In an exclusive conversation with Faiz Askari, Founder Editor of SMEStreet, Ankit Agarwal, Managing Director of Alankit Limited explained trends in the changing market dynamics of India’s economics.
Multi-business conglomerate in the financial services and e-governance space for past 25 years Alankit is an authorized GSP (GST Service Provider). Now GST is the Buzz word of today’s financial world. Alankit is working relentlessly for smooth implementation of GST regime across all business genres throughout India.
Faiz Askari: How do you look at the financial transformation that our country is going through?
Ankit Agarwal: Any new thing that is implemented is bound to be bumpy. Same was the case with VAT and Aadhar in the past. The entire GST system is having teething problems. This is the initial phase our country is going through. European countries have successfully implemented GST, but you can’t compare them with India. India has a huge population of 120 crore people, so it will be challenging. Even a country like USA couldn’t implement it successfully across the country. Large scale implemented with have its pros and cons, but the whole process will become smooth in the long run. In turn, doing business will become smoother. You could call this a paradigm shift. We are facing temporary problems right now. We are shifting from being a ‘tax avoiding’ country, to being a tax-compliant country. We are changing the entire thought process. It is a structural shift, so it will take time. With the implementation of GST, we are aiming at maximum transparency. For SMEs, we are offering compliance at an affordable cost, which is one of the most critical factors while choosing any solution. Government has got complete transparency with GST. GST has been in line with its thought process.
Faiz Askari: What are the areas Alankit is planning to focus on to make GST a success?
Ankit Agarwal: We’ve split our target areas into two groups: 30% GST for India, which is basically for large corporates, and 70% GST for Bharat includes small, medium and informal businesses. GST for India will be a crowded market, but we’re not turning anyone away. GST for Bharat is a two pronged approach – one is for the compliance part and the other for ease of doing business. For compliance part of GST, we have developed GST Muneemji. It is a cloud based platform where one can file returns, save data, reconciliation, dashboard and reports, invoice generation, user management, pre filing reconciliation etc. It is a subscription based format where you pay for the subscription which is free till the end of current financial year and then you can continue filing your returns there. It gives per filing reconciliation where anyone using my system will be able to reconcile even before the return gets filed. (11 mins)CAs and other Tax Consultants get a different login, where they can manage all their clients in a single window. They can see the pending compliance, whether someone has filed GST or not. Using an ERP like Tally, SMEs can upload an Excel file to the software, which requires one-time mapping. A Connector connects the clients ERP to Muneemji and the data is pulled from the clients ERP, to Muneemji. Complete end-to-end solution to the clients. (put non-conventional software, connector, process etc.)
We’ve also introduced the GST Saarthi device which is a POS machine. It will help SMEs with business accounting. It will have billing, stock, Aaadhar enabled payments. In the future, the device will make filing directly possible. Till such times, this will enable SMEs to pull out an excel sheet and the client can file the excel sheet either directly on GST Muneemji or through a Chartered Accountant. At a later stage GST Saarthi will be GST complaint as well which is recommended and filing can happen through GST Saarthi.
F: How long have you been functional? How many clients do you have?
A: We’ve been in business for about 25 years now and we have had about 3300 corporate clients. In these 25 years, we’ve reached out to around 20 million customers till date. We find our space in the e-governance sector. We’ve reached out to people through EESL for distribution of energy efficient appliances, Aadhaar, Voter ID, GST, PAN Card, Pension Schemes etc. and we plan to reach out to SMEs to make government services available to them at a low cost.
F: How will this impact your business?
A: The business numbers will definitely go up. Last year we made about 15 lakh PAN cards and we’re expecting greater volumes now. Similarly for Aadhar and GST – lot of hand holding is required. In India, having a vast network is the only way to capture a market, in the SME space.
F: How many new customers are you looking at?
A: We’re looking at about 5lakh customers to come in which include our new GST customers as well as our existing customers. We’re going to hire more CAs and more people in our call centres. 350 software engineers. Call center support. We’re also working on a BOT which would be able to answer queries on a real time basis. Call centres have a limitation with the number of people calling at the same time, but BOT has none. It will be able to answer more questions.
F: Do you still see some areas of focus where attention is required to improve the scenario around GST?
A: In GST, why are people thinking it to be such a big, mammoth task is because they are trying to understand the law. That is a fundamental difference that people are not trying to understand, that they don’t have to learn the law. They have to stick to the compliance part of it. Let the law or the accountants understand it. A business is spending more time in understanding the law which is not required. Why are they trying to get into a law which is still nascent, which is still evolving. It will continue to evolve for the next 3-5 years depending on the scenarios. My only advice is to focus on the implementation. Do not get into the law piece of it. Let experts do it. There are other people and apps like ours for that. You just have to do what the supporter, the software that you are compliant to is saying. There are a lot of architectural issues which are not an x businessperson’s cup of tea. For example, when VAT came about there were a lot of issues. When excise came up then also there were a lot of issues. An enterpriser did not have an answer to what excise was. It was just another tax to comply with. Why can’t they take GST like that. In fact, the impact of GST has been very positive.