Johann Vaucanson
Managing Director,
Edenred India

Saving Tax No Longer a Taxing Process!

The Indian companies have been largely forthcoming when it comes to adoption of new ways of doing things. What started with implementation of ERPS and SAP across departments has led to adoption or development of globally accepted superior solutions. Human resource is one such function that has been benefited a ton owing to implementation of systems and processes not only for mapping the efficiency and productivity parameters of the company’s employees but also in introducing new solutions to improve the employee experience, both in and outside the organization.

Meal vouchers globally have been a thriving industry since early 80s as a tool of motivation as well as simplifying the employee’s taxation burden. Being a primate form of prepaid instruments, the vouchers offer liberty to the consumers to shop their monthly groceries without paying cash, at a grocer or store that accepts the vouchers. Till now, there were two limitations in the process that dissuaded mass adoption – one, the vouchers owing to their form are prone to risks that can impede their usability. And two, the risk of the vouchers being disallowed at shops or establishments owing to lack of tie-ups by the issuer company. Not so long ago, while shopping at a departmental store, one would face a long line owing to someone counting and recounting their meal coupons. Usually a booklet with multiple denominations was inconvenient while transacting; but owing to their paper avatar, it always carried a risk of being misplaced, or soiled, or simply left away in some corner of the home or office. The question was how do you simplify an already simplified process? Unless someone started asking how to make it more friendly as a process to its constituents.

The meal voucher industry in India, albeit growing fast, is dominated by two global companies – Edenred (ticket restaurant) and Sodexo. In the past two years, various start-ups have sensed this growing opportunity and have joined the fray.

However, the global footprints coupled with the access to resources make the seemingly six-decade-old companies much agile and efficient to change. This is what happened at Edenred. Sensing the change for a need to simplify the transaction experience, the company started its digital transformation. In doing so, three years back, the company introduced a meal card replacing age-old vouchers. This fully tax-compliant meal card just made the transactions not only smoother at the counters (at the swipe of the card) but more importantly also led to faster on-boarding process for new employees with client companies and easier refill process. For establishments too, it was a win-win proposition – with their lines at the counters moving faster as well as the inconvenience of keeping and depositing vouchers becoming a thing of the past.

The meal card got the company thinking to not only offer a digital product but also create a digital ecosystem to empower its beneficiaries. Hence a mobile app was launched. The app not only allows the beneficiary to access the transaction details and card balances but more importantly also offers a list of shops that accept Ticket Meal Cards, duly mapped as per beneficiary’s present GPS location.

This simple yet thoughtful innovation enabled the company to convert a large proportion of its physical voucher-based clients into digital meal card based. Today, the company has over 500,000 meal card holders in the country and growing. What’s exciting is that public sector companies too are adopting the product and going cashless thereby giving a fitting tribute to PM’s vision of Digital India as well as boosting the morale of its employees – by simplifying a once taxing process.

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