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Business Advice

Billing made easy - the painless and paperless way

GreenPost compiles bills from different firms into a single portal to offer convenience to users
The Straits Times - December 21, 2011
By: Jonathan Kwok
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Billing made easy - the painless and paperless way GreenPost wants to make paperless billing the way to go. -- ST PHOTO: MALAVIKA SINGH

FOR many people, paperless billing sounds great in theory. But in practice, it involves memorising different passwords and navigating a range of websites.

In short, it is a painful process.

Unsurprisingly then, most clubs, telcos and other billers in Singapore still send paper bills to most customers, with few of them choosing to go electronic.

Local start-up GreenPost reckons it can make a difference to this statistic.

The technology company, from its small office in MacPherson Road, aggregates bills from different companies into a single portal. When users log into the GreenPost system, they will be able to find all their electronic bills conveniently located in the same place.

'GreenPost automatically gives you all your e-bills in one place,' said Mr Nigel Hembrow, head of new business and sustainability at the firm. 'This includes giving a user his latest bills, archiving them, sending payment reminders and giving the user an analysis of his spending.'

The service is free and users can use either the website or the GreenPost mobile applications on the iPhone or Android phones.

'Prior to GreenPost, it was very time-consuming and confusing for people to go paperless. They would need to log into all their different billers' websites each month. They were forgetting their passwords and sometimes even forgetting to log in,' Mr Hembrow added.

GreenPost is now aggregating bills for some 28 billing companies from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia and the United States, said co-founder and chief executive Anand Singh.

'In Singapore, users can get their bills from SingTel, StarHub, M1, SP Services, NUSS Club, Phoenix Communications, Keppel Club, Singapore Swimming Club, and SunPage,' he added.

These companies maintain their individual e-billing sites, but many found that the take-up rate for paperless billing was very slow.

They have had 'real problems getting more than 10 per cent of their customers to go paperless', said Mr Singh.

'Users clearly do not want to go paperless by checking multiple websites. It is far too inconvenient for them,' he added.

But after partnering GreenPost, billing companies find that about 30 per cent of their customers go paperless within six months, he said.

'And they don't switch back to paper. Over two years of the service being available, we are confident to convert at least 50 per cent of a biller's customer base into going paperless.'

Other than the obvious environmental benefits, in terms of thousands of trees being saved due to the paperless process, e-billing also offers benefits to billing companies.

Paperless billing is about 80 per cent cheaper than sending traditional bills - companies need to include the cost of printing, paper and postage, said Mr Harveen Narulla, co-founder and director of strategy at GreenPost. He estimates that some large companies spend more than $2 million every month on paper billing.

GreenPost's revenue comes from charging billing companies a portion of the cost savings and providing consultancy services to companies regarding e-billing.

The firm also receives advertising revenue from 'intelligent' ad banners which are tailored for users.

GreenPost emphasised that it offers billing companies a bundle of services, including working with payment collectors to boost their collections and providing advice on how to increase the take-up rate of e-billing.

Mr Narulla said 'it will always stay free to have a (basic) GreenPost account'.

Despite a lack of direct marketing, publicity via word of mouth has allowed the firm to build its user base seven times larger than expected, though it declined to disclose its number of users.

Since the fourth quarter of last year, GreenPost has been able to book revenue of nearly $500,000, including agreed contracts for next year.

It expects to have a positive cash flow by the first quarter of next year.

The firm's ambitious targets include having more than 80 billing companies on board by the end of next year and saving a billion sheets of paper wasted each year in South-east Asia on bills within the next five years.

By the end of next year, GreenPost aims to have 400,000 people using its mobile applications and website to receive, store and pay their bills.

While much of the growth will come when it starts direct marketing in Singapore, GreenPost is also 'in discussions with potential partners and payment collectors in Malaysia and Indonesia to help grow our business even faster in those two markets', said Mr Narulla.

The company will also be launching its BlackBerry application very soon. By next month, it will have upgraded the look and feel of its website as well.

One major challenge comes from being a young company, said Mr Narulla. 'Many traditional organisations are reluctant to work with young companies,' he said.

But the firm remained patient in trying to meet the needs of its customers and managed to gain their confidence.

It also credits the growing technology entrepreneurship scene in Singapore with opening up minds towards its products.

GreenPost user Tim Stevens, 32, said the service allows him to cancel his paper bills and rely on e-mail notifications to find out when they are due from anywhere in the world.

'My lifestyle is quite busy and includes a lot of travel - before GreenPost, I was always missing the due dates on my bills because I wasn't able to check my mailbox often enough. With GreenPost, that is no longer an issue,' added the consultant at a technology company.

About the company

GREENPOST allows users to track down all their electronic bills located in the same place.

The service is free and available at www.gogreenpost.com, or via the GreenPost mobile applications on the iPhone or Android phones.

Eight people work at the company's MacPherson Road office and there are plans to add at least seven more next year. Their roles include technical support and business development.

GreenPost is currently supporting 28 billing companies in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and the United States.

Recently, the company received the 'Solution of the Year' award in Asia's Top 50 Apps - a technology competition sponsored by SingTel Innovation Exchange.

GreenPost says the award has encouraged many more people to start using the service.

 

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