Manish Balani is a leading authority on GST in India. His depth of knowledge and practical takeaways are both compelling and exciting. You can take action immediately on Manish’s advice.
Here’s an exclusive DKODING interview with Manish Balani and he explains — things in a way that is relatable but at the same time takes everyone to a high level of understanding.
Manish’s GST know-how trims all the fat and serves it up to you in easy-to-follow bite-sized pieces. He is one of those people who proves what he preaches. His critical insights on GST aren’t for everyone. But those Indian companies who want their business to thrive can’t afford to ignore him. There are thousands of people you can turn to for your company’s compliance but there’s only one Manish Balani who has the experience, chops and spot-on insights to help you build a great organization.
Swiping a BALANISM: If starting a business gets you in the door and credibility keeps you there — Manish is well and truly cemented inside the house of all-things GST.Deepak Kaistha, Editor-in-Chief, DKODING Media Inc.
What sets Manish Balani apart is his zeal to be involved in more areas than what his job requires him to do. This omni-directional interest in all aspects of business and passion for making successful products has landed him at the helm of one of the largest service providers for GST, India’s biggest tax reform.
The only difference between you and your competition is your compliance.Manish Balani, Business Head – GST, Vayana Network
Balani opens up about the learnings picked up on the way, his contributions to GST, the opportunity to sell in the current crisis, and the myth of the perfect product while discussing his interesting professional story in an exclusive interview with DKODING Media Inc.
Watch: Manish Balani: In It To Push Boundaries
Q: How has your professional journey panned out thus far?
I hail from a traditional Sindhi business family which identifies more with managing your own ‘dukaan’ (shop) than earning professional degrees and blue-collar jobs. Starting out as a young Chartered Accountant in 2007, I did typical CA work — auditing and handling statutory compliances as part of the Accounts and Commercial team for Jaipur-based listed manufacturing company Gravita India Ltd. I realized rather quickly that I wouldn’t enjoy working as a traditional CA in the long run.
Looking for bigger and better things, I joined ‘Kingdom of Dreams – Apra Group of Cos’, a Gurgaon-based conglomerate. Reporting directly to the Managing Director as part of his core Growth Tea, I picked up multiple learnings including Investor Management, Business Planning, New Business Models etc. In my next move, I was fortunate to work one of the Big 4‘s, as part of the Risk Consulting Team of KPMG. In a highly fruitful tenure, I also helped the firm garner more revenue/ business for the firm apart from fulfilling my normal duties, all thanks to my itch for doing sales.
Then came a phase where I developed a keen interest in the Indian start-up ecosystem. I joined a growth stage start-up called CarDekho, spearheading their Corporate Sales and Strategy team for the new car business.
Then came the turning point in my career in early 2017 when India underwent its biggest tax reform. A whole new ecosystem came up around GST which included start-ups foraying into Tax Compliance space. Such firms needed people with a specific skill set –
- An in-depth understanding of technology
- Experience of formulating winning strategies for entering new markets
- An flair for sales
- And all this in someone who understands the Tax Domain.
This was the eureka moment for me — all boxes, check.
I joined KDK Software and headed the product and sales strategy for their new GST software. I’ve been heading the GST business of India’s largest GSP (GST Suvidha Provider) – Vayana Network from the past one and a half year.
Sales and strategy were probably in my blood with a deep understanding of Dhandha (business). This paved the way for me to become a ‘different’ kind of Chartered Accountant – one specializing in corporate sales and strategy (business strategy and product strategy).
I always had that knack of writing my thoughts in a storytelling format (probably from my school days itself), and I started writing on LinkedIn, a few years ago. Just like every child goes through these 3 stages, I believe I also underwent these three steps during my LinkedIn journey:- 1) Crawling, 2) Walking, and finally, 3) Running.
I was featured by LinkedIn for their #Inittogether campaign through TV commercial, Video Ads on various digital platforms like YouTube & Facebook as well as billboards & hoardings in major cities of India, during IPL 2019 season (>5 Million views across platforms).
I can proudly say that I was the “Face of LinkedIn In India” for a short period of time.
Q: What’s your role in Vayana Network disrupting the GST service provider ecosystem?
Vayana Network, as a qualified GSP, enables the last-mile access of Corporates and ASPs to GSTN/ NIC. Apart from GST Business, we have been offering India’s largest 3rd party digital trade financing network and have delivered USD 4 Billion + invoice financing.
Our GST and E-Way Bill API gateway powers the compliance for several ASP platforms such as SAP, few of India’s largest ASPs, two of the Big 4s, FinTechs, NBFCs, and credit bureau, several eCommerce firms, and logistics firms. Vayana GSP also powers the GST API access of “PSBLoansIn59Minutes”, an MSME financing initiative recently launched by the Prime Minister.
With E-Invoicing round the corner (effective 1st October 2020), we are betting heavily on becoming the GSP of choice of nearly 75% of large corporates in India who are required to generate e-invoice through our secured, scalable and 100% available API gateway. We have also recently launched our latest offering:- Enriched APIs as a plug and play module for multiple use cases of GST Data and E-Invoicing data for Banks, fintechs, credit bureaus and corporates.
I am personally spearheading the product and business development initiatives for all of the above offerings. I can proudly say that Vayana Network is the largest GSP today in the ecosystem hands down and without an iota of doubt.
Q: What major difference have you observed when working with start-ups in comparison to established companies?
During the past decade of my professional life, I have worked with large and established corporates as well as start-ups. The only major difference that I have seen is “The Speed”.
Start-ups are fast paced, chaotic and have that ease of pivoting and decision making which large corporates fail to achieve (even if they want to). While I have always been a fan of processes but sometimes too many redundant processes slow your speed of execution and become counter productive.
While thinking and strategizing is good but I believe “Implementation is the best strategy”.Manish Balani, Business Head – GST, Vayana Network
In the present time, where every opportunity is so short lived, it is better to create fast paced organizations and yield the best results from the available market opportunity.
Q: What’s your approach when it comes to setting up a new product strategy?
You can never achieve perfection — Neither in life nor in the way you do things or even your product. Perfection is a Myth. It is better to start implementing something at a good speed rather than sitting over it for months and then ultimately achieving nothing.
I believe in creating an MVP and building it (tweaking it) as and when the market is ready for that product rather than a grand launch of a perfect product which has no takers by the time it releases.
It all boils down to the money on the table. A good product is not the one which has the perfect UI, it is the one which solves someone’s problem when they actually need it.
I don’t love my products because love for your product makes you possessive and defensive about it. You should not be a parent to your product, instead you should be its teacher. Being Defensive towards criticism vs Suo Moto criticizing it, you have to choose your path.
Q: Which are the most crucial factors in achieving revenue targets in the current era of market downturn?
In the present market scenario where the market is going through a down turn, it is important to understand that it will take more hard work and client persuasion to achieve your revenue targets.
I believe in this quote from Zig Ziglar:
A poor economy is the best opportunity for salespeople because the naysayers and grumblers have already given up, leaving more territory, more opportunities to be successful than in a good economy when virtually all salespeople are out there, giving it their best.
So, if you have a product which genuinely solves a burning problem and you know how to present it well to the prospect, you will never find any issues whether there is an economic slowdown or not.