Analytics India Magazine interacted with Varun Rathi for this month’s theme on how artificial intelligence is affecting human lives. He is the COO and co-founder of Happay, a Bengaluru-based spend management system that provides automated solutions for petty cash management, travel and expense management, prepaid cards for business expense, international expense card and more. Rathi is passionate about technology and loves to use it to make lives easier. In this interaction, he shares his views on adoption of AI in Indian scenario, Happay’s AI-powered expense management automation system and more.
Analytics India Magazine: How has India adopted AI?
Varun Rathi: A recent Intel India commissioned report shows that India is gearing up to be a part of the AI revolution. Nearly 75% of the firms surveyed anticipate benefits in business process efficiency and employee productivity with the use of AI. Indian enterprises have been quick to adapt AI in the recent past, with nearly 1 in 5 organizations (22.2%) across the four verticals surveyed implementing the technology in some way. This number is anticipated to soar considerably by mid-2019 with nearly 7 in 10 firms (68.6%) intending to deploy AI—which indicates that the technology will reach mainstream adoption.
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AIM: What are the areas of life where you see AI involved on a large scale?
VR: In areas of employment, business travel forms an inevitable part of an employee’s day to day life. And for organisations, travel and entertainment (T&E) forms the second largest operational cost after employee payroll. Managing T&E expenses is one of the key priorities for organizations today. However, most organisations are still managing T&E expenditure manually, leaving room for a lot of inefficiencies, poor visibility and control and poor policy compliance. The influence of AI can be seen in T&E spend management – with corporates now adopting AI-powered T&E spend management solutions that help automate all the manual tasks thus, boosting employee productivity, enabling real-time visibility and control and delivering 100% policy compliance across the board.
AIM: As far as T&E Expense Management is concerned, what are the recent policy changes that are encouraging the adoption of AI?
VR: Press reports of the recent Andhra Pradesh High Court ruling suggest that the onus is on the employers to deduct appropriate tax from the per diem allowance (DA bills) paid to employees, if employees fail to submit the bills. This implies that the companies have to maintain a record of such expenses.
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Happay has developed AI-powered capability within its new Enterprise Edition to help reduce the tax burden for both corporates and its employees. The bills for daily allowances will now automatically get captured from various sources and saved in the software adding to convenience for employees.
AIM: How does Happay’s AI-powered Expense Management Automation help customers?
VR: Happay has always been at the forefront of innovation and is constantly leveraging new age technologies such as AI and machine learning to help its customers automate manual tasks, drive efficiencies across the organisation and gain control of their company expenditure with real-time data analytics. It helps in:
AI-powered Travel Claims filing: The most cumbersome task for business travellers is having to put together their travel bills and submit expense reports once they are back from their business trip. Happay’s new AI-powered Enterprise edition makes it easy for your employees to capture expenses and bills. It does so by following ways;
- Happay’s AI enabled Email Plugin helps employees to auto-capture expense data from invoices they receive in their Email account for their travel and hotel bookings and food orders (such as from MakeMyTrip, Oyo rooms, Ola, Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, etc.)
- With Happay’s AI enabled SMS feature, employees can capture expense data automatically from the transaction SMS they receive when they make payments for business via their debit/credit cards or net banking
- Happay also enables auto-extraction of data from credit card statements, invoices received from travel operators, automatic scan of receipts, etc.
AI in Expense Claims Auditing: Financial teams across organisations have to audit the genuineness of expense claims submitted by employees and ensure that they are in line with company policies. In most organisations, this is still done manually. However, with an increasing amount of data and more claims to audit, manual auditing can be time-consuming and prone to errors.
Happay helps its clients build their policies on its system. Happay’s system intelligently checks the claims submitted by employees with policies and in case there are violations, it triggers notifications to employees and approvers to take corrective action. Questionable claims or anomalies are automatically routed to the right approvers. Reports without violations are automatically verified.
AI in Fraud prevention: With a growing number of scams, data thefts, inaccurate expense claims in organizations, compliance norms are becoming stringent. As per a research report by the Global Travel Business Association, 19% of all expense reports filed for overnight hotel stays contain some error. The research estimates that companies spend a substantial amount of money yearly finding and correcting such errors. Spending time in rectifying such inaccuracies not just costs more money but is also a huge wastage of productive time for the entire finance team.
Happay spots errors instantaneously, by keeping a track of account and transaction histories of employees and vendors. Any unusual activity that is against company policies can be brought to the notice of the management and payment delayed or stopped entirely. Happay also helps clients identify policies that are frequently violated as well as keep track of frequent violators. This data helps companies optimise policies, find the underlying reasons why some employees are violating policies and take corrective action.
AIM: Will AI take away the creative thinking and downgrade the intellectual quotient of humans?
VR: In my opinion, technology and humans should work together in order to get the best results. AI is assisting professionals significantly in tasks such as understanding data, interpreting it or in decision support. All of us are actually waiting for the opportunity to spend less time on churning data and look at that as a way to be accomplishing a task in seconds instead of months or years. This ability of AI is going to boost our ability to do more creative work such as analysing data, learning from it and others.