Story of frappe

Wordpress for ERPs


Why someone would start a new ERP project? If I had known what it takes, I might not have done it! But I did not know that in 2006...

I had just joined my family business (furniture manufacturing) and the company was reeling under a bad ERP implementation. It was a local vendor who was building it out on the .NET platform, and after sinking a reasonable sum of money into it, he was not able to get it right. At that point, my faith in the entire ERP industry was pretty low. Either they were too expensive or they were very buggy.

Later, I heard the same story from many of my users. But in all my foolishness and enthusiasm, I started writing out my own ERP system. I was always a hobbyist programmer, and maybe I had too much faith in my ability, but somehow we got started. In a couple of years though, the family business was sold and I was on my own. I decided to keep building the ERP and see if I could get more users, so I started my own company in 2008 to productize the ERP that I was building. At that point, what I had built was just about holding and not good enough to be a product, so I rewrote it (a couple of times!). And in 2010, we named the project ERPNext and launched it on a Software as a Service (SAAS) business model. And as you would expect, the going was tough.

No one wanted to buy an ERP from a startup. ERPs are mission critical assets for a company, and they don't mind overspending because the cost of failure is high. A failed ERP implementation could cost customer happiness, employee happiness, and in some extreme cases, the company itself. Also since our pricing was very low, we found that engagement was not very high. But even then, a few users saw potential in our product.


Open source code

We licensed the code under the General Public License, and the code had been online on Google Code since 2009, but we never really positioned ourselves as an open source product initially. There were no clear deployment instructions, very sparse documentation and no community forum. Being in India, we had very little exposure to what an open source community was like and how to build an open source product. Though I had read all about the Free Software movement and read Linus Torvald's book, I understood the concept, but did not know how to start executing it.

In 2011, we moved from Google Code to GitHub, and that proved to be a turning point. Now, suddenly, we were in the company of many open source projects and it felt nice to start using GitHub's workflows, issues lists, and more to make ourselves more friendly to the community. Slowly, in 2012, we started positioning ourselves more as an open source ERP, and very slowly we saw more activity on our mailing list and an occasional issue raised by the community.

In 2013, we revamped our deployment architecture to become more Pythonic (WSGI) and also started giving out free virtual machines for users to evaluate and use. This kickstarted a community. Today we have more than 1000 people on our discussion forum, and we believe there could be around 500 companies using our ERP at different stages. In the process, we have close to 300 users using our paid services (hosting or deployment support), and we even managed to get a couple of sponsors.

WordPress for ERPs

Our end goal is to become a WordPress like tool for ERPs. Even though there are millions of small businesses around the world who could all use better systems to manage their organizations, they are stuck using simple accounting tools. Until now it was only the large companies that could take benefit of the efficiencies and control that an end-to-end information system like an ERP could give. In ERPNext, we have included CRM (customer relationship management), project management, and payroll as modules that come right out of the box. For companies that deal in widgets, we also have advanced features like serialized and batched inventory that are hard to find in many mature products.

Another key aspect of the industry is that users would need an IT consulting company to implement and customize an ERP. We want to change that. ERPs should be simple enough to be self-implemented. This is why users are selecting ERPNext over other alternatives, because we are completely focused on the do-it-yourself user. There are a couple of good open source ERPs out there, but they are still hard to configure and need a partner to help you get started.


We need to focus on making things even easier for the end user and providing adequate documentation for the developer. Our framework Frappe, allows rapid application development and provides a platform to create apps or extensions to the product. With most of the basics in place, we think the ERP market is poised for a major disruption in the next five years.

Our biggest satisfaction will be when a whole bunch of small, local, innovative organizations across the world gets access to tools that will help them compete with large, global, and inefficient corporations — creating a level playing field that will leave our world a little bit more fair.

Rushabh Mehta

Founder, ERPNext and Frappe

November 4, 2014