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Number Crunching: A smart calculator for shopkeepers

Tohands’ device helps keep a tab on daily debits and credits

Number Crunching: A smart calculator for shopkeepers
Praveen Mishra

By Anuj Bhatia

A year BACK, Praveen Mishra, the co-founder of Tohands, thought making a ‘smart’ calculator would be a stupid idea and nobody would want it. But when he saw a woman running a small store in Sarjapur, Bengaluru, struggling to keep track of all the transactions, Mishra realised the importance of a ‘smart’ calculator that also records the data. “She would calculate the final amount on the calculator and write it on paper and then at the end of the day, would again calculate the final amount using a calculator,” he said.

“Calculators have a basic use case but we can do other things on top of the calculation, making the smart calculator a good tool for shopkeepers,” said Mishra, explaining the idea behind turning the humble calculator into a ‘connected’ one. He started Tohands in 2017 along with Satyam Sahu and Shanmuga Vadival.

Backbone of small businesses
Mishra observed that small business owners are neither comfortable using the digital khata (cash book) mobile apps nor do they have the resources to invest in expensive billing machines. What they prefer is a simple calculator to perform the regular computations that are involved in everyday life. “The backbone of small businesses in India is still a calculator,” he said. This was when he decided to reimagine the calculator but the challenge was how to make it better.

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The first version of the ‘smart’ calculator Mishra developed was a Raspberry Pi-powered prototype of a device, featuring a keyboard and two buttons—one for credit and another for debit. The second version was a much more polished product and featured the calculation functionality as well as the credit and debit feature but the screen was small and the device used a membrane keyboard. It was only when Tohands got selected at T-hub, an incubation centre for IT startups at Raidurgam in Hyderabad, that Mishra and his team were motivated to take another shot at hardware and level up the design to make the smart calculator a reality. The third version of the smart calculator, priced at `3,000, is more user-friendly and can do a lot more than the first and second versions combined.

Emphasising on small things
Mishra said it applied the principle of MAYA (Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable). For instance, the button pattern on this smart calculator is somewhat similar to what you see on a Casio or Citizen calculator. However, there are subtle changes that are unique to this calculator. The memory buttons on the calculator have been made small to accommodate the cash-in and cash-out buttons, for which Mishra’s startup has applied for a patent.

What the smart calculator does as opposed to a regular calculator is that it records all the calculations. The connected calculator supports Wi-Fi and there is a mobile app that shows the transaction on your smartphone. There is a 16MB built-in memory, which can store 5 million transactions. The device comes with a 2400mAh rechargeable battery, a USB-C port for charging, and a dot-matrix display.

Future plans
Mishra said Tohands plans to roll out new features and improve capabilities via OTA updates. The target is to build 2,000 units per month and expand it to 1 lakh units by next year. The firm has received Rs30 lakh as investment from the T-hub Startup India Seed Fund and anotherRs 20 lakh from angel investors. The funds will be used to set up a manufacturing unit for these smart calculators.

KEEPING COUNT

The connected smart calculator supports Wi-Fi and there is a mobile app that shows the transaction on your smartphone
Tohands aims to build 2,000 units per month and gradually expand it to 1 lakh units by next year
The startup has received Rs 30 lakh as investment from the T-hub Startup India Seed Fund and another Rs 20 lakh from angel investors

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First published on: 20-10-2022 at 01:30 IST