It was a warm cloudy day, not hot in particular, and I was on my way to pick up Mr. Abhinav, head of finance at Applift India. He had earlier accepted my lunch invitation.
I was curious to know how a traditional role adapts in a fast pace tech oriented environment.
“I have done everything, from data entry to handling international merger and acquisitions. This is what my company has given me. Every day, a new challenge.”
That’s how our conversation started.
On the first impression, Abhinav doesn’t strike as a traditional finance personality. But as we start talking, I realize that my definition of a traditional finance personality was significantly off the mark.
“How will you explain Applift’s business in one line?” I asked.
With a short smile, he said, “We help companies run campaigns (their ads) on publishing platforms (such as apps) for optimum results. Applift is a well-known name in the ad-tech business”
My colleague then asks him about his childhood. He says that actually his family is from Rajasthan but has been brought up in various states and has seen most of India. He cleared CA in the first attempt and since then been on this path.
“And what about the Revenue cycle?” I tried re-starting our discussion regarding the company.
“Just like any other business, after delivering the service, we are paid by our customers according to the signed contract. The terms and conditions vary for each customer but more or less the cycle remains the same.’
“So you don’t face any hurdle, so working capital management is quite smooth, eh?”
I must have asked a tricky question as he really got excited about this one. He sat straight up and leaned forward.
“Ya, that is something no finance head can say smooth. Our DSO is running around 150 days, which means this builds a pressure on working capital. And the pressure piles up when payment is further delayed.”
Soon his excited tone turned serious.
“And this happens most often, customers delay the payment, few on purpose and few unintentionally but whenever it happens, I get stressed along with the working capital.”
“Intentionally? Why will anyone delay the payments intentionally and how?”
“Ok, So how do you manage your cash outflow?”
“So there are mainly two kinds of outflow as you know. One is to vendors, and the other is expenditure which is involved to generate new business. We process our invoices through Easybill, and payments are done as per the contracts.” I am not sure if that was a grin or a smile during the end of his answer.
He continues to say, “The employee expenses are managed by Happay, and things are taken care of.”
“You use a lot of technology to automate processes, that is a nice thing to see.” I remarked.
Our super intense discussion didn’t rub off well on the waiter who had been standing for quite some time, we forgot that we’d come for lunch.
“So how else do you use technology?”
“We use MS Excel quite seriously. I have got some dashboards created. Through those dashboards, we monitor the progress of business”
He meant to keep the answer short but my ‘confused’ expression forced him to go into details.
He continued, “We have created a set of graphs for each sales person, we import all the expenses from Happay and plot that against the revenue he brings in. This way we are able to track the progress at a micro level.”
I munched this growth hack while awkwardly tolerating hunger, I didn’t want to break the chain of thought but neither did I want my guest to feel uncomfortably hungry. As luck would have it, a God sent rude waiter decided to take things into his own hands and interrupted me from asking another question.
“Our kitchen will be shut for new orders in the next 30 mins, so, what would you like to have for lunch?”
While Abhinav looked at the menu, I thought of asking my trademark question. The answer to this gives me a new dimension to explore.
“Ok, so what was the last major process problem which you solved?”
He thought for 30 seconds, then had a sip of water.
“We like to keep the hard copy of all the bills. So the problem was how can employees not lose bills while managing a 3 to 4 meetings a day and how can finance team remove dependency for bills from traveling employees. This problem looks smaller but this often becomes a bottleneck for other processes and acts as a hurdle between employee and finance relationship.”
“So what did you do?”
“Well, so we simply removed any human interaction. We placed a physical drop box in the office and asked the employees to drop whatever bills they have collected by the end of the day on a daily basis (if possible). Reports were anyway being filed on Happay which collected details automatically. By the end of the month, we simply opened the box and took all the bills for verification. This thing removed the dependency and employees didn’t have to save hard copies for a whole month on their own.”
“This is really smart, I mean very clever.”
I was in the middle of appreciating this idea when that God send rude waiter came in once again and declared, “Sir, final order, any desserts?”
To which we smiled and finally ordered Rasmalai and Ghevar. Quite sweet.