Harsh Pokharna of Jaipur, a mechanical engineer from IIT Kanpur is the co-founder and CEO of OkCredit at Bengaluru. OkCredit is a leading credit-based bookkeeping application for small and micro retailers.
Pokharna after graduation was associated with a number of companies including Flipkart, and Reliance Payment Solutions Limited (JioMoney). In 2015, he started his entrepreneurial journey with his college friends Gaurav Kumar and Aditya Prasad by launching ClanOut, a social discovery platform. He also co-organized blockchain-centric meet ups in Bengaluru to develop a strong ecosystem locally. This was followed by a series of blockchain development and consultancy projects and, ultimately, took shape as Psi Phi, a platform that analyzed blockchain applications and developed prototype.
In April 2017, he conceptualized OkCredit Kumar and Prasad and launched the application in November 2017. Within few months, the platform gained active users through word of mouth publicity and received backing of prominent global industry players including Y Combinator and Tiger Global. The growth within two years has showed that this application is gaining acceptability among the users and it is certainly benefiting them. The company has raised $67 million in September this year after $17.5 million in June.
Pokharna during his recent visit to Jaipur interacted with P Srinivasan and here are the excerpts of the interaction
CT: Can you please tell about the startup OkCredit?
Harsh Pokharna: OkCredit, founded in early 2017, is an application for small merchants who can keep track of their day-to-day purchases and sales. These small retailers can run this application on a basic smartphone. We are also developing this application for Business to Business (B to B) with payment gateway.
CT: How you got this idea?
HP: Well, when we were staying in Bengaluru thinking about our venture, we used to buy our provisions from a shop named Food Choice. The shopkeeper used to note the bill in a paper and settle the accounts with us at the month end. I noticed the problem the shopkeeper was facing lot of problems in maintaining accounts on pieces of paper and many times, he used misplace these papers and sometimes he used to have fight with customers over the accounts. This situation gave us the idea to develop an application that helps such retailers in maintaining their accounts and recovering the due amount in transparent manner.
CT: Small merchants mean….
HP: OkCredit targets grocery store owners, paan shops, medical stores, mobile shops, or tea stalls or single owner shop among others.
CT: How your app helps these small shopkeepers?
HP: Generally, these small shopkeepers usually depend on paper formats to keep track of their daily business accounts including product sold on credit to their frequent customers who settle their accounts fortnightly or monthly. The process of settling credit payments is painstaking and merchant could end up losing money if the transaction is not recorded with the proper time and date. OkCredit comes here to solve the problem using short message service and WhatsApp integration. Every time credit purchase is made, the merchant sends out a message to the customer. The customer can view his or her outstanding balance and can make the payment online using payment gateway or cash visiting the shop.
CT: After demonetisation shopkeepers have started accepting digital payment, so purchasing items on credit has reduced to a great extent. What do you say?
HP: It is true that digital payment has increased after demonetisation, but the fact is most customers’ still purchase day-to-day items on credit and shopkeepers recording the same in a notebook have not changed in India.
CT: How many are using OkCredit?
HP: We have more than 5 million active users spread across more than 2000- cities in India. We are trying to change the habit of bookkeeping of small shopkeepers from notebooks to digitised using this mobile app.
CT: Your future plans…
HP: The company plans to expand its merchant base and create teams across verticals such as product, technology and digital banking. We also want to replicate this solution to digitise all book-keeping between the wholesaler and the retailer, which will help automate all credit, stock taking, and amount due. As many as 97% of the 60 million micro businesses in the country do not have digital tools and our mobile app in simple language will help to create a loyal merchant base. We are developing app as a holistic and complete FINTECH tool providing services for not only book keeping but also extending financial services such as lending etc.
CT: How does it help small merchants?
HP: It is convenient for the shopkeepers’ especially small ones. The in-house survey showed that there has been 50% improvement in daily payments due to timely reminders to customers through SMS/WhatsApp. This app has also helped the shopkeepers to analyse the credit profile of their customers through which they can offer more and better credit terms to their customers. The basic aim was to provide such solution, which improves the growth of small shopkeepers by improvement in their cash flows, better profits, increase in their turnover and ultimately sustainable business.