On today’s episode of Thriving at the Crossroads, I introduce Shaz Khan, Chief Strategy Officer of Vroozi. Vroozi allows for 100% mobile procurement, and provides greater visibility to spend and compliance.
More details on Vroozi can be found here: https://www.vroozi.com/
In the second segment of the show- I will review Katie McCrory’s article “What Richard Branson and toilet rolls teach us about disruption”
Vroozi – Your Way To Mobile Purchasing
Hello, fellow Thrivers. Welcome to episode three. Today’s episode features Shaz Khan, founder of Vroozi. Vroozi is a mobile procurement platform that’s really out to change the way we think about procurement and the procurement industry. Shaz is also going to share some of their latest developments with Amazon, that they have as part of their platform. I hope you enjoy our interview with Shaz Khan.
Also, stay tuned for our second segment of the show, where I’ll be talking about Richard Branson and toilet paper rolls. You have to stay tuned for that.
On today’s episode, I am pleased to introduce Shaz Khan from Vroozi. He is one of the co-founders of Vroozi. Welcome to the show, Shaz.
Thank you, Amber.
Tell me a little more about Vroozi. I know you guys are a mobile procurement platform. Talk about the industry problem you solved and what’s happening in the procurement industry, Shaz.
Thank you, Amber. A pleasure to be here on your podcast. Vroozi was started in 2012 with the intent of consumerizing the business to business procurement process for enterprise organizations and mid-market customers. What we found is that companies were still ordering products and services for their business via paper, calling in orders via phone and even faxing orders in. Or they were spending millions of dollars on very complex ERP systems that had very little adoption. We set out to really go up and drive and build a platform that could promote end-user adoption, and really focus on the trends of what employees are looking for, which is speed and simplicity.
Now, speaking of speed and simplicity. Does this apply for all industries? Are there particular industries that have been more interested in the mobile procurement solutions? Can you speak to that a little bit?
We work with a number of different companies, from utilities to financial services to entertainment media. The problem really cuts across any type of company, which is I’m trying to order products and services for my business, I don’t necessarily know the right supplier. I don’t necessarily know the guidelines that had been established on what I can buy. We wanted to basically put something out there where people can really have everything at their fingertips, in terms of the ordering process. Who are my authorized suppliers in various spend categories? How can I make the order occur? Who are my financial approvers? How quickly can I get these products to satisfy my business?
We see this problem really pervasive in any type of industry. We started the company with a lot of research in two specific industries, which were the utility space and also the media space. Those organizations had very different spend habits and focuses on procurement, payments, and sourcing. We were able to find commonalities between those industries that really cut across multiple companies and launched the product in 2013.
Tell us a little more about Vroozi itself. The product has been live a few years now. It’s evolved over that time. Someone who’s interested wants to actually know more about your product. How would you describe Vroozi to them?
Vroozi is basically making procurement for your business, bone-dry simple. To really get a flavor of how we actually promote that concept, we’ve recently launched a free trial of the product at Vroozi.com where companies, within a few clicks can register. Then, they’re immersed into the Vroozi experience. They can get a look and feel of how an employee who needs to purchase electrical components for their warehouse. They can shift to an approval role to see how an approval would actually see an order coming through for approval or rejection. They can even inherit the role of a buyer. We’ve allowed companies to really immerse themselves into the Vroozi experience and understand how we are taking a completely different approach to enterprise procurement.
Step us through the steps they’ll follow in Vroozi and some of the combinations that you see people set up. You’ve talked about some of the compliance and spend management. Talk me through a practical example of something someone might purchase through the Vroozi platform and walk me through the whole process including what happens at the backend with an ERP type system?
That’s a great question, Amber. Thank you for that. There’s really three major components of our platform. There’s the administration piece. There’s the transactional component. Then there’s the business intelligence.
When companies set up Vroozi, we have provided a suite of power tools for them to basically use the platform according to their business needs and policies. An example of that would be a company has their own document number ranges that they’d like to adopt for a purchase request or a purchase order. Or companies might have their own set of tax rules or approval workflow rules. They might have commodity approvals. They might have finance approvals. They might have sourcing review approvals.
We combined all of that into one platform. Here’s the catch. There’s no programming. You can actually configure all of these within an easy-to-use wizard within our administration panel and really get the system up within a few days.
As an analyst, that’s music to my ears. It’s configuration, not programming. Someone sets up their whole set of rules and they administer the users from there. Now, talk a little bit about a more recent development you guys have had. I was intrigued when I heard about it myself in the last couple of weeks. That not only can you do the procurement through the Vroozi platform, but you’ve got integration to Amazon. Speak a little bit more to this because I think this would be intriguing to the audience.
Thank you. This is an exciting development within our company. I think a real value add to our customer base and new customers as well. Amazon Business has recently been integrated into the Vroozi platform. We’ve actually achieved a certified integration with the Amazon solution. What that means for our customer base is now they can actually have their employees log in to Vroozi. They can punch out to their own company-registered Amazon Business account. Search for any product that they need that Amazon offers, anywhere from paper towels to IT equipment, office supplies and bring that data back into the Vroozi platform for further processing.
That whole process is completely electronic. You can request the items, you can approve the items. When you actually want to cut the PO or the purchase order, it will get electronically submitted to Amazon Business with no development required. We’ve already pre-integrated that for our customer base.
The customers, within literally a day, have access to Amazon’s one million skews at their pricing that makes it really attractive so they don’t have to worry about going to multiple suppliers for those types of products. Now, Amazon Business is one example of a supplier we basically started featuring within the platform. There are many other suppliers that we are working with in various spend categories, which we looked at industry leaders, and providing them as anchor tenants, if you will, within our platform for customers to choose and activate, like a LinkedIn concept.
They can actually go through as they look at different categories and then activate these different suppliers, so to speak, these different platforms, like Amazon or other things, is that correct?
Correct, exactly. That ease of use of being able to collaborate with suppliers in a few minutes as opposed to a few months with your own contract and pricing becomes one of those elements that moves the needle to gain adoption within the corporation.
Then, you must actually store all the contract management for them as well that controls all the pricings, so that’s all stored within the Vroozi platform as well?
Yes, that’s right. It was one of our featured elements of our platform which is on marketplace and contact management technology. We’ve built a very robust content management and catalog engine that allows us to store complex pricing files from various suppliers, and also allow for what we call Level 2 punch out, which is bringing the best of both worlds for our customers. They can find the products in Vroozi and then if they need to go and punch out to the supplier website, they can configure the product and return it back to Vroozi for ordering.
Now, we haven’t talked about the payment side. Where do we integrate back with actual payments occurring as part of this? We’ve talked about the order and the POs being placed. Let’s talk a little more about how’s the invoicing and payment part work?
That’s a great question. Most of our customers today integrate Vroozi with their existing ERP financial investment. Customers today are running Oracle or SAP or NetSuite. We have the capability to integrate our purchase order and shipping confirmation data directly with their invoicing modules within those systems. Then the subsequent payments would happen out of those systems.
Vroozi is launching our own e-invoicing module this quarter, at the end of 2016, which will allow for companies to actually be able to not only take requisitions and purchase orders and integrate those with the suppliers, but also allow departments to process invoices and then facilitate with a payment mechanism, which we’re very excited about as a continuous evolution of the actual platform.
The platform actually being able to go further in the process, actually complete the process. I know a lot of times when you’re talking procurement, things end at the invoice. It gets in the system. It’s like, “But somebody’s going to pay that at some point.” It’s good to see you ending it at the payment with this new module that’s coming out.
Now, what I’ve heard from the integration with what you said, primarily what customers might do is they can bring the invoices back into their ERP system. They would become part of the rest of their payables and they can execute them as part of their normal payment processes as well. Then, they could go through and do all the appropriate approvals, if they had to do different types of approvals on levels of approvals, that could all happen through their existing infrastructure. Am I understanding that correctly?
Yes, that’s right.
Perfect. Now being part of a startup for several years, as you look forward and you’re adding all these integrations, what are some of the bigger challenges that you think you’re facing right now or the most interesting challenges that you’re facing right now?
I think one of the challenges as a company and especially a technology company, is the need to continuously innovate and push the envelope and not outpace the market so much that you’re on a wait and see mode.
You’re exactly right, because if you get too far ahead of the market, nobody is ready because they don’t want to be the first guy.
Exactly. When you look at statistics such as what Alibaba and Frost & Sullivan recently put out, where the business-to-business global e-commerce market is set to eclipse close to $7 trillion by 2020, which is more than double what the business consumer market would be at that same time, you’re looking at an industry that is really rapidly evolving.
Five years ago, six years ago, the word ‘mobile procurement’ didn’t really exist in the lexicon of enterprises. Now, do we have a mobile strategy for enterprise procurement or just procuring goods and services? Because he next workforce that’s coming in is increasingly adept at leveraging mobile technology to conduct business and do their work.
It’s an expectation. That’s really where we’re going. You get so used to doing everything on your phone, why not your procurement when you need to purchase things? That makes complete sense.
One thing I’d like to ask all of the guests on the podcast is, I like to help companies that are listening to this understand a little bit on where you’re at in your evolution, in terms of customers and what you’ve built out. I think transparency is key for a lot of corporates. They love innovative technologies and are very interested. They just need to understand where you’re at so they can plan accordingly.
To that end, I’ve got what I call a customer index on where you guys at. The scale that I’ve got is what I call the ABCs, which is Alpha Beta Customer. Which means I’ve just got my very first customers, I’m pretty early cycle. Anyone who is in the D category has done it at least once, up to five times. Anybody in the E category has an existing customer base of at least five, which for a lot of corporates means you got a pretty good idea. This is a pretty good process. It’s working. It’s not one off. You can really plan pretty well for these types of projects. Where would you say Vroozi is at in terms of its overall customer base today?
We’re happy to report that we’ve eclipsed our five customer mark a while ago in our first year. We’re in that category today and continuously growing. We started this company with the focus on the enterprise market, specifically Fortune 1000. Really focused on driving end-user adoption with your existing ERP investments to supercharge it and allow people to realize these benefits of their ERP systems without having to throw things away.
What we’re finding is that the mid-market, which is 60,000 businesses in the United States classified at $50 million of revenue to a $1 billion, is largely a green field opportunity. There are companies today with $200 million revenue in the United States today that are ordering and creating purchase requests via Microsoft Excel. That is a problem area that we are really, really keenly focused on. How do you make that process go away? How do you educate and convince market that that is really not a sustainable and scalable way for your business to survive and thrive over the next year?
Absolutely. Now, for the fun part of the interview. I like to prove that my guests are all people too. As part of the conversation, I asked everyone, can you tell me your favorite travel destination that you’ve ever been to and why?
I love going to Thailand. I was exposed to Thailand about six years ago, my first visit, doing business out there. I’ve made subsequent trips. People are great. Food and culture is fantastic. The topography is amazing. It’s a very special place. I enjoyed that. I also have many pages of travel and leisure magazines that I’ve earmarked on my bucket list to go to as well that I’m sure could potentially at one point surpass that trip to Thailand. Thailand for me right now is the winner.
Absolutely fantastic. How do our listeners find out more? You’ve talked about some really intriguing things with mobile procurement, you’re moving things on to the phone. It could be very interesting for ERP audience that’s listening to this, how do we find out more about Vroozi?
We’re all over social media. On Twitter with the Vroozi handle. The destination for us is our Vroozi website. Customers or interested parties or partners who are looking at transforming their procurement strategy and leveraging a completely mobile-first platform, come to Vroozi.com and give it a spin. No credit card required. You guys could start seeing it go from zero to 60 in a couple of seconds.
Fantastic. Thank you much for joining us, Shaz. I really appreciate your time today. Have a wonderful afternoon.
Thanks so much, Amber.
Industry Article Review
Today’s article is entitled, “What Richard Branson And Toilet Rolls Teach Us About Disruption.” It’s written by Katie McCrory and can be found on the Virgin Disruptor Series on Virgin’s website. I chose this article because it was really about disruption. We’re hearing a lot about how organizations need to transform and we need to be more disruptive in order to gain first-mover advantage.
I thought I would take lessons from a very well-known disruptor, Mr. Richard Branson. Richard Branson had one of the best icebreakers I’ve ever seen for a presentation. He was speaking at the Virgin Disruptor Series. What he said as he introduced himself, “I came in early today and put a bog roll under every other seat in the front row,” Richard Branson announced to the packed auditorium. Just imagine this. You’re sitting in the front row of a Richard Branson presentation and you look under your seat and there’s a roll of toilet paper. How fantastic is that? What a wonderful icebreaker.
What did he do with that? He had everyone take the roll and said, “You’ve got to unroll the bog roll through the auditorium and back down again.” He basically toilet papered the audience. I’m picturing this and I can’t help but smile. But really, what a fantastic icebreaker to say, “Don’t think of things the way you normally would.” This was a trick he learned in the early days of Virgin Atlantic. He simply wanted to make people smile more than they usually did, i.e. give them a great customer experience. He said the customs official did think he was a little odd for bringing his own suitcase packed with toilet paper.
Now, imagine you’re going through customs and customs opened up your suitcase and it’s filled with toilet paper. How do you not smile when you think of the look on their faces when they see an entire suitcase filled with toilet paper? That was great.
After the audience was really energized, then he actually sits down and takes you into the mind of a disruptor. There were five key points that this article really talks about to think about how do you become a disruptor? What’s the mind frame that you should have?
He said, “First, I don’t think it would be much fun to not be outside my comfort zone.” He’s really known for setting impossible challenges and then working to overcome them. Setting the impossible challenge has really been a key move for Virgin. It’s become a brand differentiator for them. It gives them a sense of pace and energy and drive that they might not otherwise have. He always tries to stay outside his comfort zone.
His second tip. Sometimes it’s good to leave the building entirely. Now this one is key. He also advocates spending quality time away from your business, with family and friends. How many of you are actually taking your vacation? Taking that time away, shutting off the computer and phone and spending time with those you care about. He said. “I found the time to do that in my 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. I surrounded myself with people better than me in every aspect in Virgin and put myself out of business as quickly as possible. In other words, build it and hand it over to other people. If you can spend the time finding the right people, you’ll suddenly find it’s freed you up to achieve other things.
His third takeaway as a disruptor. If you’re going to take on a big guy, make sure your quality is better. Virgin Atlantic was started with one secondhand 747. They were up against British Airways with 400 planes and Pan-American with 400 planes. Who remembers Pan-American? This was a while back. Of course no one thought they could survive. What they did is they made sure that what went on in that 747 was so good and so fun that word would get out. He created a fantastic customer experience. Anything from standup bars to salt-and-pepper shakers that would make their way into customer carry-ons. It was really about, if you’re going to take on the big guy, make sure your quality is better than them so that when they play dirty tricks your customers stay loyal. Great food for thought.
His fourth point. If you become a public figure, you need to use that public status to campaign on awful inequities in this world. He really sees business as an advocate for making a positive change in this world. He says you have enormous responsibility to get out there and help tackle the problems of the world. If we can get every business to take that attitude, we can tackle every problem in the world through disruption and innovation.
His final thought, with the right mindset, people can become disruptors and can shock themselves by doing it. This was a key discussion in nature versus nurture. Are you born that way or can you learn it? I have to personally say, I think Richard Branson is right when he says it’s nurture, not nature. That truly anyone can learn to be a disruptor. I’d love to leave you with this takeaway. What out of these five lessons could you apply in some small way to your life today to disrupt things and make a positive change?
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