COMPARING A LEADING KENYAN 🇰🇪 BOOKKEEPING APP TO ITS PEERS IN INDIA 🇮🇳

For a couple of years now I have developed a key interest on bookkeeping. Largely because I have served as a treasurer in different investment groups and have small businesses that require bookkeeping services.

Chamas which depict table banking practices are largely popular in India 🇮🇳 and Kenya 🇰🇪 so my need to automate investment groups records took me to Play Store for window shopping. These are some of the apps I installed for testing during my journey Jisort Mobile, NBFC App, Friends Chama, My SACCO, Chamasoft, ChamaApp etc. Amongst all apps tested, Chamasoft at the time (2018) proved to provide the most suitable solution for investment groups (chamas). I have discussed Chamasoft and the solutions it offers in a separate write up Chama automation with Chamasoft.

After posting all chama transactions in Chamasoft and using the app for months, I established that it can be a good record keeper for small businesses Chamasoft Bookkeeper for small businesses. It’s an award winning solution and has been doing several improvements and in this discussion I would like to capture its progress and compare it to its peers.

This comparison and analysis therefore is only intended to discuss key aspects of small business bookkeeping practices that can be captured by the two apps. It’s fair to note that the comparison may be biased since the two apps were developed to provide different solutions and my perspective of the kind of business I run only utilises some sections of what both apps provide.

Simple Accounting developed by TackTile Systems is the new App I have come to interact with for the past week. I would like to compare its unique features with Chamasoft to help other users make informed choices.

Installation and setting up

Both apps install with a lot of ease. However Chamasoft has an enhanced security feature that authenticates logging in by sending an OTP to the users mobile number or email. Simple Accounting logs users in using their emails while Chamasoft allows emails and mobile numbers.

Storage

Simple Accounting doesn’t store user data in their servers. Users are therefore strongly advised to periodically backup their data in their internal storage, Google drive or drop box. Users can work on their data offline and back up instantly. The app operation is not interfered with by downtimes of the developer’s server however data may not be readily available on multiple devices.

CHAMASOFT CAN BE A BOOKKEEPER FOR BUSINESSES AS WELL

Businesses are complex to run however small they may be. Most times business owners track their business activities using formal or informal techniques. For the large companies, they procure complex bookkeeping tools and hire people to keep records for them, while for some of the very small businesses, they use pen and paper. All the same keeping records in any business is inevitable.

So what are some of the basic activities of a business that require recording.

Start up capital or ‘seed money’ as described by investopedia that is used to ignite a business idea into a fully functioning business is recorded. As the business incurs costs like product development, marketing, purchase of office furniture, licenses e.t.c. it may record all that at the initial stage.

When the business makes the first sale, it marks its first transaction and thereafter subsequent transactions are recorded. For businesses that sell tangible goods there is stock taking which needs to be balanced for timely replenishing. For the service industry the number of customers consuming the service are recorded.

When the business establishes strong roots, it gets repeat customers whose behaviour and buying patterns become complex. Some may request for credit facilities while others decide to make part payments for the goods. This complex behaviour may necessitate the business to maintain individual accounts for the creditors and debtors. Recording of their transactions get complex when their is an interest aspect involved. But it gets more detailed when several payments are made at different intervals for a single product. To avoid potential disputes with the involved stakeholders, having documented transaction statements is paramount.

Payment of debt in most cases needs discipline and most of the time one may need to have reminders. So if a business only uses pen and paper to record it’s entries one will be required to look at all the debtors or creditors information daily.

The ultimate goal of maintaining records of all business transactions is to establish whether the business venture is profitable and growing. Therefore all the transactions will need to be reconciled and consolidated into meaningful reports that will enable the business establish profit earned. Depending on the type of business, this activity could be done daily or periodically.

Once the reconciliation is done the records are stored for future reference.

That overview of a business recording practice can be automated to handle all complex arithmetic that is involved. And I have been shopping around for an app or an electronic booking keeping solution for small businesses.

My interaction with a few bookkeeping apps has compelled me to develop a preference for Chamasoft. It’s a book keeping tool mainly designed to provide solutions for investment groups however what it accomplishes currently in my view can easily be modified to target even small businesses that need automation. The following discussion will highlight some of its features that suit small businesses.

Chamasoft Strength

  1. Bookkeeping knowledge: – Chamasoft developers have a deep understanding of business book keeping needs. They have been refining the tool since 2013. The app currently records payments and generates electronic receipts for every payment. It issues electronic invoices and can schedule their due dates accordingly. It enables multiple account creation where all withdrawals or deposits are entered. Those three aspects to a small business however basic can solve their bookkeeping need.
  2. Cloud hosting: – with technology these days a large number of people don’t mind paying a little to have their records safely stored online. Most clients whenever they are disputing a payment or interest applied to them would ask to be sent their records. If its recorded on paper they ask you to take a photo of their page. But Chamasoft has made it possible for members of an investment group to access their records online, so for small businesses they could have clients accessing their records online as well.
  3. Communication: – this is a strong aspect for Chamasoft that in all the book keeping apps I have interacted with do not have. Internal web/app, email and SMS notifications for all activities for transparency. Members of a group like this feature and clients to a business would love transparency more.
  4. Reports: – the developers of Chamasoft had this well covered. It has a whole menu with several sub-menus under it that enables investment groups have a summary of their activities at a glance. Businesses would love this feature.
  5. Customization: – Chamasoft has made it possible for the admin to customise a lot of functions in the web/app.
  6. Loans: – most businesses offer credit facilities to either gain through interest charged or to increase their sales. Chamasoft has the ability to capture that with its current infrastructure.

Chamasoft opportunity

  1. They have existing customers who act as brand ambassadors and a number of loyal customers who don’t mind taking a second product from a brand they trust.
  2. A lot of working class own informal or formal businesses ‘side hustles’ that need automation and cloud hosting
  3. For every SMS or email invite sent to a client of a business serves as marketing tool for Chamasoft. Every person who receives one always calls back to ask anyway.
  4. Locally the book keeping solution for investment groups is comparable to none.
  5. Several small businesses use pen and paper to record their entries and the automation wave is all over in the business environment.
  6. Small businesses lack financial muscle to procure servers and book keeping softwares to build an organized book keeping infrastructure.
  7. Lending institutions ask for financial records whenever they appraise businesses and having a perfect bookkeeper eases the burden.
  8. Tax computation is also easened.

PROPOSED MODIFICATIONS

  1. Currently Chamasoft model starts with a system administrator——>chama administrator—–>members who are assigned system privileges—->members. Members under the current setup have the privilege to see the chamas transactions and the dashboard for the investment group. Chamasoft can modify and have a system administrator——>business administrator—–>business owners who are assigned system privilages—->customers. The customers under the modified setup will only see a dashboard with their entries alone.
  2. During setting up a client may be asked whether he/she wants to sign up for Chamasoft for business or chama and then appropriate profile is assigned.
  3. The menus may have modified names but I don’t think a lot of changes will be needed on the lines of codes.
  4. These then opens a window for Chamasoft to have at least six user profiles. Chama admin, chama member with privileges, ordinary chama member, business admin, business owner with privileges and customer or suppliers.
  5. Pricing may also need to be looked into. Maybe the current pricing strategy may be used. Sh.30 for every customer entered or a flat fee be charged.

This maybe a combined horizontal and vertical growth strategy for the organisation and may need additional resources but it’s a gamble worth trying to solidify their book keeping space.

It is worth mentioning that without any amendments, Chamasoft suits businesses that are involved in lending. The only challenge they would have is that their customers(referred to as ‘members’ currently) will see the entire portfolio of the business on their dashboard. If that access permission is restricted to only allow them see their personal details then Chamasoft would perfectly suit them.

Looking forward to enjoying services from Chamasoft tailored for my small business.

CHAMA AUTOMATION

Introduction

Chamas as described by Wikipedia are informal cooperative societies that are formed to pool funds from members for individual or group development. They can be structured for short term or long term goals depending on agreed operation guidelines.

Some chamas would require members to contribute uniformly and periodically for a defined period of time to either raise capital for long term investments or internal lending. Others would just engage themselves in merry-go-round activities which basically entail contributing funds and giving them to one member and the same loop is repeated for every member after an agreed period.

One common feature with all Chamas however small they are, is record keeping of all activities and transactions. The records may fall into two broad categories, financial and non-financial. They range from minutes taking, setting rules and regulations, recording of contributions, loans, fines, income, expenses and many more. The record keeping role look simple for small groups which are established for a short period of time usually for few days however for groups with many members and which want to attain long term objectives record keeping can be complex and challenging.

For many groups which rely on putting records on paper and maintaining files or books, they have been faced with challenges like loss of data, errors in recording, manual addition of figures, and the hard task of dealing with pen and paper in this world of technology. So thanks to a few book keeping software’s that can handle financial records like Excel and quick books, they may assist the treasurer organize financial data, maintain members records and even generate reports.

However in an effort to maintain an accurate, transparent and fully automated record one may prefer using one software to the other. So this story intends to walk you through a few of the chama apps that I have interacted with in Play Store.

I belong to several chamas but the one that I wanted to automate is an investment kind. One that has member contributions, incurs expenses, give loans to members for an interest, intends to acquire assets e.t.c. For android devices Play Store is an easier option to help one shop around. So I landed on two apps that I intend to highlight their strengths in matching what I was looking for.

CHAMA, App by Imarisha Technologies

Chama is an app found in Play Store that was developed by Imarisha Technologies and was released in July, 2017. It’s a Kenyan app developed by brilliant developers that seek to provide book keeping solutions for Chamas. The app intends to promote transparency in chamas by hosting their records and providing real time updates of all transactions. A member of a group downloads the app, signs up for a group account and registers members who are sent invitation texts. When all members download the app and sign in, they are able to see all transactions that have been recorded by the group admin, and the group balances. It also shows each members contributions.

It has a couple of transaction types or menus that help the admin to record entries. These menus are displayed on the dashboard.

1. Contributions made: – under this menu the admin is allowed to capture a members contribution datewise. And increases the totals for each member accordingly.

2. Assets: – this menu records the amount of cash incurred in purchasing or selling group assets.

3. Merry-go-round: – all the cash paid out to members can be recorded here. For groups that do internal lending, group loans to members can be recorded here.

4. Expenses: – expenditures by the group are captured under this menu

5. Revenue: – the groups income is recorded here.

The app is able to generate a statement that displays all entries that have been captured in pdf format and be emailed.

CHAMASOFT, App by Chamasoft Ltd

Chamasoft is an app that was developed by Chamasoft Ltd a baby software company for Digital Vision E.A. Ltd which was released in Aug, 2017. Like Chama, Chamasoft intends to provide solutions for chamas through hosting of their records and promoting transparency. The app was also developed by Kenyans.

Members who download the app are able to track chamas transaction as they are recorded.

It’s major approach in maintaining groups record is broken down as outlined below: –

1. Financial management: – records the groups cash receipts and withdrawals

2. Membership management: –provides fields to add members personal information and includes a section for their next of kin.

3. Expense management: – all groups expenses are recorded here according to their category.

4. Accounts management: – chamas could be having several bank accounts and they could also be entrusting the treasurer with the cash, cash at hand. Chama is able to manage bank records and cash at hand as well.

5. Loan management: – all loans to group members are recorded here. The group can also borrow loans from individuals or banks. Those are well catered for under the menus for loans.

6. Project management: – chamas with long term projects would have goals which may include purchase of land, building houses, investing in money markets etc. All that can be recorded here.

7. Reports: – every entry made in this app under any menu will have a mini report, then all those incomes and expenditures are consolidated into complex financial reports like income statement, trial balance, balance sheet etc. The reports are generated in pdf or excel format.

Comparison of Chamasoft and Chama

Both are apps developed by Kenyan smart brilliant minds who understand chama operations. They were released almost the same time. Currently they are only found in Play Store and not in iOS.

Installation and set up: – Chama app downloads in members phones and they are able to set-up their accounts without hiccups. Chamasoft installs well on phones but is device specific. The app in some devices is unable to operate with data and requires WiFi connection for it to function. They have a web version however which can be used in place of the app.

Data entry: – entries captured in Chamasoft can be edited while those captured in Chama cannot.

Contributions: – both apps capture members contributions and display totals for each member on the dashboard. However, Chamasoft is able to generate a statement showing each members contribution in pdf. This enables members with several transactions to verify their contributions more easily.

Loans: – both apps seem to have a good understanding of internal group lending. In Chama app loans can be captured under merry-go-round while Chamasoft has a dedicated menu for loans where one can input the interest charged and add dates for members to be invoiced and reminded of their due dates.

Reports: – technically Chama app currently displays about two reports. The total contributions made per member and a statement capturing all transactions made. Chamasoft on the other hand displays mini reports in almost all the categories however comprehensive reports like members contributions, loans, expenses, income statement, transaction statements, balance sheet, trial balance e.t.c. can be generated under reports.

Details:- Chamasoft is more detailed and captures several aspects of an operational Chama. It is flexible and enables users to customize sub menus to suit dynamic needs of chamas. Chama app is basic and simple to use, it has few details which captures functions of a simple chama.

Accuracy and presentation of data: – both apps have issues of presentation of data. In chamasoft transaction statement, details for a member can be mismatched with another member. In Chama app the statement running balance is not sequential and incremental.

Customer support: – Chama app responds to users customer queries after a number of days while chamasoft has a dedicated customer support system that handles users queries during the day. Chamasoft can be reached on phone, twitter, email and facebook while Chama app is mainly reached through email.

Trial period: – Chama app has a 3 month trial period while Chamasoft trial period is less than a month.

Pricing: – Chama app is currently still free for users while chamasoft charges approximately ksh.30 per month for every member enrolled.


Rating of performance using a 1-10 scale

Finally, I would like to put a personal rating based on my interaction with the two chama apps. Where 1-is poor and 10- is excellent.

________________Chama app_______Chamasoft

1. Installation & setup __8 _________________6

2. Data entry ___________5 _________________9

3. Contributions ________8 _________________9

4. Loans. _______________4 _________________8

5. Reports. _____________5 _________________8

6. Details ______________6 _________________9

7. Accuracy & … _______5 _________________6

8. Customer support ___5 _________________8

9. Trial period _________8 ________________6


Average _______________6 _________________7.7

This is only March 2018, you can imagine what Kenyan developers will bring us in the coming months. Looking forward for more local solutions to our automation dreams.

POLICE BRUTALITY

I left work early and rushed home to pick my sick child to rush her to hospital. The driver of our mat, youthful and calm drove off. It was minutes past 8 o’clock so we were going against the traffic. The mat was barely empty so we made several stops as the tout called for passengers along the way. As is the norm with Kisauni road, vehicles overtake/overlap/double park; causing obstruction in every intersection and driver’s are forced to squeeze between the narrow road to make their way through. So our driver tried that trick and unfortunately overtook a red Vitz and subsequently caused obstruction in the process. That was his worst mistake that he’ll live to regret. The driver of the Vitz hurriedly caught up with us and the person on the front seat besides the driver started to shout at our driver in protest of the act. Our calm driver humbly apologized and drove off.

A couple of minutes later after covering approximately 1km we were stopped by about 4 tall men standing next to a police double cabin under registration number GKB234E. They approached the drivers side and pulled the driver out. The red Vitz then approached from behind and the man who was protesting alighted, his stripped T-shirt slightly raised exposing the pistol that was tacked on his waist.

So they manhandled and dragged the shocked skinny driver who was pleading with them the entire time to the police double cabin. They attempted to force him in the pickup but changed their mind and started beating him. They made him lie on the ground and they pulled out flexible rubber material and started lashing and whipping the poor guy. He cried in lots of pain attracting attention of passers by but the guys made him bite a rock in an attempt to muffle him as they continuously lashed him.

Meanwhile they had one person standing outside the exit point of the mat perhaps to ensure that we don’t get out to protest or take videos of the act.

After a moment that almost lasted a life time they boarded their vehicle and left the injured man lying down. The poor man was not dead but he was seriously hurt. We were left wondering what to do, or whom to report to.

Someone told me that the police are untouchable and their is nothing we could do. I still don’t agree with that idea because I believe the police are meant to enforce law and order. But come to think of it, whom should we report to and do police take action against their own even when there is obvious evidence incriminating them.

I have always had great respect for men and women in uniform. The disciplined forces, the police whatever the beautiful names are given to them and I value their contribution in our society. Sometimes in my life I envisioned joining these institutions to provide these noble services to our people.

But after Thursday 15th February 2018, I look at some characters in police service with contempt. I have heard bad stories about the police, but never in my life had I seen these kind of gross violation of human rights at close range. It’s disgusting and hurting to watch a person whose primary role in the society is to enforce law and order break the same through brutal acts that trash public confidence to the reformed police service.

Probably it’s a familiar story, maybe some of my readers have experienced worse but I haven’t quite accepted that some human whose role is to maintain order and enforce law can manhandle, clobber, inflict excruciating pain and cause body injury to an innocent citizen.

I hope this story then will help me vent the rage and anger I have for the rouge men who clobbered a helpless driver. That’s just one act but what effect does this have on communities that experience police brutality daily. The feeling of wanting these men held accountable or even hurt back lingers in my mind. I covered my 3 year old child from watching but she had seen it all and it’s still disturbing her as well. Ain’t the police radicalizing the people they serve against themselves. How hard was it for them to check in the errant driver at the nearby police station. Why is it necessary for police to assault civilians, cause fear and enermity that is had reconcile……

Sometimes corporates get it wrong

We get lots of exceptional service from corporate organizations but at times they get it wrong on their delivery of services. This may come as a decision made at the strategic level or at the transactional level.

But whatever decision made, is it supposed to be checked out with the people on the transactional and operational level on its effects and impacts.

Does it matter for a corporate organization to care on how the end user is affected? Is there anyone within the strategic level that asks questions on impact of certain decisions.

Corporate organizations also get it wrong. That’s what I have learnt. However, in my country Kenya, governmental organizations and parastatals can’t apologize, only private corporations would care to apologize for wrong decisions made.

Impacts of decisions


This week has had its tough lessons on decisions. We make decisions every day. And if you have a Christian background, you must agree that decision making is a God given privilege. And from the real world, a person who makes a decision is better than a person who remains undecided. But have we ever reflected on how decisions affect things and people around us. 

Perhaps we may want to broadly classify them into two, personal and impersonal. Deciding on a days activity, what to wear, what to talk about, whom to associate with may be personal. But even these personal decisions have a great impact on others. The thought of the impacts of our decisions should compel us to exercise restraint and establish boundaries. Call me a coward but this week has taught me not to rush into making decisions. It has also reminded me to reflect on the impacts before passing judgement. 

Because what purpose will my decisions serve if they destroyed lives of other people. What honour will I have if the solutions provided by a decision I make inflicts pain on another party. Restraint is all that needs to guide us all. We make this world a better place if we thought twice before deciding.

Ending September

If you live in my world you will know that this is the most demanding week. Month deliverables and progress reports. Hectic. This is where your shoulders feel all the weight of hardwork. Hard earned cash. I used to fear end months but I now know how important it is to embrace them.

They make us reflect and point our strengths. They reaffirm our commitment to do better everyday. So this week is filled with a lot of objective reflection of what we managed to do and what we must do to change things around.

Have a beautiful week friends.

– Ngari

Appreciation 

A sigh of relief is all that I have as the week ends. It has been hectic with lots of challenges. Sometimes working for an organized institution can be dramatic, and the demands posed by performance expectations equally mind blowing. So when days go by and the week ends, one knows that there is a power that is supernatural incharge of holding everyone together.

So I owe this person who has brought me to the end of the week everything. He has brought friends closer to lead me to the right direction. And this week I appreciate each one of my friends including the ones on social media that I have never met physically. You play an integral role of bringing sanity within me.

As I close my eyes to rest, I want to wish each one a beautiful weekend and pray to the one who has supernatural powers to hold each one of you together.

Change starts with me

Most of the time I care to pull others to change, I end up getting disappointed. I have tried to understand why people won’t change when pushed and realised it’s me who needs to change. The perspective of change is diverse and complex but when I see the light and turn around towards it people around may be inclined to ride in the same beam of light. Its easier to influence people to follow your ideas when you practise those ideas.

People may have faith in an idea even before seeing the outcome of the idea but a bigger percentage of people would prefer to see the results fast before making the U-turn.

So how about I practise everything that I believe in and influence others to fall in. I hope I will get a few that will have faith in the ideas even before the outcome