Singapore, 14 August: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to struggle, especially those not able to leverage technology. One such digital solution available to micro-small-medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) is electronic invoicing, or e-invoicing. In a bid to make operations more efficient, Churros Republic CEO Faizar Hussein had switched his business over to e-invoicing in June 2019, taking advantage of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s nationwide e-invoicing network. We sat down with Mr Hussein to discuss his e-invoicing journey and new expansion plans for his Singapore-based pastry business.
E-invoicing is the automated creation, exchange, and processing of payment requests between suppliers and buyers using a structured digital format. It helps businesses improve efficiency. Unlike many small businesses that draft their digital strategies but somehow never get the chance to put them into action, Mr Hussein understood the importance of such a solution for his company.
Mr Hussein actions led him to become a case study in the ICC Academy’s E-Invoicing Solutions Certificate programme , which is now available to MSMEs free of charge until 30 September. Created alongside Mastercard, and in partnership with Basware and Xero, the programme explains the steps necessary to adopt e-invoicing, the process involved for successful implementation and its benefits in helping businesses expand.
The beginning of a ‘sweet’ story
It all started with Mr Hussein having a sweet tooth and chasing all things delicious. “I could not resist tasting the churros — a fried-dough pastry traditionally found in Spain and Portugal. After trying them at a couple of street fairs, I felt the texture, taste and look was no where close to what the original churros tasted like. My churros obsession started, and I exactly knew what to do next” he said.
“I then started my 10-month journey to get my churros right: cranking out the dough, dunking it in hot oil; frying it until golden brown; coating it with cinnamon and sugar; and then slathering it in a gourmet sauce. Well, it was not that easy. I followed this process for months, repeating it again and again…
Only after innumerable failed attempts, when the churros were either too soggy, too hard, or too crispy, did I get the perfect texture and taste. I then started a small stall and simultaneously did live stations for various events. The final approval — from myself, of course — was during a live station at a Spanish event in Singapore. Everyone who tried my churros said that they tasted exactly like the home-cooked churros their mothers made back home. I realised then that it was time to create something bigger and ventured into opening Churros Republic’s flagship outlet in January 2019 in Singapore” said Mr Hussein.
Today, Churros Republic’s signature desserts include a range of sugary goodness — from creme brulee and lemon meringue pie to apple pie – all of which come in small bite sizes customised for consumers indulgence.
Growth in business meant streamlining processes
Churros Republic’s fame began to become well known within Singapore. However, the ultimate recognition came when they were recognised as a growing business and were featured in the Michelin Guide Street Food Festival as a Preferred Partner. “We started planning for franchises within Singapore and expand beyond borders to Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, and London. As my business started to grow, I knew it was time to streamline finances” he said.
“Before, like other MSMEs in Singapore, I used to issue invoices to clients by extracting data from my accounting systems, formatting the information into a printable document, and then send it to clients via the post or email. I faced the usual problems: paper invoices being lost in the post or emails ending up in client’s spam folders, as many like to say, and then having to chase up payment for days. Another problem was re-editing the content of the invoices to match that of the clients. Amid all these tethering issues, payment was inevitably delayed. Instead of being paid within the first 30 days, I ended up being paid within 90 days and sometimes even longer. For a small business like mine, I needed cash in hand to re-invest and could not let these issues delay my payment process, which in turn, effected my business growth” said Mr Hussein.
Hoping to speed up the process and get paid on time, he started to search for alternative invoicing methods and came across e-invoicing.
Making the transition from paper to digital
Unlike manual invoicing, e-invoicing allowed Mr Hussein to send invoices directly to accounting systems. In digitalising his process, he eliminated the need for manual data entry, and as a result, significantly reduced the potential of human error. Mr Hussein then onboarded Churros Republic’s accounting to the New Zealand technology company, XERO’s online accounting software, allowing his team to easily send e-invoices to clients’ systems.
As part of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC’s) ‘Save Our SME‘ campaign, the ICC Academy is offering its E-invoicing Solutions Certificate (ECS) programme free of charge until the end of September. Here are a few business benefits of enrolling in to the programme:
- Improved financial efficiency: Reduce common mistakes with traditional invoicing while improving tax reporting, working capital, and supplier relations and enabling easier presentation of your business’ financial history
- Reduce paper trail: Understand the true cost of a traditional ‘paper invoice’ and the time spent waiting, while learning how to communicate the benefits that accrue from digitizing these processes to others in your business
- Faster payments: Find out how e-invoicing solutions can accelerate processing and payment
- Real insights: Learn tips and get industry insights through a real interview with a small business team. The certificate also includes a 30-minute discussion with MasterCard on the benefits of adopting digital capabilities
- Ability to process international transactions: Understand how this method allows e-invoices to be easily sent to participating business partners overseas and achieve the speed of processing, similar to what can be achieved domestically
- Access to new financial options: Find out how e-invoicing allows for accurate and near-real time visibility of payment cycles, which enable business sustainability and growth through efficient cash flow management
Adoption is a leap of faith
That said, in spite of the numerous benefits that e-invoicing has to offer, like reduced costs, shorter payment cycles, improved account reconciliation, better supplier/customer relationship to name a few, many businesses are still hesitant to make the change. “It’s about the client’s mind-set and comfort zone. Every time I do business with a company, I introduce them to this accounting software and explain the benefits. However, not many are keen on adopting the new system. Some of my regular clients, like Cold One Beverages for example, have adopted e-invoicing and we are both reaping the benefits now. But so far as adopting and adapting is concerned, we still have a long way to go” said Mr Hussein.
It goes without saying that along with his churro ingredients, e-invoicing has proven to be the secret to Churros Republic’s recipe for success.
If you are a MSME and want to learn the nuances of e-invoicing, the ICC Academy — the educational arm of the International Chamber of Commerce — is offering the e-Invoicing Solutions Certificate at no cost until 30 September. Those enrolled in the e-course will also receive a 30-day free trial of Xero’s e-invoicing software. For companies based in Singapore, an e-Invoicing Registration Grant of SGD $200 is available upon registration to members of the nationwide e-invoicing network. Deadline ends 31 December 2020.
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