A small-scale retailer - Tofazzal Hossain, regularly sells grocery items on credit to some customers.
On a January afternoon this year, he got into an altercation with one of his customers upon informing her of the month-end due which stood at Tk2,913.
The customer instantly became furious and claimed that the amount could not have exceeded Tk2,000, pointing out that she had bought fewer goods that said month.
"I found myself in a totally embarrassing situation. I have never manipulated any customer's bill," Tofazzal told The Business Standard.
Such disagreement often take place between customers and small business owners.
When customers buy things from small shops, only the shop owners customarily keep accounts on ledgers. At the end of the month, when shop owners inform customers of their outstanding debts, many customers suspect the books to have been cooked.
In Tofazzal's case, a feeling of guilt began to stir since the mishap and he began to find alternative ways of keeping records of customers' bills. In June, Tafazzal, the owner of Niloy General Store in the Uttarkhan area, found a mobile application -TallyKhata on Google Play Store.
There has been little scope of an argument over dues ever since. Now, whenever customers buy things on credit from his shop, they instantly receive SMSs reading the price of the goods and the outstanding debt.
Not only Tofazzal, around five lakh small-scale businessmen across the country are using TallyKhata to keep records of all their daily transactions. The digital platform was launched by mobile financial service provider - SureCash in June this year.
Over the last four months, more than 10 lakh people have downloaded the TallyKhata app. It is free for use and can be operated offline.
So, how does TallyKhata work?
At first, shopkeepers input customers' mobile numbers in the application. Whenever the customers buy goods on credit, shopkeepers can enter figures into the digital ledger - TallyKhata. A short message is instantly sent to the customer's mobile phone with records of outstanding debts and latest purchase information.
"Businessmen can add as many customers as they want on the app; there is no limitation," said Dr Shahadat Khan, chief executive officer of SureCash. He said that a businessman can add customers depending on the capacity of his smartphone device.
For the time being, businesses using TallyKhata are sending SMSs to their customers for free. SureCash is bearing the cost of the mobile SMSs. The company officials said that they are soon going to introduce a payment system in the application. They will later decide which party will ultimately bear the expense of the SMSs.
How the idea started
As a technology service provider, Dr Shahadat had been thinking of making such a digital platform for a few years, seeing problems small business owners frequently face. One day, in 2018, he visited his friend's place.
"We were just talking about the culture of buying things on credit. At one point of our discussion, my friend said that he also had the habit of buying things on credit," Dr Shahadat remembered.
Just out of curiosity, Dr Shahadat asked his friend if he had any receipt or papers with him. His friend showed him a paper on which, the dues were written.
"What I saw was really disappointing. The grocery store owner had mistakenly written Tk400 less than what my friend owed," Dr Shahadat pointed out from that incident.
He observed that though the small businessmen are playing vital roles in our economy, small businessmen are not getting that technological support.
"There are many small businessmen who are not good at keeping records. They make mistakes or they forget to write down. Ultimately, they incur losses," Dr Shahadat.
So, how does TallyKhata benefit small businesses?
Small entrepreneurs often find it difficult to get bank loans for lack of organised information and proper documentation of their business and operations. When they apply for loans, bank officials ask for turnover records, accounts, statements, etc. Proper documentation can make it easy for small businessmen to avail bank loans.
"When small entrepreneurs are using TallyKhata, all the information is being stored in the app. If a bank wants to see the information before approving a loan, it will be easy for small businesses to present records of turnover and sales information in an organised way," said Dr Shahadat.
Many shop owners lose their business because of excessive sales on credit. In some cases, shop owners forget how much money their customers owe.
"If you ask businessmen or entrepreneurs of their debtors, they cannot exactly say how much money their customer owe them. However, if they use this app, all such information will be available for them at the touch of a button in a second," said Dr Shahadat.
The company chief said that their main clients are grocery shops and drug stores. But their main target is entrepreneurs in general. Not only sales, the shop owners also keep record of the products they purchase for selling.
How does TallyKhata benefit customers?
In most cases, customers do not know exactly how much money they owe to shop owners. When the shop owners use the app, customers get updated information on their dues every time they buy products on credit.
"Frankly speaking, I could not trust shop owners in the past, I felt that shop owners always write down more than the actual amount," said Farhad Hossain, a government employee who buys groceries on credit every month.
The application will build a bridge between customers and shop owners.
"This app is also making our customers more economical in spending. When they see that the dues are increasing, they will try to avoid unnecessary spending," said Dr Shahadat.
What if all the data gets deleted? "The company always keeps a backup of the information. So, if any customer's information goes missing, the information can be retrieved," said Dr Shahadat.