Interview with Harshal Katre (ProfitBooks.net)
ProfitBooks.net is an online tool offering accounting and payroll management.
I interviewed Harshal Katre, ProfitBooks.net founder to find out more. This is the hundred and eighty sixth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Harshal!
How would you describe ProfitBooks in under 50 words?
ProfitBooks is an online accounting and payroll management application. It also comes with productivity tools like task management, notepad, internal messaging system and document management (with Dropbox integration).
ProfitBooks includes everything a small business would need to efficiently manage their business finances online in a cost effective manner.
What gap in the market did you discover that persuaded you to launch ProfitBooks in 2011?
Before starting ProfitBooks, I worked at MNCs like HSBC and Barclays technology. During my this time, I realized that these big companies were able to manage their business effectively because they had access to various powerful tools. These tools were too expensive for small companies and that’s why they are mostly unorganized.
Apart from the cost, we realized that SMEs were using different applications for accounting, payroll and document management.. most of them were standalone. During that time, one FMCG asked us to develop an accounting application to manage their offices in different states. We learned a lot about SME pain-points during this assignment and finally ProfitBooks was born.
Which channels have you used to reach potential customers? Are you reaching out to accountants or directly to businesses?
We are reaching out to both accountants and businesses. Accountants play a key role in the decision making process. So, we have added few features to attract them and make their life easy. For example, you can invite an accountant to audit your books directly from the application.
We have an offline sales team as well as a team that manages digital promotions.
You target your product towards self employed professionals to medium sized businesses. Any plans for enterprise?
We constantly get inquiries from enterprise customers who have complex requirements like multi-branch accounting. We also get customization requests on regular basis from bigger companies that have more than 100 employees. We have to turn down those requests as we didn’t want to loose the simplicity that ProfitBooks currently offers.
As its not wise to ignore enterprise customers, we are coming up with ‘extensions’. These small pluggable components will add complex functionality to the application. We are also working to release a developer API to offer better integration with existing tools. We are planning to release our first extension in Q3 of this year.
How long did it take to put together the initial version of ProfitBooks?
It’s been a long journey. It took us nearly 2 years to release ProfitBooks publicly.
Many managers find accounting a long and difficult task, how does ProfitBooks help managers?
We got this feedback from a lot of business owners. They used to tell us that they don’t understand the complex accounting tools and they need to depend on to their accountant to get the holistic view of the business. Keeping this in mind, we made ProfitBooks very simple to use. If someone can send and receive emails, they can use ProfitBooks.
We replaced complex accounting terms with user-friendly terms. For example, there is a separate screen in the application that lets you record your bank deposits. In traditional accounting application, you have to struggle to find an option to record bank transaction in a correct manner.
You offer four different pricing packages. Which is your most popular?
To our surprise, our most expensive package is our most popular package. We always wanted to keep the entry cost very low and hence our starting package (Essential Plan) is very pocket friendly. However, we noticed that the Professional Plan which comes with payroll functions is selling more.
Has ProfitBooks had the feedback and growth you expected since launching?
We had an internal target to get 500 customers on board during first year. We were overwhelmed when we achieved this target in the first 4 months.. and this feat came mainly though word-of-mouth. That was very encouraging.
How do you differentiate yourselves from competitors?
Our competitors punish their users for their growth. For example, users need to pay more to send more invoices or to add more clients. ProfitBooks does not have such restrictions and offers a very simple pricing structure. No other app integrates collaboration tools like notes, messages, etc and offers role-based access to the users at such a low cost.
Where do you see ProfitBooks in 5 years time?
We want to take ProfitBooks to more countries in coming years. We also plan to offer country specific features (Taxation, etc).
Can you convince the reader to start using ProfitBooks in under 50 words?
ProfitBooks offers smart tools to manage office finances effectively. It’s available anytime and anywhere, on your smart phone too. So record expenses, send invoices or view bank transactions even while travelling. Use smart reports to take better decisions. Start using ProfitBooks and take charge of your business.
Finished reading? Check out ProfitBooks.net!
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