Before she started using the Kotra Riel app, Kem Sokunthea used paper notebooks to keep track of her daily cash flow for her business. Kotra means “record” in English.
Sokunthea, an entrepreneur and the owner of Cloud Ice Cream, says that doing her bookkeeping for her business on paper by hand would always lead to some mistakes being made eventually.
“To establish and maintain my ice cream business it was necessary that I understand all about its cash flow because that is how I can measure the health of my business, like whether things are improving day to day or if I’m facing any financial risks, which is even more important now since I’m opening my third branch soon,” said Sokunthea.
Sokunthea, a former candidate at the SHE Investments’ entrepreneur foundation, said that “before I started using Kotra Riel, I wrote all the figures in my diary on paper, which I had to check thoroughly and sometimes I still made mistakes and forgot to jot things down since I was too busy.”
Kotra Riel was developed by SHE Investments as an easy way for users to manage their business finances, and specifically to assist micro, small and medium scale vendors with reaching their goals as entrepreneurs.
SHE Investments describes itself as a support system for women entrepreneurs in Cambodia and its programmes include a business incubator, business accelerator, digital literacy education, financial literacy education and investment-readiness programs designed for women.
The organization says that it introduces innovative new digital tools and resources to women entrepreneurs in Cambodia as well as Covid-recovery support advice for their businesses and networking opportunities.
At the launch event for Kotra Riel and the Cambodia Digital Resource Centre, Loem Lida – SHE’s co-founder and the head of learning and development – explained the origins of the Kotra Riel app.
“This app came about because women entrepreneurs would often complain that using a pen and paper to keep track of everything was complicated work and it doesn’t get done properly as a result.
“It’s also prone to accidents like children drawing on the pages. People use apps for everything now so it just made sense to find an app suitable for them,” she says.
Lida observed that there are quite a few apps intended for use by micro, small and medium scale enterprises but many of them were not suitable for some of the women entrepreneurs who could only speak Khmer well since almost all of those apps use English only and some assume that their users are in locations like the US, so the functions are tailored for use by those demographic groups.
“The significant functions of Kotra Riel are simple and easy to use: register, pay in and pay out, review reports in both Khmer and English – and most importantly – the security system,” said Lida.
With two years of development, Kotra Riel has now been officially launched to assist entrepreneurs in Cambodia with financial management as well as the separation of business finances from personal finances.
Mixing personal and business finances together in a jumble creates complications that make it confusing to accurately track the cash flow of a business.
“Kotra Riel provides access to cash flow information and gives helpful reminders too. For example, in the evenings before you close your daily business operations you receive an alert notification pop up from the app to remind you to record your daily financial data and check on your cash flow,” said Lida.
Kotra Riel has four different color-coded functions: new cash-in record, new cash-out record, daily record closure and record observation.
Lida said that “for income record, you can enter in every single item as you go or just sum-up all of your items for the day. If someone can’t stop to record all the items in detail then in the evening they can just sum up the cash flow for the day instead.
“New cash-out record is an easier method since it demands that you record all disbursements or payouts. The daily record closure prompts you to check the actual amount of money in your cash register with the figure recorded in the app. If they show different numbers, you will be prompted to find the reason for it.
“And, finally, you can review your books like a pro with the record observation function. You can download your complete business records and use them to make presentations to microfinance managers and bankers confidently.”
“DRC and Kotra Riel are trying to encourage micro, small and medium enterprises to go digital by providing them access to online business information, coaching, peer-to-peer interaction, and daily cash flow tracking,” said Chhieng Vanmunin, CEO of Khmer Enterprise.
He says Khmer Enterprise, a division of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, considers these initiatives to be a pro-active approach to supporting Cambodia’s micro, small and medium businesses with the adoption of new technologies in a simplified format.
Lida says that whenever she gives advice to women entrepreneurs she makes a point of always asking them one question in particular.
“Where do you want your business to be in five years?”
By asking that question, Lida is trying to get them to think about things like what are the goals for the business, how fast do they want it to grow or expand and what specific steps do they plan on taking to achieve their goals.
She also says that people often tell her that they would like to become entrepreneurs but that most people don’t understand what the word really means.
“The most important key to success is that you have to manage your business finances. You have to separate your personal money and your business capital,” Lida says.
She notes that any wannabe entrepreneurs who use the Kotral Riel app have to answer an important question before they can register within the app and start using it.
“To use the app effectively, you have to provide a proper answer at the very start to this question – how much capital does your business have in reserve?” she says.
“80 per cent of their answers were that they did not know. If they don’t know that then they should immediately go home and count all of their money up and then input that figure into the app so that Kotra Riel can keep a record of their cash flow for them.
“And then in five years, if they want to apply for grants or big loans, they can start with the information they’ve collected here in the app,” she says.
Sokunthea said that she believes Kotra Riel could help simplify her operations.
“Kotra Riel will help women and other entrepreneurs and business people easily access their day-to-day financial information,” she says.
Rajeev Kumar Gupta, a technical specialist for the UNCDF, said in a video conference call that “the Kotra Riel app will help businesswomen in Cambodia to reduce their reliance on fixed asset collateral.
“Kotra Riel is an innovative solution that uses business transaction data as an alternative source to make credit assessments. Given the Covid-19 impact on the overall Cambodian economy this app could be instrumental for the recovery of small businesses by providing them easier financing opportunities,” Gupta stated.
For more details check out the SHE Investments Facebook page or visit the Kotra Riel website: https://www.kotrariel.com/.