During his accounting career of over 25 years, Fiji-born Praful Patel veered from routine. He always wanted to expand, corporatise and diversify his business with the need of the times. While he managed to do that, one thing that he was always confounded with is: clients seeking instant information. They would request his staff to send their tax returns and financial statements either to themselves or to financial institutions. “The process of retrieving and forwarding requested information to the clients causes disruptions to the staffs’ work flow. Collectively, a lot of time goes into providing information to clients each year, not to mention the frustration when it is done multiple times at both the professional level and client level.” he says. The repeated requests got Patel thinking on why clients kept asking for information despite having been provided with the same. The answer: it was convenient and time saving to make that just one phone call and obtain information rather than search their email or files. So Patel decided to code an alternative to this problem.
The idea of starting InfoTips, a web-based app to store information and ready to avail at the click of a mouse, came seven years ago. It has been a gradual bit by bit development as Patel had to pool in resources and expertise to make it fully viable. Finally two months ago, InfoTips hit the market and is ready for anyone to use regardless of age.
So what is InfoTips? Patel explains it is a document management system and accessing information at your fingertips. It is a document sharing and storing platform, which is easy, secure and affordable. All one has to do is log on to www.infotips.com.au and create an account. It is free for the first one month and after that it comes with a minimum monthly cost of $7.99.
One might ask why InfoTips when there are other devices such as Dropbox to store information? Patel insists InfotTips is a simple, single app, easy to use and one can access information instantly from any part of world as long as one has internet access.
“To give an analogy,” Patel further explains, “When we had telegrams, it was soon replaced by faxes and then emails came in. With the emergence of technology, people became busier and lazier and they were not saving important emails.” Besides, he encountered many incidences where client’s partner/spouse had passed away suddenly and tragically and the client had no idea or knowledge about their financial or legal information and where to look for. The deceased spouse being the key person handling all the paperwork and finances never got round to sharing all the important information with the spouse leading to additional stress.
Thus Patel came up with the idea of a structured filing system and roped in co-founder Daniel Jones, director of DMY & Associates, a leading consultancy firm in the accounting industry, to develop the idea and take it to the market.
Under this structured filing system of InfoTips, once you have finished your income tax (IT) returns, you can drop it in a folder and save all your tax files for all the years. One of the beauties of InfoTips, says Patel, is that you can have your accountant to put your income tax return for you, provided the accountant subscribes to InfoTips. In the event of something happening, one is able to go to the accountant’s folder and get copies of documents. “There is a button “i”, if you click on that it tells you who your accountant is, what the email address is and so forth.”
Currently, the app uses simple version one software with two workable modules created – one for lawyers and the other for accountants. For instance, if a legal firm joins InfoTips, there will be no cost accrued to you as the firm pays the monthly $7.99. And that means, whether you are buying a house or a business the lawyers can put all the info there which you will have ready access to. “There is where I am cutting your faxes, emails and putting them together for you,” says Patel, citing yet another example of a client who recently called him all the way from India to get his tax file number. “Had he used InfoTips he wouldn’t have had to ring me. Everything can be stored under this, it is time saving. Not to mention the cost for the client as most professionals charge for providing same information even if it has been already given to client before. InfoTips is for providing a benefit.”
Coming to the important question of data security, Patel has ensured InfoTips is SSL certified, which means it is a secure website. Patel also added another layer of security so that the data stored is encrypted. However, nothing is fool proof, he rues, but efforts are on to make sure that security is paramount. “We are not an analytics company and our data is not for sale,” clarifies Patel.
InfoTips is now the engine of a few loyal clients. The revenue would come from more and more people using the app. At $7.99, the cost is as little as two coffees a month, smiles Patel. Whichever accounting firm joins up will do so at $7.99 but not per client, but their clients will have to join. “It is all parallel, which means they can see information which I can’t and I have no control. Neither can I delete the account,” he says, adding, “InfoTips is not here to rip people off, it is here to provide solutions and resolve problems for clients on a daily basis.”
Patel has not started marketing the app aggressively. He has bigger visions for his baby project that is the culmination of a seven-year labour of love. Eventually, the master plan is to expand to banks, financial planners and other streams of business and professionals. But that, he understands, comes with more investment. “The biggest issue for any start-up is finding an investor, there is no guarantee for that. I have been putting all my money and making sacrifices and it became workable. I wanted to make sure that this goes on the market when I am confident without any bugs and hiccups. And I am happy it is up and about.”
Patel has always been a visionary taking his accounting firm Patel & Associates to newer heights with 30 years behind it. With his vast background and business spread over Fiji and Australia, he is sure that InfoTips has the potential to create a minor sensation once people realise it is a solution he is offering – not for now but for the future. He is following the same principles and strategies to minimise risk in all his businesses and applying confidentiality, ethics, transparency and “love and care for clients”.
In his many years as a career accountant, Patel has seen clients diversifying their portfolios and with that came the need to have easy access to their important information, essentially, more so than ever with the rapid advent of digitisation. And that is where his idea of InfoTips turned into a concept and a reality. It is now time to spread the word, he laughs. “I am not here to sell but to provide a solution. I just want to make your job easier.”
By Indira Laisram