There are various reasons startups get funding. A unique business model, a large market, the team, the founders, their background—all of this counts. But often, it begins with the idea.

Bookkeeping app Khatabook was handed its idea on a platter. 

Khatabook’s premise was simple. It allows merchants to record their credit dues and then issue payment reminders to debtors whose payments are due. The app wanted to replace the humble notebook, where such dues were traditionally recorded. 

It’s this simplicity that led Khatabook to some impressive numbers. It saw over 10 million app installations to date and claims to have over six million transacting merchants, according to the company’s January pitch deck, which was seen by The Ken. As for vanity metrics, Khatabook claims transactions worth $7.7 billion entered in the app in January 2020 alone. In comparison, its 2.5-year-old competitor OkCredit has around four million installs, according to app analytics firm App Annie.

Unlike other startups, though, this is chapter two of Khatabook’s journey. 

Chapter one unfolded in Nanded, in the state of Maharashtra, where engineering graduate Vaibhav Kalpe came up with the idea after seeing his father grapple with bookkeeping problems. When it launched in 2016, he didn’t anticipate that Khatabook would grow this big. “I did not have ambitions of building a business out of it,” he told The Ken. But the one-man app steadily grew, and by 2018, it had nearly 60,000 users. 

It was then that Ravish Naresh, the current co-founder and CEO, reached out to Kalpe over email. He bought Khatabook in an all-stock deal in just a week, according to Kalpe. 

Naresh’s belief in Khatabook wasn’t an accident. He knew full well the potential of a digital bookkeeping business courtesy OkCredit, a Lightspeed Ventures-backed bookkeeping app. OkCredit and Naresh’s previous startup, Kyte.Ai Kyte.Ai Kyte.Ai Kyte is an AI-powered SMS Inbox app that blocks spam and automatically organises a user's SMSes. Its other co-founders Jaideep Poonia, Dhanesh Kumar, and Ashish Sonone would go on to become Khatabook’s co-founders too. Poonia and Naresh were also part of the leadership at Softbank-funded Housing.com. , were part of the same batch of companies under a 2018 YCombinator YCombinator YCombinator YCombinator is a startup accelerator programme that provides seed funding for early-stage startups.  programme. 

These unusual origins set Khatabook up for the kind of growth story it is now riding. This growth, though, was sustained by its decision to not charge for its product—which means the company makes nothing in revenue. 

AUTHOR

Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is Bengaluru-based. She is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She has spent over 10 years reporting and writing on various subjects. Previous stints were at Mint, Outlook Business and Reuters.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at support@the-ken.com with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at info@the-ken.com or follow us on Twitter.