We were in the city, Hawke’s Bay (on our Honeymoon), and we were walking around. And we heard somebody talking to his team, that he had this problem, and asking how can you solve it? And we happened to be there. And then we went up to him and told him that, “This is the thing which I overheard, could you try this?” So he said, “Okay, let me try.” And he called up his team, and figured out that there is a solution available in what we say. And he’s like, “Wow.”
And we had a great chat after that. And he said, “Hey, I run this company. I have an annual meeting tomorrow if you want to join that.” I was like, “Yeah, that would be a pleasure.” We went to the headquarter, we attended the meeting, we’re like, “Wow, this company is doing wonderful.” I have a good feeling because we work in the accounting industry. We could understand that this product is definitely something, but we didn’t know the whole idea about what the company is then who are the stakeholders and everything. And the person turns out to be Rod Drury.
Today I’m speaking with Shanu Mehta Co-Founder of MMC Convert
In this episode, we talk about . . .
• The four types of Entrepreneurs: Builder, Opportunist, Specialist, Innovator
• Surreptitiously meeting an accounting legend on her honeymoon, which changed the course of the business.
• The importance of quality historical data, for advisory
• How India is navigating the Covid19 pandemic
• Improving the financial literacy of females and freeing them from oppressive situations
• How they will connect with the community, now that there are no IRL events planned for 2020.
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If you could offer your 13 year old self advice, what would it be?
Shanu Mehta: Wow. If I was to offer a 13 year old me one advice, or if I’m allowed a couple because I think I have a lot of advices for younger me, the first thing is, I want to have that belief engraved in me that all the dots, they connect backwards. So, everything which is happening right now, whatever decisions I’m making right now, all of this is for a greater good. It is either a learning experience, or it is going to help me in the purpose of my life, or it is going to shape me as a wonderful person.
Shanu Mehta: So as a teenager, what happens is we start questioning everything and you start getting into that mode where we fight with people around that why this decision has been taken for us and why am I put in this situation? But to a younger self, I would want to have the strong belief that whatever is happening, all the dots will connect backward and everything is a part of a larger experience. So, hold on tight.
Shanu can you share with our listeners a bit about your background?
Shanu Mehta: Sure. So, I’m based out of India. There is a central state called Madhya Pradesh and I come from a very small town. In India the small town means a population of 400,000. So I come from a very small town called Neemuch and it’s a military cantonment. And so it’s a place where I’ve studied in accountment, but for higher education every kid moves out.
Shanu Mehta: So I went to another place to do my computers science and engineering, and then I went to another place to do my MBA in human resource. And while I was pursuing my MBA, I was engaged and it was an arrangement set up. So I’m married Ankit. He happens to be a Chartered Accountant and I’m a computer science engineer. And there’s a funny thing, Ankit… In arrange marriage set up, we are introduced to the prospects.
Shanu Mehta: And Ankit probably had met like some 20 prospects. And he was always sure he does not want to work with his spouse, but that’s why he was trying to find a girl who is not a chartered accountant, not a CPA. And the whole idea behind this was that he did not want to work with a spouse. He was like, I want to have my independent life and spouse can has his, okay?
Shanu Mehta: But eventually as life has it, it turns out that both of us are working together. We have… I bring my technical domain expertise. He brings his accounting expertise and we have this company MMC Convert, which also has an interesting back story on how it started. But yeah, it’s been 10 years now. And as a Fintech expert, now I love to impart a financial literacy to women or lower income groups. So I have been doing this thing for a couple of years along with MMC Convert, financial literacy. Yeah, that’s about it.
Heather Smith: Thank you, such a varied uninteresting background. Thank you very much for sharing this with us, Shanu.
What is the startup and small business culture like where you are in Indore, India?
Shanu Mehta: Oh, so with this particular phase where India is, we have always been entrepreneurial country. But the definition of entrepreneurship was very different. It was like, if your father is a self employed person or a businessman, or you ran some mom and pop store. It was given that the son would also do the same. Or the daughter, she would be married, and maybe if she wants to start something, it was probably, she could do something with the banking, she… It was not in the terms of how it is happening.
Shanu Mehta: The scale has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and where I’m based out of mostly the culture is still the same. It’s like if you’re a family predominant businesses or something, the son or the daughter would join that business.
Shanu Mehta: And in terms of technology, you Bangalore, Hyderabad, Indore. These centres have become the hub where all the technical development is happening. So anywhere around these cities, all the small towners, they are coming and developing something. They’re sharing ideas, a lot of educational institutes in these cities. So luckily lot of good talent is here in the city where I live.
Shanu Mehta: So that’s why we don’t have to look out. And when I talk in terms of talent, they are very bright people with a very humble background. So the ambition is not a hindrance in terms of… What I mean to say is that they’re very ambitious, yet they have this grounded feeling in them that, “Right, this is what we want to do, we want to start from the ground, we want to try new ideas.” So I’m lucky that where I live, I have all this great talent around me.
Heather Smith: Yeah, look, that is very interesting because a lot of businesses really struggle to find talent. And I know that from many people I deal with in India, highly educated, highly-
Shanu Mehta: Yeah.
Heather Smith: Enthusiastic. And very accommodating to do that. That’s really interesting.
Can you share with us the very special story of what happened in Hawke’s Bay, in New Zealand?
Shanu Mehta: Yeah. As I told you, Ankit and I, we never ever planned on starting something of our own together. We always had plans that I’ll do something my field, and he’ll do something in this field. So we’ve been on our honeymoon and that is in New Zealand. And we decided that we’ll do a honeymoon, like a one month extravaganza, we’ll not be planning much of it, but we’ll just go how it takes us.
Shanu Mehta: So we were in the city, Hawke’s Bay, and we were just walking around the places. And we heard somebody, saying few staff, talking to his team probably, that this is a problem, and how can you solve it? And we happened to be there. And he being… Ankit being a chartered accountant, I’m an engineer. So we discussed that.
Shanu Mehta: Is he talking all that? And it’s like, yeah. And then we went up to him and told him that, “This is the thing which I overheard, that we think, could you try this?” So he said, “Okay, let me try.” And he called up his team, and figured out that there is a solution available in what we say. And he’s like, “Wow.”
Shanu Mehta: And we had a great chat after that. And he said, “Hey, I run this company. I have an annual meeting tomorrow, if you want to join that.” I was like, “Yeah, that would be a pleasure.” We went to the headquarter, we attended the meeting, we’re like, “Wow, this company is doing wonderful.” I have a good feeling because we work in the accounting industry. We could understand that this product is definitely something, but we didn’t know the whole idea about what the company is then who are the stakeholders and everything.
Shanu Mehta: And the person turns out to be Rod Drury. He told us that there’s an amazing space in the migration. People want to come to his office, but they want a sound facilitator to bring the historical data, you being in India, could you help us help in this? I was like, “Yeah, for sure.” Then we’ve went back home. We figured out a couple of things and that’s how it all started.
Heather Smith: Excellent. So you’re on a honeymoon extravaganza and you go to a Xero annual general meeting.
Shanu Mehta: Yes.
Heather Smith: With Rod Drury. That’s a brilliant story. Thank you very much for sharing that. And I think that circles back to what you said, all the dots align, everything that you’re doing is aligned. Even on your honeymoon.
Shanu Mehta: Yeah.
Can you share with our listeners what your current role is and what it involves and what you’re doing at MMC Convert?
Shanu Mehta: Okay. So what I do at MMC Convert is… We have tried to productise the service, which we offer. So the services that you migrate data from one accounting platform to another. Now, when this service is out there, we wanted people to buy the service in a very productised manner.
Shanu Mehta: They could just pick the Conversion plan, pick the software, they could add any customisation. They could just leave the data with us and then forget about it. Come to us again after three days to five days, and then they have everything ready. So I work on productising this whole experience of service.
Shanu Mehta: And I also look after the entire execution team, because we do have some five to six automated tool available for different platforms, because not only Xero, we also migrate data to QuickBooks Online, we also migrate data to a software based out of Canada called FreshBooks. We have had a tie up with Clear Books out of UK. So we have a broad range of software. So I had these tools to develop, and make them intelligent. So my part is mostly on the execution level, and managing the team.
I should ask you to explain what MMC Convert does?
Shanu Mehta: Yeah.
Where did the name MMC Convert come from?
Shanu Mehta: Okay. How I told of in one of the answer that in India, there is a strong culture of family businesses, right? The son takes away the reigns from father’s hand and he continues the business after he’s a certain age. So in Asian countries, this whole culture of family name associated to what you do is very strong. So M and C stands for Ankit’s grandfather’s name.
Shanu Mehta: So he’s Mr. MMC Mehta and it’s a difficult name to pronounce for you I’m sure, but… So he started a CPA firm 60 years ago. He was the first batch of chartered accountant in the country. And he started this company and it was running for last 60 years and then Ankit and I got married and Ankit suggested, “I want to take this international. I want you to take my grandfather’s name to a business which is, running globally.”
Shanu Mehta: So we said, why not? And then that’s how MMC Convert. So usually how the other companies are, they have a name and they have a story behind it, or they have some abstract, probably, sense on what they’re doing, but for us, it is all family.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. So it sounds like your company is 60 years old, 70 years old?
Shanu Mehta: Yeah.
Heather Smith: So is it 70 years old now, then? Wow, well you must be one of the oldest technology companies around.
Shanu Mehta: Yeah. So consultancy, definitely. We are one of the top consultancy firm, like a CPA firm in our region. And then we added this, another wing last 10 years ago. So yes, MMC as the brand, is 70 year old now.
Heather Smith: Is the term that you use in India, filial duty? The family duty? No…
Shanu Mehta: Please come again?
Heather Smith: In Singapore, when I lived in Singapore, they would always talk about their filial duty, their family duty.
Shanu Mehta: Oh okay.
Heather Smith: And they would say, “Heather, you’ve got to go home and be part of your filial duty. And I was like, “Oh.”
Shanu Mehta: Maybe, it’s a Singaporean term I believe.
Heather Smith: Maybe, maybe. So Shanu, you teach entrepreneurship.
Shanu Mehta: Yes.
How can we learn entrepreneurship, and what do you mean when you talk about different entrepreneurship DNAs?
Shanu Mehta: Right. So entrepreneurship as a concept, I feel in a way, simple words, I feel that this is conviction to do something, the conviction in your idea, the conviction in what you believe, against all the odds. No matter what the other person is saying, how the users are going to respond to it. For few years, you have to forget everything and you have to have a conviction in what you’re doing. I think if you have that, then you have basic DNA for entrepreneurship.
Shanu Mehta: And when we talk about DNA, so there is this framework called Bosi, B-O-S-I, which means that the way entrepreneurship has been taught for the last 50 years, so many years, is somehow broken. Because you would see the failure rate 50 years ago was same. 90% or 95% and failure at that rate hasn’t even changed now.
Shanu Mehta: So there must be something, because we have so many resources now, like we have unprecedented resources in terms of online papers, research papers, good talent, so much capital flowing in. Still, the success rate isn’t improving. And the framework goes on to say that this is because the way the entrepreneurship is perceived is somewhere broken. That we consider all the entrepreneurs the same, right?
Shanu Mehta: But every entrepreneur, he might have a different DNA. So there are four DNAs, which is builder DNA, opportunist DNA, specialist DNA, and innovator DNA. So the builder DNA is someone who is building one business, scaling it up to crazy heights, sell it away, start something completely different. Then again, scale it up, move on to something else. So in our lifetime he might have five to six unrelated businesses. But he has this talent to attract everything, the capital, good talent, good resources.
Shanu Mehta: On the other hand, opportunist DNA is very good with sales. These are the people who can sell you anything, but the weakness with this DNA is they would have crazy highs and lows in the life because one deal might go well, the other day might not go well, one day they are just doing amazing and just sipping some Mai Tais on a beach. And another day they would be like, “Okay, nothing is working.” Very good sales people have this DNA activated.
Shanu Mehta: Then we have Specialist DNA. You would see people who are professionals, they would spend almost major part of their life in one profession, like CPAs doctors, lawyers. They’re very good with what they do, and they spend their entire life in one profession. Usually they’re not very good with sales. They believe, the business is coming mostly on referrals and leads. So this is Specialist DNA.
Shanu Mehta: And the Innovator, these guys are crazy. They don’t know how to run a business, they’re hiding in dungeons, they’re very difficult to find out. But what do they do, it becomes a business. Other people make a business out of it and they earn money. So for example, I would say, I think Elon Musk is a Builder DNA. Probably Richard Branson is an Opportunist DNA. Bill Gates is a Specialist DNA, because he’s mostly into… He was into this one thing. Mark Zuckerberg is a good idea of Innovative DNA, just to put a perspective Mark Zuckerberg.
Heather Smith: Awesome. That was really interesting. Thank you very much for sharing with us.
Shanu Mehta: Sorry for the long answer. But I had to explain this.
Heather Smith: Well if you’re lecturing in this, we want to know about it. And I’m sure that listeners will hear, and be able to identify who they were and the different things that you were talking about there. So Shanu, you mentioned that you come from a long line of accountants.
How do you think accounting is going to look in the near future? What do you predict of accounting in the near future?
Shanu Mehta: So as we have, after this COVID thing, what all of us are experiencing is that this is a time which has given us a clear perspective of what is wanted and what is unwanted in every business. So we have got a sense of things which we can chaff out and things which would can hold on, we have to hold on.
Shanu Mehta: So this is just a time that we might have had a flavour of how the future is going to look. There would be a material economy. There would be a knowledge economy. There would be a digitised economy. There would be a industry, which is non-digitised. There would be businesses which are high-touch. There would be a businesses which are low touch.
Shanu Mehta: So I feel accountancy as a field, is a very low touch business. Not many human interventions as perceived in the street. There’s a lot of super calculation which can be done on machines and on cloud, but in order to have a bigger perspective on sitting on a heap of data, one should be able to make the judgement call that where things are moving.
Shanu Mehta: And I think that advisory bit is going to become extremely important. So the more you can hone your skills on having the perception of the data on which you’re sitting on, the greater your talent could be recognised. That’s what I feel. So I think Elon Musk has gone on to… He says that inputting all the data into artificial intelligent machine is a limitation, because once the data is in the machine, a supercomputer can process very quickly.
Shanu Mehta: But the input part of the data is still a problem. So I feel like whatever data we are still getting from systems, from people, from companies, there is a lot of scope in that input part of the data. Because processing, luckily we have sorted it, but input of the data is still an issue in our accountancy field.
Heather Smith: Yeah. No, that was really interesting. It is interesting how your business is actually based on keeping historical data.
Shanu Mehta: Yeah.
Heather Smith: While historical data is useful, how much do we actually need? It is interesting, this whole data thing, we pull it in there and we need to look at the trends, et cetera. But yeah…
Shanu Mehta: Yeah. So I feel in terms of historical data, it is important that you should have parts of your business like you can see the trend, which is coming, you can see that this is a season where I don’t make a lot of money. This is the thing, but these are my suppliers who have not been paying very regularily to me.
Shanu Mehta: And in order to run those decisions today, you have to have perspective what has been happening in the past, for one year, or for two year, or for three years or four years. The more the data, more intelligent reporting, if your system allows it, I think it helps you take much better decision. That’s what I feel.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. No, I completely… I agree. Sometimes, and you will hear it as well, people won’t move to the cloud because they’re like, “Oh my historical data sitting in my desktop and I don’t believe I can properly get it to move to the cloud.” And it’s this “Well, how were you using it?” Because if it’s sitting in the desktop, they’re probably actually rarely ever using it.
Shanu Mehta: Yeah.
Heather Smith: They’ve probably not going to attach to Microsoft Power BI, they’re probably not analysing it, so what are they doing?
Shanu Mehta: Yeah.
Heather Smith: They’re in a far better positioned to get it into the cloud, so real data decisions can be made from it through analytical tools. Be it Power BI, Spotlight, Fathom, et cetera, hooking into.
Shanu Mehta: Yeah. I don’t know how this is used to run before, having such good perspective. Once you are in there, you don’t know how you were working in the past.
Heather Smith: I think there’s becoming a great split in the modern firms and the old fashioned firms and the modern firms, are just getting further and faster and further ahead.
How are you doing during this pandemic? How has the business doing during this pandemic? How is India doing during this pandemic? Or COVID-19.
Shanu Mehta: Okay, so two parts. The first part is how is business doing? Because all our business is global, and it’s migration and it’s bookkeeping also. So in terms of migration, what happens is because the operations are slim, so people think it’s a good time to migrate, because there’s not so many transactions going in and out. So they have this whole window where the transaction volume is low.
Shanu Mehta: So the three to five working days turnaround time, it helps them to just relax, give us the data, and have the migration. So luckily, the migration inquiries have increased during the COVID-19 times. And in terms of bookkeeping, again, it’s like a compliance. You have hundred transaction or one transaction. You have to do your payroll, you have to book your transaction.
Shanu Mehta: So by God’s grace, the business is stable, mostly in migration, it has increased. But in terms of the business in general, in India, it has taken a major hit. Because the consumer… So India has just started to become a major consumer economy. So the government is giving a lot of good products, good packages. But the consumers have to come out there and buy the products, to have this whole cycle going on. And that is not happening. So yeah, it’s not a very good time for the economy.
Heather Smith: Yeah, no, it’s… I’m very sad to hear that about India and other countries, will be seeing the same thing, but it is great. It’s excellent to hear that the business is doing well. And we do have this perception that a lot of people who’ve been putting off moving to the cloud, are now seeing no reason why they can’t, or being pushed to.
Shanu Mehta: Yeah.
Heather Smith: So that’s excellent, that you’re doing well with it.
Are you working from home?
Shanu Mehta: Yes our entire team is working from home. So India is not very… The work from home culture is not very old to India. We still had some troubles trying to make the systems, have people absorb that we are not stepping out, we don’t have nine to five working hours, and we have to…
Shanu Mehta: You wouldn’t believe people are shy in India to come on Zoom calls also, they would come on the calls, but they not on the video. So that whole part of the process was a little tough in the beginning. But yeah, now it has settled down. Now they are working like pro. We have crazy Zoom parties every other day. We call everyone on the Zoom and then we play some games just to relax a bit. So this is all new for us and for our team, but yeah, it’s going on well.
Heather Smith: Oh that’s excellent. That’s excellent to hear. So over the years you’ve attended many Xerocons. I’ve met you at so many Xerocons in Singapore, and Sydney, and Melbourne, and Brisbane. And I know I’ve seen you overseas at many others. You’ve probably attended more than anyone else. Other than Rod Drury.
Shanu Mehta: I’m sure. We collected those badges where they have my 10th Xerocon, my first Xerocon. So I had to… We added up, we have attended some 20 Xerocon, so we were adding badges.
Heather Smith: They haven’t made the badge for you yet.
With Xerocon not happening anywhere across the world this year, how do you feel that you can replace that… I guess connect with the Xero community?
Shanu Mehta: Yes, I think the more you can reach out to people through the amazing shows like uHost, I think the message that the whole purpose of Xerocon and these conferences was to have one-on-one interaction with people to establish MMC as a brand, to have this whole message being sent, that there is a service which can help you migrate all your data and just a few days or a few hours.
Shanu Mehta: So I think this whole dialogue is very much possible with all these podcasts going on, the webinars going on. And I think these times they always help us to innovate, make our organisations lean. So I’m sure many webinars and conferences would happen online where you can interact and you can tell your message even without physically attending it. So that’s what we plan to do for, I think until next year now.
Heather Smith: Yeah, I think it’s till next year. Yeah, it’s very challenging. But I think we all have to pivot on a dime, as Will Lopez says.
Shanu Mehta: But you were ahead of your times, right? You started this whole thing where people can come and talk from remotely. But that’s what I feel, people like you influences like you, I think they are the real deal and these such times, because you can communicate your message through all these great platforms you guys have built.
Heather Smith: I’m extremely lucky that we can access these platforms, and they’re reasonably cheap. So I can be sitting here in Brisbane speaking to you in India. And this morning I was on a call to New Orleans, earlier in the day I was on the call to Africa. It is-
Shanu Mehta: Wow.
Heather Smith: Yeah. But that’s exceptional and it is very affordable to do that. Just hopefully people can find, use and benefit in connecting with everyone globally. But I think they do.
Can you share with us how you’re empowering Indian women, with women with financial literacy?
Shanu Mehta: Okay. So financial literacy in our country, I dug up some data and found out only 17% of our GDP contribution was coming from women. But all the women that I saw around me, everyone was working. So I was surprised why it is so. And what we figured out, that everything is in an unorganised economy. So we have domestic helps, we have housemates, we have nurses, all of them, they are working really, really hard. But they’re not part of the formal economy. And that, I thought is a very… It’s an unfortunate situation.
Shanu Mehta: So I thought that maybe I should interact with them and figure out that why don’t they file returns, why don’t they register their income? Why do they not take benefit or penny scheme which the government is running. And I figured out that they don’t have the requisite documents. They are stuck in a credit cycle, because in India, there’s a strong cultures of money lenders and bond lenders, who you won’t believe, they charge excruciating high rates of 10% a week and that’s just interest.
Shanu Mehta: So I thought that this is where they needed help. And that’s why I started financial literacy around my town, my hometown, then around Indore, then I proposed the same to IM, which is the National Institute here for Management. And they helped me. They said like, “We want them to arrange a Fin-Lit camp for women who work at IMM”.
Shanu Mehta: Then I went to a few political leaders and I said I want to do it in their constitutes. It’s exactly… This whole idea is welcomed by a lot of people. A lot of women, when I see that I’m telling them… When I’m telling them that this is how much you earn you should just go file your return and have the benefit you can get loan at such a cheaper rate. When I see their face lit up, it is amazing feeling. It does extraordinary feeling actually.
Heather Smith: Yeah. That’s excellent. And education is such a key way to bring people out of difficult situations. So that’s great that you’re able to talk to so many people and get that message out there.
Shanu Mehta: Yeah.
What’s something that you’re proud of, or your biggest achievement in your career and why?
Shanu Mehta: Oh, so I think my biggest achievement so far, would be that I’m able to impart this financial literacy to over a thousand women by now. Because I have financial security that I can dedicate my time to this. I can probably pass out my message to these many women and make some kind of difference I think. My biggest achievement so far considering all of the business success, I’m not trying to make them minuscule by saying… But this particular achievement is most close to my heart.
Heather Smith: Yeah. No, it’s wonderful. It’s very exciting. It’s a good thing to be doing.
Shanu what are some technology tools that you actually liked to use either at work, or personally?
Shanu Mehta: Okay. So far, meeting such wonderful people like you across the world, we use Slack for all our communication online. Then we also use some reporting tools which are out there. We use Microsoft business intelligence to do the analytics for our data. And Xero, definitely, for our own accounting as well, but accounting for all our peoples on books and… So mostly use Slack, Zoom, Xero, Skype also sometimes for communication.
Shanu Mehta: So these are the tools. I think cloud is something which all of us cannot do without. And yeah, I think… I hadn’t used all these tools before, because I was particularly caught up I wanted to have people… I wanted people around me to do the work, but again, these times, there’s so many things that there is no other way but to make this a permanent solution. And I like it.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you for sharing that. So
What is next for you Shanu?
Shanu Mehta: Okay. So the next step is we already have a Xero Asia tie up, we also have Xero Canada tie up where we do the sponsored migrations. And we also have a tie up with FreshBooks, which is a Canadian company. We are doing a lot of migration to QuickBooks online now, for Australian region. And that particular bit is increasing.
Shanu Mehta: So we are focusing on QB online, a migration tool, QB online. We have, as I told you that the input of the data has still a place where a lot of work can be done. So we are coming up with MMC Bot, which will be a receipt capturing app, and it will be useful for, again, capturing data quickly and passing on to whichever accounting software a person might use. So yeah, these are the future plans for one year, at least.
Heather Smith: Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing with us. So thank you very much for being on the show today.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our listeners and how can they get in contact with you?
Shanu Mehta: Oh, so thank you Heather, thank you for inviting me. It was such a pleasure to address your audience, to talk to them, to have such a wonderful line of conversation with you. You kept it very real, you kept it very interesting.
Shanu Mehta: And I think that’s what I love about podcasts with people we know because you know where I’m coming from. I know that how wonderful your energy is. And we have a website www.mmcconvert.com. We have a WhatsApp chat bot there, or the normal send us query. Just reach out to us through any of the platform, drop a line and we call back people, and hopefully we are able to service and help everybody better.
Heather Smith: Excellent. Thank you so much for your time today Shanu. It’s been a real pleasure spending some time with you finding out a bit more about you and your background. And I look forward to seeing you in 2021 at a Xerocon somewhere in the world.
Shanu Mehta: Yes, we will definitely see you.