“Accounting should not be tactical. Accounting should be strategic. It should not be isolated but connected.”

It is with these thoughts in mind and an India getting ready to enter a new single taxation GST (goods and services tax) regime in July of this year, that enterprise software pioneer Zoho launched its GST-compliant finance suite, Zoho Finance Plus, in Chennai on April 19, 2017. Zoho’s finance suite will help Indian businesses make a smooth transition to the new GST regime, offering an end-to-end integrated cloud platform for businesses to manage their finances and operations, including filing of GST returns.

Sivaramakrishnan Iswaran, Director of Product Management, Zoho stated,“The proliferation of smartphones, broadband connectivity and upcoming GST regimen is a great opportunity for businesses to move their accounting and other operations online. With Zoho Finance Plus, businesses get a beautiful interface to manage their transactions day-to-day and file their GST returns, all from a single platform. Zoho Finance Plus simplifies returns filing for businesses and increases compliance.”

Getting Ready For A GST-Compliant India

The success of GST implementation will depend heavily on the technology infrastructure that businesses deploy. Millions of SMEs will have to adopt GST-enabled applications for invoicing, tax filing and other business transactions.  Says Rajendran Dandapani, Director of Engineering at Zoho, “We are quite clear that focussing on SMEs should be our moral responsibility.”

With returns being required to be filed online thrice a month under the GST regime, back office operations can no longer be treated as lowpriority tasks. Businesses will need a comprehensive interconnected suite of financial apps to share data data seamlessly between accounting, operations, invoicing, and sales. It is this need that Zoho Finance Plus suite aims to fulfill.

It will connect different departments of a business and gives business owners access to real-time information for faster decision-making. It also organises all transactions, which can be filed with the GST portal at the click of a button. The suite bundles four of Zoho’s legacy products which include-

  • Zoho Books – an intuitive accounting and invoicing software for forward-thinking businesses; or Zoho Invoice, the completely customisable, yet simple invoicing software for freelancers or businesses to get paid on time.
  • Zoho Expense –an expense reporting solution tailor-made for businesses to automate their employee expense reimbursements.
  • Zoho Subscriptions – a robust solution for subscription-based businesses to automate their recurring billing.
  • Zoho Inventory – the perfect order management and fulfillment solution for retailers in India.

With Zoho Finance Plus, businesses will be able to generate GST-compliant invoices and taxes will be captured on every transaction. Zoho Books will generate the monthly returns automatically to be filed with a click of a button.

Aggressive Pricing, Extensible Functionality

Keeping in mind the millions of SMEs which will  have to go through the pain of digitising accounts and migrating to GST, Zoho Finance Plus has been priced aggressively at INR 2,999 per organisation per month, which includes 10 users and access to the full suite of legacy products too. Businesses that previously subscribed to multiple Zoho Finance apps can now purchase a single license for Zoho Finance Plus, instead.

At the current  pricing, the per month expenditure for businesses vis-a-vis employees comes down to INR 300- even less than the cost of groceries in a month, Rajan joked. When compared to the nearest competitor, it is almost 15-20 times more economical.

The idea behind this aggressive pricing and focus on GST is simple. Founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu stated that he expects a fifth of the company’s revenues will stem from its finance software products in three years. Currently, that number stands somewhere around 12%.

Moreover,  users can also extend the suite’s functionality by adding software/modules by themselves in a DIY format through Zoho’s patented programming language called Deluge.

Zoho has also applied for a license to be a GST Suvidha Provider (GSP) – an entity created by the government for those qualified to provide the backend tech for GST implementation. Currently, the GST Network (GSTN) – a company formed to manage and control the accounting and collection of GST- has granted license to 34 GSPs. Several leading tech companies such as TATA Consultancy Services, Tally Solutions, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP, and Mastek have been selected as GSPs

Zoho sees GST as a tipping point for a lot of business to move to the cloud. Though the exact number of businesses users for its finance products in India was not revealed, as per Rajan, that number runs into many thousands for each of them individually. With the implementation of GST from July 1 2017, Zoho expects to see this number picking up significantly in India.

Last November, at the launch of its sixth product – Zoho Desk at the Tenkasi development centre, Sridhar had revealed that India is now the number two market in terms of traffic, but only fifth in terms of revenue. However, in the next five years, it is expected to become the number two market in terms of revenue too. The GST compliant finance suite may just prove to be one of the most important steps towards the realisation of that goal.

Note: We at Inc42 take our ethics very seriously. More information about it can be found here.