Expense management is probably the riskiest job one has to handle. Professionals in this field always face frauds, misuse, abuse, deliberate or unknowing calculation mistakes, which can also be easily overlooked. Automation, thus, is the most sought-after solution at every stage of expense management. This article explores Varun Rathi’s co-founded organization Happay that deploys Artificial Intelligence (AI) for expense management in the travel & entertainment sector.
The complexities of T&E that begs digital intervention
For many Indian organizations, travel & entertainment (T&E) expenses constitute the second largest operational expense after payroll, and they’re also the most difficult expense to control. Traditionally, T&E expenses have been recorded and processed manually, with employees mandated to submit physical receipts and other forms of expense proof.
As companies scaled, these methods have led to several problems such as high processing costs, lack of spend visibility, and errors and fraud resulting from manual entries. Additionally, travel vendor choices and payment methods have expanded exponentially over time.
According to a BCG-Google report, mobiles will emerge as the leading channel for travel bookings by 2020, with 62% bookings happening via mobiles.
According to a BCG-Google report, mobiles will emerge as the leading channel for travel bookings by 2020, with 62% bookings happening via mobiles. Further, booking through new-age applications, such as Ola and Uber, has also emerged as an exceedingly popular option among corporate personnel. Adding to this deluge of options, in the case of out-of-city travel, it is necessary to factor in varied expenses such as luggage fare, meals, and local travel expenses, besides airfare and hotel stays.
Sharing a few insights with VoicenData, Varun Rathi, COO, and co-Founder of Happay, opens up by saying, why AI has become inevitable in managing travel expenses. “There’s an urgent need for a central management system that not only compiles information from varied sources but also draws relevant insights for analysis and spend control. However, despite the advent of digitization, most organizations still follow archaic systems of expense filing. This has resulted in major concerns and has pressed the need for tamper-proof mechanisms. It has been concluded that digital and automated T&E expense management solutions play a critical role in overcoming the challenges.”
AI beats vanilla technology
Today, both employees and companies alike demand technology support in their day-to-day business functions – and plain vanilla technology doesn’t cut it, says Rathi. To perfectly cater to one’s customer requirements, AI and automation features have to be leveraged in solutions.
With Happay’s AI-enabled solutions, finance teams not only get real-time spend details of each employee, but they can also analyze each spend pattern.
Rathi has framed solutions through his company Happay. With Happay’s AI-enabled solutions, finance teams not only get real-time spend details of each employee, but they can also analyze each spend pattern. Rathi in a simple sense explains that the access to visibility on spend details facilitates significantly higher spend control. For instance, if employees frequently use the service of a particular vendor, companies can bargain with the vendor for better corporate rates.
Offering niche solutions, Rathi has designed a product called Happay Cards. Employees who use Happay cards for business expenses can capture their card transaction data without any manual data entries. Even for employees who do not use the company’s cards, Happay provides AI-powered data extraction capabilities from multiple sources such as e-mails and SMSes. Rathi says that Happay also enables auto-extraction of data from credit card statements, and Happay will soon be releasing auto-receipt scan functionality.
“Happay’s AI-integrated cards also provide admin teams with control over the amount to be allocated for each employee, further helping them keep real-time checks on actual transactions. Additionally, our smart settlement algorithm automatically calculates the month-end liability of each employee to the company (and vice versa), taking into account any advances taken for trip expenses, etc.,” explains Rathi.
Happay has found that approximately 5% of annual revenue for any company is lost owing to fraudulent expense claims.
Another significant problem that seeks a solution is fraudulent expense claims. Happay has found that approximately 5% of annual revenue for any company is lost owing to fraudulent expense claims. With AI-powered expense management, companies can easily automate and control all expenses, not only preventing fraud but also enabling smart, strategic business decisions that save costs and optimize budgets.
“Happay’s AI-powered solutions have helped many companies streamline their cash flows and acquire complete transparency in spend patterns and processes. Our AI also helps increase employee productivity via process automation and elimination of redundant efforts. Additionally, we help companies eliminate cash leakages and prevent expense fraud by automatically flagging anomalous transactions,” indicates Rathi.
The ripe time for India to harness AI
The 2019 budget was full of long-term visions, and the government is undoubtedly poised to build India into a stronger economy that’s modern and technology-driven. Digitization and automation have clearly become the new mantra of the government – the 10 dimensions for Vision 2030 further reinforce the importance of technology in transforming India.
As a seasoned entrepreneur and having expertise in AI, Rathi comments, “The decision to create a portal for AI by the government will help the common man realize its importance. From a technology perspective, data is the backbone of AI. Currently, there is a lack of structured data availability in India. Having said that, this doesn’t look infeasible at all, and the timing couldn’t be better than this to launch a nationwide AI center. The UIDAI, NPCI and GST council have laid the foundation for the most important part of the process – getting the identity, demographic, financial and skill-related data recorded in a structured manner.”
AI has the potential to deliver a large social impact for India, particularly in the areas of financial inclusion, healthcare, education, and agriculture, not to mention the development of smart cities.
He further opines, “An AI council can now start laying some ground rules to create an open yet regulated platform for anyone to innovate and create value for India. Additionally, AI has the potential to deliver a large social impact for India, particularly in the areas of financial inclusion, healthcare, education, and agriculture, not to mention the development of smart cities. The national center for AI, along with the Centre-of-Excellence announced by the Finance Minister, must work on creating data ecosystems, developing talent pipelines, increasing R&D, strengthening data regulations and initiating AI adoption in government programmes to truly derive its benefits.”
Happay’s agenda: Stretch beyond 5000 customers
When a business is built on an innovative solution and being an early entrant with the solution into the market can undeniably place the company on top of the chart. Happay is currently 5,000+ customers’ strong. A plan to double its customer base by the end of 2019 via new solutions, technologies, and strategic partnerships does not seem unrealistic for Rathi.
The year 2018 was quite significant for Happay. Partnerships have played a key role in its growth in 2018.
“Presently, we are catering to the expense management needs of businesses across 40+ industry verticals. We’re also touching an annualized run rate of $700 million in transaction volumes, and our aim is to hit the $1 billion mark by the end of June 2019. We also plan to expand our footprint globally by launching our solutions in two more countries this year,” foresees Rathi.
The year 2018 was quite significant for Happay. Partnerships have played a key role in its growth in 2018. Happay partnered with Uber to help users auto-expense Uber rides. This partnership helped Happay open up the travel ecosystem further, and directly tap into the source of spending.
Happay also partnered with HDFC Bank to launch a prepaid card-linked T&E expense management solution for Indian corporates. This solution helps corporates track business travel expenditure, pre-authorize employee trip itineraries, approve travel expense claims, implement travel policies and view travel spend analytics – all via a centralized, cloud-based system.
Recognitions in virtue of creating out-of-the-box solutions has become mandatory. Happay was never discounted for its due recognition. The company is the proud recipient of five award titles in 2018-2019, including CIO Choice recognition for Travel & Expense management solution; IAMAI’s ‘Best Prepaid Product’ for corporate card solutions; Silicon India’s ‘Company of the Year’; Paul Writer’s Hot Brand for Innovative Use of Technology; and the Express IT award for Digital Solution of the Year (runners up). Happay was also recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in India to join the Mayor of London’s India Emerging 20 (IE20) business program.
Happay is constantly building on its strengths! “Most other solutions in the market are yet to achieve the light, seamless and intuitive feel that Happay offers. They’re still bulky and complex and do not provide real-time visibility and analytics, and rarely offer mobile accessibility, like Happay,” indicates Rathi. By stating this, Rathi intends to exemplify that Happay is already a frontrunner in the business of providing AI for the travel & entertainment expense solution market. VoicenData, thus, awaits to cover the news on Happay’s future endeavors.