About Sleek Bill:
Sleek Bill, headquartered in Bucharest, is a GST ready billing software that targets to make invoice making process extremely easy. The software offers an easy-to-use interface and GST reports in a short time. Sleek Bill lets you make beautiful invoices in no time and makes the entire process very easy.
- What led you to found Sleek Bill, what was the problem that motivated you?
Sleek Bill started as a spin-off from a bigger company that makes accounting software. We were a mixed group of curious developers and marketers and we coded during lunch breaks while we were still employed. After testing many of the existing billing apps, I figured billing software should be a lot easier to understand and use so I decided to develop Sleek Bill for India because here English is accepted on official documents.
2. Can you give us a brief overview of where Sleek Bill is today?
We currently have 2 products, Sleek Bill for Desktop and Sleek Bill Online, the latter being the newest one, launched earlier in 2017. We have grown 200% year on year for the past 3 years and we expect to grow even more in the coming years. We are currently working to update and improve both versions of the product with full GST features and develop the online version to be the easiest online full billing solution.
3. How many iterations took it from initial idea to current product? How did you get your first customers?
The iterations to the product are constant, so I cannot give you an exact number. We started with something basic and added extra features based on client requests or changes in the law. Adding GST features could be considered the biggest iteration we’ve done so far.
Our first customers came 3 years ago through organic traffic, back when the product was marketed in the US. Based on their recommendations we started marketing the product in India, gained traction through organic traffic and quickly grew through word of mouth and referrals.
4. Before Sleek Bill, you’ve worked with various companies in marketing roles, what did you learn from that experience that you are applying to Sleek Bill? What are you building on and what are you doing differently?
From my past and present experience, I learned how much value clients bring to a product and how important it is to do marketing the right way, to be able to get to those clients.
I’ve worked on marketing products for B2C but now at Sleek Bill, we’re adapting our strategy to accommodate both B2B and B2C, which is why we have a different voice than many other companies.
Now we’re building on having a great product that’s easy to use and anyone can work with it from day 1 of getting it. I’d say that we learned to iterate the product from our MVP followers to the current customers, to get to a solution that works best for all users.
5. What development, event, or new understanding since you started Sleek Bill has had the most impact on your original plan? How has your plan changed in response?
So far, GST has had the most impact on our original plans. We are riding the wave of the current digital revolution in India and GST is just one part of that. Since the announcement of the changes, we have radically altered our marketing and development plans to focus on implementing the necessary features and helping as many SMB’s as possible to adapt to the new billing ways.
6. Accounting is a global need. Why did you choose India and the US as your target market, especially India?
I already had experience with the US market and in the beginning, I thought the system was similar in India. We were developing offline billing software and the demand for it was very high in India at the time, and it still is, which is why we update it constantly. Meanwhile, as we were exploring options we decided to focus exclusively on India because we saw the value and growth potential.
7. Many American/North American startups are doing well in India, according to you what’s the scope for European startups in India?
To the best of our knowledge, there are very few startups from Europe operating in India. In Eastern Europe, we are probably the only ones who focus exclusively on India. I think for European startups the US market is still a mirage that everybody is attracted to and they forget that there are larger markets available in other parts (i.e. India) that can be equally interesting.
8. Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
The right formula is a mix of them, especially for our kind of product in B2B, where all of these matters. You can never work on just one of them and hope the others will work out by themselves. Understanding the market is the first step you make but building the right product is a long journey that requires many iterations.
When you’re a startup, having the right team can be crucial because the chemistry of the team reflects directly on the business.
9. What challenges you’ve faced in finding the right employees?
Being a rather small team, culture fit is necessary when taking someone new on board. They need to be able to think on their own feet and easily adapt to a fast-paced environment.
To give a more specific example of an issue, when we were recruiting in India for an accounting consultant we had a lot of difficulties with reliability. After we started working together they just disappeared without any warning.
10. Can you mention 3 tools/software that are helping Sleek Bill to run smoothly?
Help Scout for customer service, Drift for automation and Slack for internal communication are 3 that come to mind.
11. What do you appreciate about your direct competitors?
I can say they definitely keep us on our toes as we face steep competition in India. But we do appreciate that they make a serious effort on the market to move it from excel into billing software or from offline billing to cloud billing. Many companies still use printed templates rather than digital ones and this is a challenge for all of us in this space.
12. GST is the biggest tax reform in India. What is your aerial view on it?
Despite all the promises made by the government, there have been radical changes from one month to another, which caused software developers like us a lot of problems and delayed our plans.
At the end of the day, GST is a big game changer both for the government and for businesses. I do believe it’s a good step forward but it’s a work in progress and more changes are sure to come.
13. How do you balance your personal and professional commitments?
Being an entrepreneur is no easy task. I tend to take my work with me wherever I go, be it by checking my phone for changes while I’m gone or in my head, thinking about the business. I do try to take time off and relax every now and then, detach and come back with a new view on things.
14. What is your take on the decisions made by ego?
I think we have had some moments at Sleek Bill where we were frustrated and felt that emotions were more in control, but in life, you have to accept that not everything is smooth sailing. It’s always best to calm down and postpone a decision to the next day rather than do something you will regret.
15. What is your take on the Intuitions? Do you make business decisions driven by intuition?
I’m data driven in my business decisions but at some point, you also have to trust your gut. We try to be as data-oriented as we can but, at the end of the day, you can’t know everything there is to know.