First thing you notice when you talk to Dinesh is that success sits lightly on his shoulders.
One of country’s highly successful IT leaders with a whopping 10% market share in accounting software, yet he stays humble and a learner.
An electronics engineer from the prestigious NSIT, Delhi, today his Busy accounting software has an installation base of over 3,00,000 across India, South Asia, Middle East and Africa and includes prestigious clients like World Bank, All India management Association (AIMA), Children Book Trust, and LG, among others.
The budding entrepreneur
Dinesh always wanted to do something of his own.
He decided to make his move just two years into his first job in the Research & Development department of a company.
“I knew I had to learn the ropes of the trade.That’s when I switched my job and took up a Customer Support role, so that I get comfortable with the commercial aspect. After working there for one year, I then started my entrepreneurial journey,” he adds.
Since he did not have a strong financial backing, he started with customized software development and computer maintenance services.
“This was in September 1990. After doing this for a few months, my customers started asking me to sell assembled computers to them, and give them complete IT solutions. It was then that I decided to sell computers also,” he says.
Recall this was the time when the desktop computer market was just opening up in India and branded products were very expensive.
In late 1991, his younger brother, Rajesh Gupta, an engineer from DTU joined him. While his brother looked after software development, he focused on hardware.
Move to product development
A year later, both of them decided to stop custom software development, and focus on making products.
“What influenced this decision was… When I was selling computers, small businesses would buy computers only for two things – one was for accounting and the other for word processing (making letters). We were also selling third party accounting software at that point. We realised that our style of working was more suited to product development,” he explains. At this point, the company was called Digitronics Solutions.
In September 1992, the duo started to work on Busy Software, and it took them a year to develop and sell their first copy. “We decided that since we already have a client base and are already known for providing accounting solutions, we moved from selling third party software to pushing our software,” shares Dinesh.
In the three years before BUSY software was launched, they had already established a good rapport with their clients, and people would approach them for their technical expertise.
“Along with computers, we also offered them our software in a cost-effective manner. If a popular accounting software was Rs 10,000, ours was Rs 5,000. Also, we assured them that if they are not comfortable with it, we will take it back,” he adds.
Dinesh goes on to share that they had decided to advertise their product, when there were 100 satisfied customers. In one year, they achieved that target.
”In Dec 1994, we launched the product at an exhibition at Pragati Maidan, Delhi, and from then on there was no looking back.
People started realising our product is simpler to use than other similar products in the market and our sales grew. We offered additional features for sales tax reporting, which was a pain point for businesses at that time. We gave more in addition to what others were offering. Subsequently, we offered inventory management, which was not there in other vendors’ products. We gave billing, statutory management, and we have maintained this until now.”
That’s how BUSY Infotech was carved out of Digitronics.
Nine Asian countries, including India, have a high-level of pirated software loaded on personal computers, according to a Microsoft survey.
On the issue of privacy, Dinesh says, “As far as the software market is concerned, if your product is successful it is bound to be pirated; you can’t stop it.
BUSY is being pirated heavily. But when the users get stuck in something, they will eventually have to buy our license. So they come back to us when they need our expertise.”
BUSY keeps up with the pace of change, and offers new updates from time to time. “Many of our clients are small traders and are not tech-savvy. If someone is not comfortable with downloading updates online, and he/she wants help, then we service these customers through our channel partners. We do not sell directly – we have 450 channel partners for support services.”
The GST struggle is real
Ever since the Goods and Services Tax was rolled out by the government, there have been several challenges. In the beginning, the rules were not as clear, later there were several changes. “First, rules and regulations were not very clear, not even to us. The government servers were not equipped to take the load which was another issue. Customers would always call us and ask us queries. That time provided us with great opportunity, but was also very challenging,” he adds.
After the implementation of GST into their product, the sales of BUSY Infotech went up, since all their existing users had to switch to the new version that had GST.
Gradual shift to new technology
BUSY is slowly making a transition to newer disruptive technologies. “It will take a good two to three years to come out with our cloud-based solution. Cloud acceptability is still low as far as SMEs are concerned, they are very traditional about accounting data. They are fearful that if it is on a public platform, it is not safe and this mindset we have experienced in all developing economies,” he adds.
He goes on to say that BUSY offers cloud-like functionality. “A quasi-cloud is already there, so as such, if someone needs their data to be centrally placed, they can access it from anywhere.”
The platform on which they’ve been working as a company has been the same for the last 15 years, but they plan to make a shift. “Transition will not be easy but we have no choice,” he says.
Filling gaps through skilling
While they do not have their own training infrastructure, they collaborate with those who run computer or accounting academies, wherein they introduce BUSY as a course.
“We appoint them, then train their staff, and then help them to train their students,” he says.
Both accounting and non-accounting students can go for the course. Those who are looking for jobs at BUSY must either be a graduate in Commerce, or should have passed out of school with Commerce as the main stream. “If you don’t understand the basics of accounting, it won’t make sense at all, “ he adds.
BUSY is generally part of the Integrated course, but those who spend learning only the software will have to spend just three months to get trained and be ready for a INR 15,000 per month job.
Building a strong workforce
Dinesh believes that anyone who wants to be a part of software development must have “domain expertise, patience, and the financial muscle to sustain in the first few years, because the cash flow is negative. The cash generating phase comes later, in comparison to a services business.”
Most of the employees at BUSY are in the late 20s and early 30s, and there are about 160-170 people at the moment. The company is expanding and plans to reach 200 people by the end of the year.
Recalling his early days, he says, “We would fund our software business through our hardware business. That was what generated cash to run the software division. Today, if your idea is good, you can get seed funding, private equity, venture funding, such things were not there earlier.”
By the way, Busy is still a bootstrapped organisation.
Striking the right balance
There has to be a balance in roles, Dinesh emphasises.
“The product part is being looked after by my younger brother mainly, who is also the co-founder.
My role in product development is that of a visualiser; I give direction regarding the product, so as to remain relevant in the market. Besides visualising, my role is in sales and marketing and building the organisation.”
On headquarters at offbeat Wazirpur
“We chose this location because my place is close to where I work. We also have an advantage – most software companies are in Noida and Gurgaon, so people from our neighbourhood – populous Rohini, Pitampura, Ashok Vihar can work at BUSY, without travelling all the way. Today, we are a reputed brand, people take pride in working with us,” he says.
Positive about on co-working spaces
While BUSY does not use a co-working space at present, it plans to do it in near future.
“Our outlook always has been a traditional one, but I find the concept very good. If we have to start an office say in Bangalore, instead of renting out a space and shelling out extra money to create a proper infrastructure, I will go with the prudent flexible seats option which co-working spaces provide – it is cost-effective,” he says.
“Next three years, on the product front, we have several targets. GST was introduced about 2.5 years back, and until now, there are constant changes happening in policy and structures, so that is a big challenge. We have to keep updating our software to facilitate these GST changes.
BUSY also has a mobile app but that has to be scaled and developed further. We have to develop BUSY on cloud,” he says.
Currently, BUSY holds the second position when it comes to accounting software.
“We are still way behind the leading company. We are working on narrowing this gap in the next three years,” he concludes.
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