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Inside Bridgestone’s digital collections journey in India

By Peter Shadbolt Mar 25, 2021

Jyotsna Sharma, Bridgestone’s chief financial officer in India, spoke to CT about how the digitalisation of it its treasury helped to unlock almost €5 million ($5.9 million) in cashflow over an eight-month period.

India’s corporate treasuries are notoriously paperwork heavy. Many corporates still reconcile cheque payments or plough through bank statements that require disparate file formats.

Bridgestone, however, wanted to modernise its approach in India. After years of grappling with a manual payment collection process that was negatively affecting its working capital, the firm decided to apply the Freepay solution amid a drive to digitise.

According to chief financial officer (CFO) Jyotsna Sharma, Bridgestone India has now reduced its days sales outstanding (DSO) – or the average time taken to get paid after invoicing – by six days, unocking €4.8 million in cash flow over an eight-month period.

“We now have a fully-automated collections process that’s resulted in huge savings from a resource perspective,” Sharma told CT.

Freepay is an electronic invoice presentment and processing (EIPP) and reconciliation solution from Global PayEx, a fintech backed by JP Morgan. It works by allowing dealers to pay invoices directly via the self-serviced portal through their desktop or mobile device. It adds an incentivise of cash discounts and credit notes against outstanding invoices.

The cloud-based platform also facilitates the electronic sharing of invoices, handling of payments and comprehensive management of transaction information between Bridgestone India and its dealers- in turn, removing all manual intervention in the process from end to end.

“We are also able to track and analyse at a granular level data we didn’t have before,” added Sharma. “This allows us to extract intelligence and improve our collections process.”

Modernising

Bridgestone India, a subsidiary of the world’s leading tyre manufacturer Bridgestone Corporation, has been operating in India for over two decades.

Even as the firm expanded its business rapidly to become a major supplier to key original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in the auto industry, its treasury processes remained largely manual.

On a daily basis, Bridgestone India would collect payments from its large network of dealers across the country through traditional methods such as cheques that had to be manually reconciled against the outstanding invoices in its enterprise resource planning system. The firm also needed to reconcile a large number of bank statements across different institutions and file formats.

According to Sharma, the entire process was laborious, often resulting in delays in collection and longer order-to-cash cycles that affected the company’s working capital efficiency.

In short, the new system outstrips by an order of magnitude the paperwork systems that were previously in place, explained Sharma.

In addition, Bridgestone India has added multiple bespoke features to the solution including, allowing dealers the flexibility to pay in advance. This has propelled Bridgestone India’s collections process ahead of its peers in the industry.

The launch of the solution before Covid-19 was also timely, as the widespread lockdown across India during the height of the pandemic put many firms with manual processes on a backfoot.

“Our digital collections went from 22% before Covid-19 to 80% today,” said Sharma. “We are expecting further efficiencies in our working capital as we look towards onboarding all of our dealers onto the platform. We have received great feedback from them on the seamless experience of their payment process so it’s really a win-win for both parties.”

Strategic

JP Morgan made a strategic investment into Global PayEx in 2019 to address clients’ specific concerns in the B2B payments space, particularly around reconciliation of payments.

“The B2B payments space continues to grow at an exponential pace, and we see Freepay as an enabler for many of our clients operating in an environment where collections processes remain highly manual Interest is high in this product; we currently having active conversations with 100 clients and expect similar success with this solution as demonstrated in the case of Bridgestone,” said Guhaprasath Rajagopal, JP Morgan’s head of wholesale payments for India.

As a next step, Bridgestone India will be looking to apply the collections solutions for its other lines of business, including merchandising.

“Digitalisation of our finance processes continues to be a key priority for us at Bridgestone India. We are delighted to see great progress with JP Morgan’s solution that has helped us overcome some of the longstanding challenges around manual processes that we face operating in this market while staying compliant with regulatory requirements,” added Sharma.

J.P. Morgan Invests in Indian Fintech to Improve Ease of B2B Payments 

The leading global financial services firm has invested in Global PayEX as it seeks to enhance the efficiency and experience of B2B transactions for corporate clients in Asia Pacific.

Mumbai, India, May 13, 2019 – Global PayEX, a fast-growing player in the Electronic Invoice Presentment & Payment (EIPP) and business-to-business (B2B) payments space based in India, today announced a strategic investment by J.P. Morgan. Global PayEX offers Freepay – a cloud-based platform that facilitates the electronic sharing of invoices, handling of payments and comprehensive management of transaction information between B2B buyers and sellers.

The investment will help J.P. Morgan’s clients experience clearer electronic invoice presentation and quicker reconciliation. The Freepay platform is fully-automated and self-servicing, delivering immediate cost and time savings. Its real-time feature and sophisticated analytics function provide corporates with full visibility of their payment status as well as insights on their receivables collection, which can in turn help optimize working capital. 

“At J.P. Morgan, we are committed to providing market-leading digital capabilities across our products and services. Our strategic investment in Global PayEX is a significant step towards working with our clients in a more nimble way and enhancing their experience at every interaction. This partnership will provide complementary solutions to our existing suite of financial services and help clients build a robust digital payment ecosystem,” said Kalpana Morparia, Chairman of South and Southeast Asia, J.P. Morgan.

Global PayEX is fast-becoming a dominant provider of EIPP – self-service portals that allows the exchange of invoices online – in India.

“At J.P. Morgan, we continue to invest in innovation to help our clients optimize and simplify their payment operations. We want to deliver the best available technology, whether it’s built in-house or through Fintech partnerships. This investment is a great example of our commitment to address our clients’ specific concerns in the B2B payments space, which continues to grow at an exponential pace,” said Sridhar Kanthadai, Head of Wholesale Payments for Asia Pacific at J.P. Morgan.

Mohan Krishnan, Founder, Global PayEX said, “Global PayEX is helping to redefine the B2B payments and receivables management in India and we are encouraged to see Freepay servicing a fast-growing list of global and Indian companies in almost every industry sector, which includes 30 live clients and over 100 active prospects across multiple geographies.”

“This investment is a logical evolution of our existing strong partnership with world’s leading financial institutions such as J.P. Morgan and it clearly helps us extend our footprint to the global markets in the Far East, Middle East, Europe and the United States.” said Brij Sharma, CEO, Global PayEX.

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