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Navigating the World of Expense Management with Siddharth Nigam

Siddharth Nigam, Global Director at ExpenseOnDemand

Dive into the dynamic world of expense management with Siddharth Nigam, Global Director of ExpenseOnDemand as he shares tech insights on ExpenseOnDemand’s impressive growth. Explore the innovative features driving efficiency and learn about Siddharth’s unique journey from languages to technology. Uncover the strategies behind ExpenseOnDemand’s success, including the competitive edge that has propelled it to the forefront of the evolving expense management landscape. Join us for an exclusive conversation, where tech meets innovation, and experience the future of seamless expense solutions firsthand.

ExpenseOnDemand enables companies and their talent to focus on their co-workers by offering a smart, simple, and intuitive management solution.

Siddharth Nigam
Global Director at ExpenseOnDemand

Hello Everyone, and welcome to another episode of Wytpod. My name is Harshit and I’m the Director of Business Alliances at Wytlabs. We are a digital agency specializing in SaaS and E-commerce SEO. And of course, Siddharth Nigam with me, Global Director of ExpenseOnDemand. It’s a platform that enables companies and their talent to focus on their co-workers by offering a smart, simple, and intuitive management solution. A big welcome to you, Siddharth, and I’m so happy to have you with me today.

I’m really happy to be here. Thank you very much Harshit for doing this and inviting me. I’m excited to be able to talk about ExpenseOnDemand and basically what we’re doing in the marketplace and how we’re helping small businesses, which is our main focus. Thank you again for having me here.

That’s brilliant. Now, before we dive into the SaaS solution, ExpenseOnDemand, can you please let the viewers know a little bit about you and your professional journey so far?

Yeah, absolutely. I started my education in quite a unique way. I did French and German at UCL in London, and then I did a master’s degree in international business in the UK. That gave me, I would say, the understanding or gave me the desire to go into the technology space, which is where I took my career. I worked for a various number of startups, but then I notably worked for Microsoft, where I worked in Paris. I also worked with Goldman Sachs as well, which was in Zurich. I’m utilizing that language skill set that I had, but then I continued my career journey within tech. I took it to Cisco, where I built one of their partner businesses, and then most recently at Meta, where I built the partner support function but built a really clear connection between the partner support function and the channel partner team. Now I’m at ExpenseOnDemand where I lead, I head up product and support and a support function as well.

That’s brilliant. And to know a bit more about the company and how exactly the platform differentiates itself in the market of expense management solutions.

Yeah, great question. Firstly, thank you very much for the introduction that you gave to ExpenseOnDemand. It’s a software company that specializes in providing expense management solutions for businesses. Our vision, I would say, has been to provide a leap in value to SMEs across the globe through enterprise-class functionality at affordable prices and help them automate their expense management processes. We started in 2003 and we function across the globe. We have offices in the UK, India, Singapore, and Australia. To answer your question about how we differentiate ourselves in the market, I think there are four specific pillars that we do. One is our features and functionalities. We have about 200-plus functions, so we’re feature-which we provide everything that our competitors provide if not more. Our pricing is competitive, so we have quite low pricing when we compare ourselves to our competition. In addition to that, our implementation is also free. What that means is that when we speak to a customer after we’ve demoed the platform, we will set them up for success. We will recommend what features and functions they need to be using to manage their expense management journey, and that is for free as well, so something our customers like.

We’re a very strong Zero partner. The majority of customers that come to us use Zero, which is their accounting software. We’ve worked on the integration, but also we’ve made it much easier for credit card transactions to get automatically put into ExpenseOnDemand. They’re minimizing the time that individuals would normally have to devote when managing credit card transactions. Then the final thing I would say that’s important and something hot for our customers is we have very strong reporting and analytics. There are lots of ways, there are a lot of avenues that customers can explore to get the reporting that they need, plus also a report, a build your report feature, which means that customers can build any type of report that they want, plus also reports that can integrate into different accounting systems that we might not ordinarily integrate into. So yeah, there are differentiating factors.

That’s awesome. The platform was launched back in 2003. I know that you have recently taken part in the company, but what was the thought process behind the launch of the product? Was there any specific problem that the product was trying to solve back then? And how exactly that has evolved?

I think it’s a really good question. I think it’s born from several, I’d say, several customer conversations that we had. This goes back a long time, and then basically iterations of that same customer issue happen. This is even going back to when I joined the business, but speaking with the CEO, speaking with the various directors within the business, it was very much about talking to SMBs, small businesses who were struggling with basically an existing contract that they were in, inadequate support that they had. Basically what you probably see in these situations is that it results in, say, a 50 % increase in troubleshooting time and, a 30 % spike in duplicate expenses, basically negatively impacting their cash flow. You can probably appreciate that for small businesses, that negative impact on their cash flow is detrimental. Having a company like Expense on Demand that was able to step in and provide one cost-free platform set up on the very day that they join, but also that flexibility to say, Hey, do you know what? Until you come out of that contract with your other provider, you only need to start paying when you’re ready.

Providing that flexibility helped customers. I think what that also did was it built that loyalty with that customer. They were happy with the experience and said that they were also happy to give feedback as well. Our platform, I would say, has wholly been built on the feedback that we’re constantly getting from customers, plus the close engagement that we have with our customers as well. That every opportunity, whether it might be dealing with an issue, whether it might be upselling a feature functionality, whether it might be just checking in with a customer, we’re always trying to get feedback because I think the worst thing that you can do is become complacent, but also just assume that you know everything. There’s always something that can be changed. It’s all about customization with small businesses because every small business has unique ways of working. I think every SaaS product needs to mold itself to those needs, to those unique needs. And if you do that successfully and you’re able to do that in a scaled way, you’re winning. And on top of that, if you’re able to offer low prices, you’re winning even more. I think that’s been our strategy and our direction.

And yeah, it’s working well, but of course, it can work. It can work. There’s still lots of work that we can still be doing and are doing as a business.

That’s great. Since you mentioned low prices, how do you ensure low pricing doesn’t compromise the quality of the service providers? Also don’t you think in your opinion, when you price something low, people perceive it as delivery and all of those things? When you put a good premium on it, the expectation all of a sudden changes. What do you have to take your opinion?

On that? I think that’s a really good question. Interestingly, Harshit, that’s a question that we do get asked quite a lot. I think the first thing that I would say to that is that, look, I don’t think that expenses need to be expensive. When we think about the economy now,There are a lot of companies that I speak to where they’re having to look at the pricing of various products, various SaaS products they’re using. Low prices are always going to win. The way that our model works is that you pay for what you use. And I think that’s, I would say, what helps with the explanation. Hopefully, it answers your question as well that when you look at competitors out there and without saying anything against their pricing models, you pay for an entire product that you might not be using, especially within the small business world that we work in. If you think about the 200-plus functions we have customers who are sometimes just using four functions because that’s all that they need. Why should they pay for 90-plus functions that they’re not using? That’s why our pricing is low because essentially we are only pricing customers for what they use.

But what it also does, and this is going back to what I was saying earlier on, is that the low pricing gets them through the door. They’re only paying for what they use so they’re happy, and that’s what our SMEs need. But then it also creates loyalty because our product grows with their business. As they’re growing and as their needs within the expense space increase, we find that our business naturally can keep up with that change. And so naturally that makes our customers happy. It also just means that we can engage better with our customers because they can see that our product is something for the long term and not just the short term. That is also one of the reasons why we do get customers from competing companies because we can compete on price, but we can also compete on that loyalty aspect so that our product can scale with the scaling that our customers are doing as well.

That’s brilliant, Siddharth. And since you mentioned loyalty, I would love to know what’s the churn rate of the company.

Wow, that’s a good question. Without diverging too much on numbers, our churn rate is not bad because we are constantly testing on the platform. We know about issues before customers will know about them. We have a very seller team that I manage. I’m head of support in addition to product. I’m constantly speaking to our customers to understand what we can do better on the product, but also managing our CSM team. They look at optimizations within the product for our customers, but also they analyze the support tickets as well. We don’t have a huge number of customers. We’re looking at increasing that as well. So yeah, it’s also manageable as well. But we’re also looking at ways in which we’re going to scale that as we grow even more and as we are growing as well. So thankfully to all these strategies, if I can call it, our churn rate is not high, and I want to keep it that way.

That’s interesting because what I’ve seen for companies that cater specifically to SMBs, the churn rate is usually higher than the companies that cater to enterprise customers and all those things. What exactly is the duration, and lifetime duration of SMBs in your company?

I mean, great question. We have customers that have been with us for 15 years. Look, at the end of the day, expenses, as I said to you earlier, do not need to be expensive, but they also do not need to be complicated. At the end of the day, because we’re constantly speaking to customers, we know that what they want are things like automating expense processes. They want real-time expense tracking. They want policy enforcement so that they can manage non-compliant expenses. They want integrations with their accounting systems and they want it to be made easy. They want receipt digitization. They want analytics. They want reporting. A lot of our customers want that. What they want at the end of the day is for all of this to enhance employee productivity, scalability, and flexibility within their business, compliance, and readiness. And then the most important thing is cost saving. They don’t want to be spending time on errors and spending time on manual tasks. They want an expense manager process that will automate all of that. And I think that is the thing. Those are the things I would say, those are the things I would say those are the pillars that I’ve just described that we constantly look at when we’re speaking with our customers, when we are making iterations of our platform, when we’re making our platform better, we’re constantly thinking about those things.
In addition to the conversation we’re having with our customers and then making sure that it speaks to our customers and whoever comes in through the door through our marketing activities and initiatives.

Got you. How do you keep your customers engaged? I understand concerning keeping them loyal, you have some wages in place to make sure that their tech doesn’t break and they have good service for sure. But I’m sure that, I guess, to a great extent. But what are the loyalty programs or any other engagement?

Challenge that you’re trying to send? Great question. Yeah, I would take surveys. We’re sending out surveys. We’re doing regular check-ins with customers, like I mentioned before, webinars as well as we get individuals that do webinars. When we’re speaking with our customers, we want to understand what feature requests they’ll have, and we take that to the product team. When we make iterations, when we add features to the program, that beta testing program, we like to invite customers to that when that is possible. I won’t say that we do that all the time, but there are times when we will invite customers to that. As I mentioned the dedicated customer success team that I’m managing, I get them to look at the support tickets, get them to reach out to customers about optimization opportunities, and get them to reach out to customers about upselling when we have new features that are added. Transparency in the product roadmap, again, that just specific customers, where we look at, predominantly small businesses, being transparent is easier in our case. Then swift issue resolution, I think it comes down to that. I think that’s the thing that leads to any and every conversation that you can have with a customer.
If you are showing a customer that when they are reaching out to you about an issue and you’re able to swiftly fully respond, and also sometimes most times communicate to them that when an issue is very complex, you can impart to them what steps you are taking, that can sometimes be just as important as solving the issue because you’re showing that transparency to that customer and all that builds loyalty and it just builds that communication line as well.

That makes sense. Because you’re catering to SMBs, that’s way too vast. Any specific industries that you can niche down to?

Industry-agnostic. We invite all kinds of customers and we’ve got all industries that we work with. Because at the end of the day, generally the needs, and the expense needs are the same. But what we do is that customization. So the customization aspect can be a little bit more intricate depending on the industry. Yeah, depending on the industry that customization might be required. But we work with all industries.

Okay, how exactly? Keeping your target audience so broad is a big marketing challenge for sure. People do. If I’m an agency, I might go ahead and search key places like expense management, foreign agency, or stuff like that. And you have to put down so much effort to even make your brand visible within the industry. That itself is a short man, the man of the past.
How Exactly is your marketing working in your field?

Do you want the honest answer or both of them made up? I know. I will give you an honest answer. Look, I’m no marketing expert, but since I joined the company, this year I have been learning so much both on the SEO front but also the PPC front. As we discussed, and I’ve discussed several times over with our management team, it is hard to pin down a strategy that will lead to X amount of customers coming through your door. I would say what’s worked well and is working well for us, and there is still a lot of work that we need to be doing on the PPC front, it’s the type of ads that are going out to our customers. Are they resonating with our customers? Are they inviting? Are they exciting enough? But also the keyword search as well. That’s something that we’ve had to do a lot of testing with our agencies to make sure that are we attracting customers through the relevant keywords. On the SEO front, that’s something that takes more time, but we’ve had a lot more success on that front, and that’s because of linking, niche links.
They’ve done a really good job becoming a domain authority. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but on LinkedIn, I am constantly putting out articles showing that I know what’s going on within the expense management phase, comparing and contrasting our product to our competitors. How are we different? Analyzing, doing a lot of research, and showing that, yeah, I know what I’m doing and talking about, and I think everybody in the business is doing the same thing, but that’s all to help our SEO strategy, our SEO strategy, rather. But yeah, it’s something that we’ve been doing over a long period, I would say. It’s felt like a much, much longer period than it has been, and it’s something that we’re just going to continue doing. We go through various iterations of it. It’s not something that this is what you need to do. It’s something that we have to just keep working on both internally, but also with the agencies as well.

Got you. Apart from paid, Google ads, and COO, is there any other channel that you’re leveraging for your traffic generation?

At the moment, we’re focused on those areas. That’s where we’re putting a lot of effort, just because we want to make sure that we are spending time to make it work for us. Then we will certainly look at other avenues. Like I said earlier on, the other avenues that we’re working on, and those I would say would be like the quick wins avenues, is the customers that we’ve got coming from zero. The customers that we’ve got coming from QuickBooks. That’s a big strategy push that we have right now because, as I said, those are the quick wins. We know what those customers want. We’ve done a lot of research into what those customers want. We know how they use zero and how they want to be using zero with an expense provider. Therefore, we’ve made relevant changes to products so that when we have conversations with those customers, we can tick the boxes. I would say that’s one big avenue that we’re looking at and we’re getting a lot of customers from them. But a lot of the focus is and will be on our SEO and PPC so that we can get it right. I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s no easy feat. It takes time.

Because I think the platform is AI-powered. You do have some solutions or can you please tell us a bit about that?

Yes, we have OCR. Is that what you’re talking about? Like the OCR? Yeah, we have that. You can scan a receipt and then the information is automatically inputted into the platform itself. That works well. Then a customer logging into the platform can see all that information inputted and they can add information. So it’s just minimizing the time that the customer is taking to input their expenses. Some of the other areas that we’re looking at as well are around data analytics, because as I said, that’s something that a lot of our customers are coming to you. So we have coming to us for audit trail, making sure that auditors have all the relevant information that they need to look at, that they can look at to be able to make their relevant decisions. I mentioned earlier on, to build your report. That’s working well because, as I said, customers can make whatever type of report that they need, and then they can integrate it into any accounting system, even if we don’t integrate it, integrate with that accounting system. Integration with corporate cards as well. We already have the integration with cards to zero, which automatically and seamlessly goes into our platform.
But if customers have other corporate cards that are not linked to zero, we are looking at ways, I think, in Q1 next year for those transactions to get automatically put into our platform. That will be a big quick win for customers who are using both corporate cards, but also cards attached to Zero and Quickbooks. Virtual assistants, we’ve got a chatbot that works well. I know that Brex, as an example, has created Brex Assistant, which works very similarly to our chatbot. We are making further iterations in our chatbot to make it easier for our customers, even though I think it’s quite easy to use. Then cyber security measures as well. I think that the final thing I would say is that around encryption, also multifactor authentication, we’re bringing that at the end of the year. There are lots of things that we’re doing. We’re constantly looking at what our competitors are doing, particularly around credit cards, particularly around encryption, but also around assistance, basically making it easier, easy for customers to manage that expense management journey.

That’s good, and I do understand because it is all financial. Security and all of those things play a paramount role in your business.

Which is- Oh, yes. The last thing I’d say is APIs. We have open APIs, and that’s a really strong thing that we have, which we’ve had for a long time. So it just means connecting to other systems, to other products is so easy. That’s where I think that with the marketing initiatives that we’re doing, getting our name out there, increasing our domain authority, linking, getting our name out there, means that more customers will say, Oh, what is the ExpenseOnDemand? Oh, their pricing seems good. That looks interesting. I think let’s have a look at it. The fact that we have open HDI, that’s another hall as well, and it’s something that we pull customers further into the conversation because if I can say there are products out there that don’t maybe integrate it well to those systems and sometimes those systems are needed. Approval Max, for it, as an example, is the system that a lot of our customers are using and unfortunately, integration is not that great. That’s another reason why we strongly commit to the open APIs.

Are there any specific challenges that you’re facing with your growth strategy altogether? Let’s talk about that.

I think one is the marketing, as I mentioned, we have a good blueprint now, but that’s taken about five, or six months and I think there are still iterations to be made. There’s still learning. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, and I think there always will be because you can always be bettering that marketing strategy. I think the other thing I would say is the competition. There are so many products out there in the market that do different things. The deep pockets that those companies have as well means that they can build quite innovative things. But I think what helps us in this case is the focus that we have a very focused strategy, and hopefully, I’ve been part of that during this podcast. We also focus on certain types of customers, which some of our competitors do not focus on. They might just be focused predominantly on the enterprise customers, and then also pricing as well. Because our pricing is lower, that’s always going to be something that’s going to help that conversation further down the line. But obviously, it’s up to us to manage that conversation. It goes back to what you asked the staff at the podcast, that low pricing, does it diminish the product?

And that’s for us to manage during the demo. But I think low pricing, especially in the economy that we’re in right now, in the market we’re in, is always going to help in that respect.

But I do agree with you on this. The fact that you’re catering to SMBs and they do appreciate the low price and feature-loaded tools altogether. I’ve dealt with similar niches and I do understand. Concerning unique selling proposition, USPs of your company, feature-wise, is there anything that sets you apart from the world competitive landscape? Anything, any feature that sets you apart?

Yeah, I think the first thing is the user-friendliness. I know that’s, I would say it’s quite a basic thing, but it’s so important to trace. If you look at some of our competitors, yes, they do amazing things. Pleo, and Expensify, they’re amazing platforms and they’re used by many customers. But I think in our case, we worked on user-friendliness, basically making quite complex concepts seem easy. That’s what we’re good at. The second thing I would say is the expense process workflow. It’s really simple, it’s really easy, and you’re able to do quite a lot of things quite quickly, but just with a few clicks. The third thing I would say is the approval flow. We have multiple approval levels, flows, and that cater to the differing or unique needs of the different smaller customers that we’re constantly speaking to. And then, like I said so many times on this call, but it’s so important, is the integration aspect. The fact that our integration into zero, in particular, is going to take seconds from January, that’s a huge pull. And gosh, it minimizes the amount of time that the accounting team or the finance team would be spending on the integration otherwise.

And I do know from my research that our integration is much, much easier than our competition, and it’s a lot more accurate as well. I think those things set us apart. Our 30-day free trial that we have allows customers to see for themselves if what we’re saying is right. We’re not hiding behind anything and we’re not getting our customers to pay for anything until they have a good sense of the system and they can say with a hand on their heart that the system is for them.

The first point that you mentioned was user experience. I would love to know what exactly your process for optimizing user experience looks like. What are the key things that you measure basically?

Great question. I would defer to my QA team for that. I’ll be honest with you, it’s not my domain. As a director of the company, I get involved in it on a high level. But what I know is that and what I can say is that we have a very strong QA team. We have a very stringent, very tough interview process when we’re recruiting quality analysts, we’re looking at the quality of the product. We’re very process-driven as well. But I would want to give too much detail because it’s not my domain, but that’s what I can share.

That’s not a problem. We’re coming to an end, and I would love to have a quick Rapid-fire with you.

I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. It’s been enjoyed it. Thank you.

What one word do you want people to associate you with?

Oh, wow, that’s good. Professional.

Are you a private person or not?

I would say over the years, I have become more private, but as a younger individual, I was not so much, but I’ve become more private as I’ve got older. Maybe that’s a sign of maturity, I don’t know.

We’re done in ways, man. Any funny nicknames your parents friends or work colleagues used to call you?

I would say Sid, but one thing I would say, and it’s not a funny nickname, but the reason why it’s funny for me is that before I worked in France, I was always somebody who wanted my full name to be said. I was really strong on that point. When I went to France, I just realized that with a name like Siddharth, I was just going to be forgotten. I had my full name in my email as well, and I had to shorten pretty much everything so that people would remember me. The same thing when I was in Zurich. I feel like speaking languages and wanting to work within different parts of the world meant that my name had to inevitably be shortened.

That happens. Most of my clients call me H, just H, my initial, that’s it.

I haven’t had that as yet. I think Sid is quite easy in any language. Yeah, in any language. I haven’t had S yet, but don’t speak too soon.

What was your last Google search?

Oh, my God, I’m going to be very boring and say zero integration because as I said, it’s going to take a Long day or what?

Okay. What’s something you could eat for a week straight?

Anything that is chocolate-based. I love chocolate. Yeah, I can’t have enough.

Thank you so much, sir, for the time, and for all the information that you’ve shared about yourself. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. I appreciated it.

Thanks for all this.

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