How a chance encounter with a business magnate inspired Shanu Mehta to start up in the fintech space
Shanu Mehta did not ever think she would become an entrepreneur one day. However, a chance encounter with Rod Drury, Founder of Xero, led her to found fintech startup MMC Convert, along with her husband Ankit Mehta.
Shanu Mehta, the Founder of fintech startup MMC Convert did not even, in her wildest dreams, think she would become an entrepreneur one day. However, a chance encounter with Rod Drury, the Founder of Xero, led her to start up MMC Convert, along with her husband Ankit Mehta.
MMC Convert has helped over 5,000 small and medium enterprises to move from a single accounting software into cloud-based solutions. It is also a data migration partner with leading global cloud accounting software companies like Xero, Clear Books, Freshbooks, and Billy App.
Chance encounter on a cable car ride
From a young age, Shanu knew she wanted to be an engineer. After completing school in her hometown Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh, she studied BTech (Computer Science) at Modi Institute of Technology and Science, near Jaipur. After completing her course, she interned with IBM. She followed it up with an MBA from IIMM, Pune. She worked as a management trainee at ZF Gears, a forging company.
Starting a business was never on her mind as she trained to be a management consultant.
Shanu and Ankit were on a holiday in New Zealand in 2011, enjoying the picturesque views from a cable car when they overheard a fellow traveller complain about his accounting system. The couple quickly offered their accounting and technology expertise.
Her husband, who has a background in accounting, and Shanu, a tech expert, together offered an immediate solution to his problem. The man called up his tech team to check if the solution offered by the couple could be implemented. His team responded within 15 minutes. The solution had worked.
The man was none other than Rod Drury, the Founder of Xero, an online software company that featured at number 1 in Forbes’ Most Innovative Growth Companies in the World in 2014 and 2015.
Impressed by their ideas and quick thinking, he offered them jobs right away. Finding merit in their own idea, the couple refused his offer, and decided to work on it themselves.
They returned to India and started work on MMC Convert in 2011. “We started with zero capital, and worked from home with just our laptops. We started with accounting software migration for 15-20 organisations. I remember pulling all-nighters for several months in the first year of starting up. It used to be just me, my husband, and our IT person,” says Shanu.
Smooth migration is key
MMC Convert offers a complete suite of accounting migration products.
“In simple terms, we help companies migrate from one accounting software or offline accounting to another software. Companies buy migration products from our website by clicking on filters that automatically create a customised product for them,” says Shanu.
She elaborates, “When a person in Australia chooses a certain migration basket, they may then use filters like multi-currency invoices or multiple users, etc. All they have to do is press order, and check out of the cart, just like on any other ecommerce website.”
“Even while delivering these services, 80 percent of the process is automated, while 20 percent involves professional expertise, which we provide. We have standardised our services to enable people to order software migration services the way they order other tangible products,” she adds.
MMC Convert has an impressive list of clients across the world. Most of its customers are from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the US, the UK, and Australia, apart from metro and Tier II cities in India.
Shanu says, “Our focus shall always be Asia, which is an emerging market for SaaS services and the online accounting industry. Most of our clients are either new to cloud accounting or migrating from Tally or other offline software to online. These are medium and small businesses that are trying to streamline accounting with changing times.”
The startup has also been awarded the Platinum Partner at Xero - a cloud accounting conference and is listed among Innovative Fintech Startups in Asia by them.
Accounting for her success
The bootstrapped startup generated a revenue of $1.2 million in 2018-19 and expects a growth of 107 percent this year. The company completes anywhere between 200 and 300 migrations every month. They charge a one-time fixed fee averaging at $389, after which recurring services cost $200 per month.
Shanu credits two factors for the startup’s growth: “We have been strategic in introducing a new service, add-ons or launching a new product at the right time. Every business reaches a plateau. That’s when you need to think about jumping the curve to not only maintain the current growth rate but also grow in the process, both financially and operationally. Secondly, our employee attrition rate has been zero since our launch because we categorically choose people based on their enthusiasm and eagerness,” she adds.
The lone woman in the boardroom
As an entrepreneur, Shanu has often been the only woman in the boardroom and at roundtables.
“Frankly, I never felt that being the sole woman was an issue. In fact, being the token woman sometimes turned out to be an advantage because I brought a unique perspective on many things, which my male counterparts seemed to appreciate.”
However, she learnt her biggest lesson from these situations. “Don’t just point to the challenges. It is perceived as complaining and no one will listen. Instead, point to the solutions and act on them.”
Apart from co-founding MMC Convert, Shanu is a faculty member for Entrepreneurship at the Indian Institute of Management, Indore and Mesoyios College, Cyprus. She is also on the board of the 50K Venture cell, one of the leading venture fund houses of India.
Shanu believes that despite having successful entrepreneurs like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw in tech fields, women do not have an equal representation in fields like tech, finance, and entrepreneurship.
She says, “The gender gap remains real today as it was earlier. Mindsets need to change. We need to train our girls to be entrepreneurs not just career women. We must encourage them to test their ideas and make them dream more and expect more from the world around us.”
Shanu also mentors women in their entrepreneurship journey through her involvement with the IIM Indore Incubation Cell.
“We now have 45 women entrepreneurs whose ventures are incubated at the centre. I also visit small villages and interact with owners of cottage industries. I teach them the basics of finance management to help them manage their money better. I impart financial literacy to micro entrepreneurs on subjects like how to manage funds, show credit worthiness, and avail scheme benefits.”
She explains, "There are three challenges in entrepreneurship: a good idea, the ability to take risks, and money. While women are able to overcome the first two, when it comes to money, they feel lost.The government currently has a fund of Rs 7,000 crore for encouraging entrepreneurial ideas. However, not many are aware of it.”
Accounting of the future
Shanu plans to launch intuitive accounting, which utilises collective intelligence to simplify accounting processes.
“We are developing a product that will be intelligent enough to label simple day-to-day transactions into proper expense heads. For instance, when an employee buys coffee for the office, he needs to simply input the photograph of the coffee bill into the application and the app will categorise it under the food or meals expense,” she says.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)