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Published on: Aug. 12, 2020, 12:47 p.m.
SignDesk's digital dream
  • Kadsur and Bhat: disrupting the status quo

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

With the ongoing pandemic and the consequent push by businesses for digitisation, we’re seeing an increasing demand for automated solutions. This trend is looking to hold steady and will cause a surge in digitisation as businesses experience the benefits of paperless methods,” explain Krupesh Bhat, an entrepreneur with an MBA from the University of Maryland and Ashok Kadsur, an experienced sales professional. After graduating from the same institution, both went their separate ways, but were later brought together by this dream, which they moulded into SignDesk. 

Bhat, as the founder and CEO, is a diehard entrepreneur who comes with diverse experience in IT, digital marketing and legal. He was passionate about using technology to solve large and complex RegTech problems and as a result, he founded LegalDesk.com and, later, SignDesk. These websites help in creating and signing legal documents online.

Kadsur is the co-founder. He has over two decades of experience in sales and marketing, having worked with enterprise solutions, media, telecom, IT and web-based services. He is known to set up new businesses for multiple organisations in the early stages and help turn around businesses profitably. At SignDesk, he heads sales and strategic planning.

SignDesk provides businesses with digital documentation and workflow optimisation solutions that are demonstrably quicker and more cost-effective than paper-based manual methods. Currently, this translates to digital customer onboarding and online document verification using AI and ML techniques, real-time online stamp duty payment with document tracking, document creation using legally valid templates and execution using Aadhaar e-signatures & digital signatures, as well as automated recurring payments using eNACH-based eMandates. 

The best path forward

Bhat and Kadsur knew that, given India’s massive population and the scale of operations that Indian businesses undertake, any non-digital method of operations will inadvertently be wasteful and inefficient. They realised that digitisation is the best path forward for India’s corporate sector. So, in 2016 they launched a company to build this path.

As a sign of things to come, SignDesk was launched by Nandan Nilekani. It now covers the gamut of business documentation, offering digitised solutions for customer verification, document creation, legalisation, and execution mandates.

“The problem facing SignDesk at its inception was that of compliance. Businesses were faced with numerous regulations and compliance resulted in massive costs at a sluggish pace,” says Kadsur whose first steps at SignDesk were to provide a streamlined and automated method to ensure compliance, while reducing these costs and ensuring efficiency. “This resulted in a catalogue of products that digitise onboarding, stamp duty payment, signatures and recurring payments.” 

SignDesk is meeting these demands with further innovations: “We are launching a standalone document verification system that institutions can use to easily verify customer documents; we are also working on a video conferencing solution built to work with low bandwidth connections aimed at the Indian market and blockchain-based smart contracts,” discloses Bhat whose aim to start SignDesk was to disrupt the status quo of how businesses handle their documentation. “The name SignDesk derives from the fact that electronic signatures were the first of many subsequent disruptive technologies to become market-ready and attract popular appeal. The name is doubly appropriate since we were among the first businesses to provide disruptive documentation solutions,” adds Kadsur.

The entire business documentation process has traditionally been disparate, inefficient and paper-based. This has resulted in massive financial burdens, especially for Indian businesses which have been even slower to adopt emerging technologies for documentation. SignDesk was started to disrupt these traditions and provide businesses with the tools to optimise and streamline the way they document, so that they could conduct their operations smoothly without worrying about the frustrating details of documentation.

On SignDesk’s journey to digitise all of business documentation, they have managed to automate a slew of processes including onboarding, document legalisation, document execution, contracting, and recurring payments. Technology has played a pivotal role while machine learning techniques and artificial intelligence (AI) have allowed SignDesk to build high-level compliance and verification mechanisms that are quick and easy to use.

“Our solutions have been met with enthusiasm and great results, we have helped reduce onboarding costs by nearly 90 per cent for our clients and have boosted efficiency by an unbelievable 99 per cent. The credit for these metrics is shared between our cutting-edge technology, our strong legal team and our operations capabilities, all of which have turned us into a well-oiled machine. Our efforts to digitise documentation have been recognised in the form of several awards, the latest of which is the Global Banking and Finance Review’s Best Digital KYC/Onboarding Product of India in 2020,” says Bhat.

“Compliance with regulations has always been a major issue for businesses in India, particularly financial institutions. These businesses have to strike a balance between compliance and ensuring a smooth client journey that’s also cost-effective – no easy task. This niche, therefore, was ripe for digitisation, and we jumped at the opportunity. The solutions we provide strike the perfect balance between all the factors that businesses have to consider, and hence have been immensely popular. We ensure a smooth and completely automated documentation process, using the best technology available and client-specific customisations,” says Kadsur.

In many cases, SignDesk’s products have also been integrated with each other to create an end-to-end solution applicable to numerous cases including loan disbursement and customer verification. “This sort of ‘all-in-one’ solution is the future of RegTech as it is expedient, seamless and secure. All of our products are of this nature, enabling clients to perform their documentation using just our product. Additionally, we also offer APIs that can be easily integrated into business-normal processes. RegTech looks to be growing especially now as businesses are coming around to digitisation, and we look forward to providing more businesses with the best, quickest and most efficient documentation tools around. SignDesk’s first client was Hindustan Unilever Ltd, who are still one of our most valued clients. Our business model is based on revenue per transaction. We provide SaaS-based services and based on the usage of our services, we charge our clients on a monthly basis,” adds Bhat, boasting of clients that include ICICI Bank, Kotak Bank, Karnataka Bank, L&T Financial Services, Bajaj Finserv, Hindustan Unilever Ltd, Swiggy, Loreal and Panasonic, to name a few.

“Being an old generation private sector bank, it was a Herculean task for our bank to design and create a product capable of competing with other existing products. When we studied other banks’ digital journeys, we found that seamless e-stamping and e-signing of online loan documents was difficult and we had very few reliable vendors who could implement these integrations. SignDesk helped us with simple and quick APIs for e-stamping and e-signing. The cloud-based and legally accepted solution that is securely hosted in India made our life easy. More than this, it was the legal team of SignDesk which provided clarity to our legal team and the confidence to adapt online e-stamping,” says Rakesh B, assistant general manager, Digital Centre of Excellence at Karnataka Bank.

“Our projected net revenue for the next five years is Rs155 crore. In 2016-17 we were Rs44 lakh and we grew in 2018-19 to Rs1.65 crore and in 2019-20 to Rs7 crore. Our topline was Rs15 crore and Rs50 crore respectively,” says Bhat.

“We are a fully bootstrapped organisation and have become profitable since 2017. We have grown to employ 120 tech professionals and are planning to go overseas with the possibility of new acquisitions and hires. In the next five years we envision an employee expansion of up to 500 professionals and are looking to raise $5 million to fund our expansion,” says Kadsur. 

“The numbers are clear in their message that even now, businesses are not reaping the full benefits of digitisation despite how far our technology has progressed, and this is causing massive problems. SignDesk has the sole aim of solving these problems, and will continue to solve them with the best cutting-edge technology,” observes Bhat. 

However, SignDesk’s main agenda is to provide a single online platform where businesses can perform all their documentation, including document creation, legalisation, negotiation and related payments. This is something that SignDesk is perpetually working towards. As SignDesk strives for a Digital India, it is also expanding to other countries to address the documentation requirements of financial institutions. 

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