Halkhata goes digital | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 14, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:43 AM, April 14, 2017

Halkhata goes digital

Baishakh has arrived at our doorstep.

Businessmen prepare a new ledger book (Halkhata) for keeping accounts. And as they leaf through records of Chaitra, the last month of Bangla calendar, what they essentially do is adjust the past year's dues, credits. 

But such book-keeping becomes cumbersome as businesses grow in terms of volume, customer base and credit line. This is where Hishab comes in.

This new mobile-based voice service eliminates the need to be literate as users can keep records through giving verbal instructions, and get reminders of credits or customers' dues.

This eases record keeping for mobile users, over 80 million people in the country.

No machine has to be purchased and software installed for using Hishab. Businessmen also don't need much prior knowledge to use this app.

The app is being used by retailers in some parts of the city on pilot basis. Some big companies have as well started using the service.

HOW DOES IT WORK

To get the service, both customers and traders they deal with must be registered with Hishab.

They have to call on 16513 from their mobile phones and inform the transactions made, and Hishab will send an SMS confirming the purchase details.

A voice biometrics-based patented technology plays a role from behind, which can receive and process voice data. Different accents of customers and traders are not an issue here.

Zubair Ahmed, founder of Hishab, said the company started developing the technology in 2012 and researched a lot before launching a pilot project in 2016.

Quoting a World Bank report, he said transactions in grocery retail made a year in Bangladesh amounts to $9.2 billion, of which $4.2 billion is based on credit.

Around 3% of this credit is never paid back, according to a market research by Hishab, and that amount is $123 million.

Zubair said there are around 15 lakh retail grocer shops and nine lakh sales representatives in the country.  

“We are piloting the technology in some places and hope that we will become fully-fledged commercially from next July.”

The benefit of this service is that it is free and one can get the service without any smart phone.

Ruling out the possibility of data misuse, Zubair said the whole thing is protected by voice-based authentication system that uses four-layer security checks. 

The Department for International Development, IMJ Investment Partners, a Japanese digital technology firm, and some investors have been investing in the project.

“People in the developing countries are not that much good in technology, which is why they prefer paper-based accounts that are time consuming and sometimes create confusion between sellers and customers.”

This was the thought behind developing the technology, Zubair said.  

Ahsan Habib, territory manager of Dhaka Tobacco Industries, Akij Group, in Gulshan, said they have been using the service for the last one month.

“The service is amazing.”

The tobacco company has 200 sales representatives. Out of them 60 are using the service.

“Every day we sell 10 lakh cigarette sticks. So, the volume is huge. Until now, data accuracy is 100 percent. We will use the service for two months on trial basis and then we will expand it across the country,” Ahsan said.

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