Who is Binson Samuel?
Binson Samuel is one of the finest entrepreneurs I have come across. He struggled his way up from school in Kerala, to a job struggle in Mumbai, until he found a job in Dubai and established his own business, Peniel Technology. They are one of the Frappe Partner in UAE.
Binson was always an accountant buff, which also became his livelihood. He served as an accountant in a couple of small businesses and auditing firms in India. With the large Malayali Indian diaspora in the UAE, he found a job in Dubai in 2006 and moved right away. He calmly stabilized in Dubai, and got his little family moved as well. Binson developed expertise in these products and continued to expand his professional network. It was finally time for the entrepreneur inside him to break all barriers and attempt to take off.
Starting Entrepreneurial Journey
As an individual, Binson started his journey by selling Tally. He started by making cold calls to the companies and got some conversions. Also, he started spreading the word among his friends about the new venture. His better half also took part in the growth and both kept the boat sailing. Finally, Peniel Technologies was born. It was a “dream coming true” moment for him.
As the formula of box selling Tally had clicked, it was all about putting in intensity and growing fast. They soon added more accounting software such as QuickBooks, Simply Accounting, DacEasy, and Sage to their bucket and continued to scale up the team to ensure the last mile delivery. Binson didn't restrict himself to the UAE alone. He also opened a branch in Oman as well. Over the years, Peniel Technology has sold software to 12,000+ unique customers, and a decent number of them are on recurring models.
Since Peniel Tech used to selling software like a consumer product, they understood the importance of marketing and sales and were able to separate the two. Unlike most Frappe partners, Binson is a big fan of radio marketing for brand-building exercises. He kept advertising Tally and QuickBooks, which eventually resulted in sales.
Shift in the Market of Business Softwares
There are some businesses which are termed as “recession-proof”, like education and grocery. In the IT domain, at one point of time, the business of selling Tally and QuickBooks licenses was pretty much on those lines. However, with the rise of internet connectivity and the proliferation of mobiles, the business software industry experienced a shift towards cloud applications. For a business owner, the need to keep an eye on the operations while on the move became a basic expectation. Eventually, the Tally ecosystem started feeling the heat, and they also swiftly launched an offline-online model for the customers.
As there was a shift towards cloud apps, the awareness about open-source also kept growing. Android's reach to billions of users was incredible. In the business application, though open-source alternatives existed, the user experience, quality, and stability weren't even considered. With ERPNext / Frappe, finally people got the best of both worlds. It offered the user experience as good as proprietary business apps offered. Also, as an open-source application, it offered freedom to businesses to further customizing and deploy as per their preference. You can factor in my bias here, but I can’t honestly think of cloud and open-source apps in the business app which came close to us.
For Penieltech, they also started experiencing a shift in customer’s demand for cloud and customizable software. Binson and his team researched and quickly added ERPNext and Odoo to their portfolio of software to ensure they had a decent alternative for the evolving demand from the market. They initially implemented three instances of ERPNext and found that it was worthwhile, with customers being highly satisfied with the product. This led them to embark on an earnest promotion of ERPNext in the dynamic and thriving middle-east market.
In this duration, though Peniel’s team kept doing ERPNext implementations, it wasn’t their primary business model yet. This approach persisted despite having completed close to 70 ERPNext implementations. For them, this wasn't a large enough number to make it a primary focus, as they were used to selling thousands of licenses for Tally, QuickBooks & Sage etc.
The other important factor for not making ERPNext as their offering was low engagement with the Frappe team. Unlike Tally or QuickBooks, where the ecosystem is large enough that you don’t have to rely on OEMs, the same isn’t true with us at Frappe. Partners still rely on us when it comes to getting timely product support, server’s uptime and giving confidence to the enterprise customer. The fact of us not being on the ground, meeting partners was a root cause for this. Finally, this was filled after we made a UAE visit, and met partners. Binson and his team felt confident, and naturally thought about giving more weightage to ERPNext / Frappe apps. At least this shift has started to happen.
Radio Campaign with Frappe
After the first UAE trip, Frappe partners like Craft Interactive and Quark Cyber guys collaborated to announce Frappe Local - Dubai. Binson was approached, however, he had different plans, which he kept to himself. He kept on watching the marketing efforts (web page, LinkedIn post, invitations) flowing and realized the importance of doing these get-to-know community meet-ups.
The Frappe Local - Dubai went just fine. We met Binson a day after the event. He came ready with the idea of doing a radio show on open-source software business software and positioning ERPNext as its live example. For us, it was a bonus marketing event, accommodated in the same trip. It was a no-brainer and we got onto the task right away. It was going to be a new experience for me going live on the radio, which had butterflies flying in my stomach from the very beginning.
Soon, the day to go-live on the radio arrived. I kept listening to podcasts to learn how people talk in such sessions. Also, in the interest of storifying, I searched how Richard Stallman initiated this FOSS movement. We met RJ Ronak Kotecha, who is an expert in the business and sports domain. He quickly inquired about the topic, and it felt like he had no exposure whatsoever to open-source software. However, like the awesome RJs, he was absolutely calm and lively (how can they always be like this?). He suggested keeping the session assuming there are laymen on the other side, and it shouldn’t get very technical. It made absolute sense, as on the radio, you have to make sense to the most generalist person you can think of.
The show began, and I initiated with the story of Richard Stallmen trying to get code access to the MIT Lab's printer. We moved on slowly. It was nice to quickly see the engagement from the audience. They inquired about modules available within ERPNext, unique features compared to other ERPs, availability on the cloud etc. In fact, one guy latched onto the opportunity by sharing a host of its requirements shared to RJ. When you talk about ERPs, requirements are one thing you just can’t run away from).
After a couple of minutes, normalcy kicked-in, and I could go on for hours. On the other side, Binson was still a bit nervous and was framing his sentences carefully. It was a good 30 mins or so for us being live on the radio and talking about open-source and ERP.
It was once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and I must thank Binson for making it happen.
Apart from talking business, Binson understands the value of connecting as a person. In our very first catch-up, he was kind enough to take me to beautiful Jebel Jais, the beautiful triennial ranges in Ras Al Khaimah, along with Peniel Tech team.