Hi all,
This is a 3-part series report on the second Hamaralinux Conference held at Courtyard Mariott on 20th September 2015. The first deals with using free software for financial accounting.

For sometime, me, Vikas, Raju and few others have been wanting to do some sort of meetup of GNU/Linux enthusiasts and would-be enthusiasts in Pune. Previously we were thinking of having a minidebconf in Pune, but when that didn’t pan out, we thought why not have the second Hamaralinux conference in Pune. So after lot of back and forth we got a venue about a week-10 days before the event and tried to pull it off.

Some of the worries I had were, I hope it doesn’t rain and I hope there isn’t much of Ganpati traffic (as this was at start of Ganesh Chaturthi which is very revered and celebrated here. As well as people may not come because it is a Sunday where people want to take it easy.) With all such trepidations, nervousness and excitement reached the venue at 09:30 hrs. Met Raju, his friend, had a quick look at the arrangements, had a brief talk with the TBS team and next thing you know it’s already 10:30 a.m. We started around 11:00 hrs. as it was Sunday and people were still filing in.

We started with a brief introduction round where everybody shared what they are doing and what they hope to learn and take-away from the conference. It also gave us some idea and indication as to people’s expectations so that each of us could change a little bit if needed to conform to people’s expectations if need be but as again it was predominantly was a newbie crowd, we didn’t have to change much.

After the introductions, it was time for Krishnakant Mane of Digital Freedom Foundation to share about Gnukhata. Gnukhata is a client-server free software product written in python having it’s own interface while it also can be used through a browser. He shared quite a bit as to how it’s similar to Tally in functionality as it mimics some of Tally functionality while still being a clean-room implementation. He shared a comment about CA’s being extremely conservative and somewhat narrow-minded (not all but a majority).

I am somewhat ambivalent to that statement but do understand the reluctance as come from a family which has its shares of CA’s as well as other professions. Unlike technology, changes in finance law and accounting procedures take a lifetime as they affect whole stratas of societies and goods and services which people do not even think of. For e.g. if you look at VAT, you would know and understand how it made things so much pricier as before as the tax is built-in at each stage and even though you are supposed to negate between input VAT and outgoing VAT it still makes our products pricier. While I do remember the discussions around it, which are and were much similar to what GST is going to be like but as we know VAT just became another tax on top of all other taxes that were supposed to be merged. Some part in this is also being played by the CA association which also wants to have the same status quo and hence chose to be silent then and now. I do understand that they may have their own obligations and issues that are also not being addressed as well.

But as this is not an economics or even a finance blog, hence let’s go back to technology.Krishnakant went a little deeper and shared how the ledger looks, how the trial balance looks and how the eventual balance-sheet looks like and how you can do all that in a moment whereas in Tally it takes hours as each account needs to be semi-manually closed and then carried over to next year. He also shared how you could look at the cash-flow at any moment in time and cross-check that with your bank pass-book. Their only bane seems to be reports and while they have reports, they need to prepare more reports and more types of reports which can be used by Chartered and other Accounts people to have a look at the state of accounts in any way possible. As someone who did Commerce in College and used to pore on Annual Reports and had and have access to people, there are multiple ways in which people can make sense if a company is doing good or not depending on the figures shared. There are also terms such as sugarcoat accounting or more commonly known as creative accounting where people hide stuff more than they show (this is what most of the Governments do, including ours most of the times). But as shared again, this is a technology blog so we won’t get into it as we are supposed to trust the data that is given to us.

 

Krishnakant sharing about gnukhata

 

When asked for the future roadmap, apart from doing more reports, making and re-designing the web interface a bit, maybe some work on the internals too which might need tweaking every year as our esteemed Finance Minister change laws due to taxation and other laws, the biggest idea that he had was of having bare-foot accountants. The idea of barefoot accountants is a hack on similar concept of barefoot doctors, barefoot engineers and others. The most notable project of Barefoot Engineers is in Rajasthan.


Barefoot doctors are yet to make a mark in india due to the peculiarities of the Indian culture and our own infantile understanding of medicine wherein at one level we think of godmen and quakes as true healers and on the other hand we won’t trust somebody who is not an MBBS. Our next door neighbor China meanwhile, have had a huge success with barefoot doctors. In this instance, we would well do to take a leaf out of their book.


 

The idea of barefoot accountants is on the similar premise as the other two. The idea is simple, have any 12th standard pass person who understands even the basics of Accounting rules, takes a training of a week (or even less) or 2 weeks at the most depending on the learner’s ability, understanding the UI, the logic of the program and then let him/er do the books of small shops. This will in one turn reduce quite a bit of black money which is casually created (due to account books not being kept properly) as well as having an army of Accountants which could later be used to also over-see all and any infrastructure projects happening in the village also cutting down the corruption in the villages.

While the idea has lots of merit, implementation may have lot of bugs but as of now it’s great. After this, he also shared a bit about how Orca (a foss screen-reader) reads and how he’s able to access the desktop (krishnakant is fully blind.) He also shared what all improvements can be made to Orca, for e.g. they need different accents as sound samples among other things. Sharing that, he whisked away as he had some urgent work in Mumbai.