbots are now becoming main stream with Fintech, Banks, etc. how can chat bots be used to enhance the overall buying experience ?

Chatbots concept is still very early for real estate sector. The important thing to notice is that unlike many other sectors, in real estate, the search pattern is very broad. However, we definitely feel that with time there will be adoption in real estate and in order to ensure that we lead it from the front, we have already invested in this technology.

In fact, we are the first one to launch Facebook bot based search experience through which one can search and call sellers from the chat window itself on

What are some of the measures taken by your product/tech team to provide ‘customized’ buying/selling experience and to ensure that there is a maximum conversion rate ?

There are many things which are done in this direction. Some of the important measures followed by us include:

  • Relevance logic: Matching of user intent with the property options provided during the search journey
  • Ratings/Reviews: One of the main goals for home seekers is also to find out the right seller and for that authentic ratings/reviews are very important. We are working really hard to ensure that this use case is addressed properly.
  • Drip marketing: Real estate being long buying cycle, drip marketing at various stages of the journey to bring back consumers and make them convert is also a significant area
  • High quality content: On Housing & PropTiger, we have 100% verified listings and on Makaan we have most comprehensive reviews and ratings. We also power our platform with the UGC from the biggest forum in Indian real estate which we own.

Searching for ‘your kind of flat’ is still a tedious process on real-estate portals [where search can go upto how many rooms, area, etc.], what are some of the challenges to have these initial search terms integrated in a voice-based engine so that there are less number of user interactions [with the device] ?

We have made some great progress in our Audio related technologies to parse and meaningfully understand the home seeker-seller interactions. As far as voice searches are concerned, we already have this feature in our PropTiger app. Based on the traction, we will further enable the same in our other platforms.

With the advent of sub 1500 phones, new segment of customers have emerged that could be first time data users. Are there any plans of PropTiger/Makaan/Housing to cater to this market [be it a light-weight app/site, etc.] ?

Yes, this is an area of opportunity for us to penetrate further in tier 2/3 cities in India. Jio being a light weight HTML5 based app ecosystem, we are willing to launch our experiences as soon as it is allowed. Having said that, we have already invested in technologies like Progress Web Apps [PWA], Instant apps to provide app like experience to our web users and we look forward to tap any such opportunity in future.

From a product feature point of view, there has been less push to lure multi-lingual audience [e.g. Certain audience in  Kolkata might not be well versed with English but good in their native language], is there any push to cater the non-English speaking audience ?

We are witnessing some noticeable shift towards the vernacular space and we see this as an opportunity. We have already started to write some regional content on some of our content platforms such as PropGuide, MakaanIQ, Housing News, etc. Based on the traction, we will further invest in this direction.

What are some of the emerging trends in the tech-space and where do you see the real-estate sector [from tech point of view] couple of years down the line ?

With better government regulations, reforms & advancement of technology, the information asymmetry will reduce significantly in the coming years. The online platform will push their boundaries in terms of reaching towards closure to transactions.

The centralized listing content source [like MLS in other countries] is bound to emerge and lots of physical activities will be replaced with advancement in visualization technology related to AR/VR/3D space.

We thank Ravi Bhushan for sharing his insights with our readers. If you have any questions for Ravi, please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.