Frantic traders rush to buy new accounting and tax filing software

Keeping up with change Cloth traders at work in a shop in Allahabad

Ramesh Khandelwal (name changed), a steel trader in Delhi’s Chandni Chawk market, was frantic on July 1, the day the GST came into effect. On a busy working day, his business was stalled as he could not generate invoices on his existing accounting software.

Khandelwal made a panic call to Chennai-based Zoho Corp’s office to buy its latest GST-compliant accounting software

“Just get me the software and I’ll pay you in cash. No matter what the amount is,” he told a Zoho executive on a call. The company explained to him that he could download the software and start using it immediately without paying for the first four days. Yet Khandelwal persisted that the software be installed immediately by Zoho.

Zoho’s office was flooded with such calls throughout the weekend where hundreds of engineers and support staff have not gone home and are tirelessly responding to customer queries, making their office their temporary humble abode.

“Our call centers are flooded with calls. We’ve seen more than 50 times increase in daily installations of our Zoho Books software over the weekend,” Sivaramakrishnan Iswaran, Director, product management and business development at Zoho, told BusinessLine. The new customers are in lakhs.

Iswaran, who can barely speak in Hindi, was forced to take 60 calls in the language since 5.30 in morning on Monday after he got a brief break to go home and catch some sleep on Sunday night. The company has started taking 3-4 online seminars or webinar each day in English, Hindi and Tamil to cater to the rush and explain to consumers how to use the new software.

Adding more customers

Tally, the largest accounting software company in the country, went through a similar craze over the weekend. Tally’s GST-compliant software Tally.ERP 9 Release 6 was launched about a month ago and by Friday about 4 lakh customers had upgraded to it. However, as many as 3 lakh additional customers upgraded the software over the weekend. Overall the company has 11 lakh customers in India, leaving 4 lakh customers still on the non-GST compliant addition. But the change has started on a frantic pace.

“Traders needing to go digital haven’t yet started the process in mass numbers. There is still time for them to make the transition and they aren’t taking rushed decisions. However, confusion still prevails on what they need to exactly do,” Tejas Goenka, Executive Director – Tally Solutions, said.

“We have met close to 3 lakh of them (customers) and are going to meet several thousand more in the “Upgrade your Tally” camps we are running across the country. The sense we are getting is that everyone wants to get ready real fast and that there is a huge rush of businesses wanting to move smoothly into the new tax era,” Goenka said.

There are only seven software companies licensed to sell GST filing software, approved by the GSTN. Tally, Zoho’s Go Frugal and Spice Digital are among the 34 software companies who were granted the licence as GST Suvidha Providers. Others include TCS, Ernst & Young and Deloitte.

“There is still a lot of confusion among traders as many of them are actually paying taxes for the first time. We’ve seen cases where traders are charging 18 per cent GST wherein they are supposed to charge only 12 per cent on the particular products. This is due to confusion and in some cases traders deliberately trying to take advantage of the prevailing confusion,” said Saket Agarwal, Globa CEO, Spice Digital. Spice Digital was ready with the GST filing software in February but could launch it in the market only in June due to constant changes made by the GST council.

“We’ve just integrated the new APIs in the software after changes were made by the GST Council. The updates however, will be regular for at least some time as we expect more changes to be made by the GST Council in the coming weeks,” Agarwal said.

Many traders who were holding off their purchase of such accounting and tax filing software to look for loopholes in hopes of avoiding tax are now finding themselves in a fix as they are unable to conduct business unless it is done in a tax-compliant manner.