There’s a war being waged over Australia’s small businesses.
The prize is a market where 70% of Australians with a business are using an accountancy software package.
It is valued, according to analysts IBISworld, at more than $1 billion, and there are more than 2 million small businesses.
Intuit, the maker of the popular accountancy package for small businesses Quickbooks, sees itself as the underdog in the Australian market.
Ignore the fact that Intuit has been around for three decades. The American group hasn’t actually had a presence in Australia before now.
Intuit sold its famous Quickbooks via local player Reckon. Now the relationship has ended, and that its software is run in the cloud rather from a disk loaded to a PC, Intuit has what it calls a startup operation in Australia.
Reckon did about $80 million in revenue in 2013. It’s not known how much of that was the Quickbooks business but in the financial year ended it increased sales to $98 million by using its own cloud-based software, Reckon One.
MYOB, another player, is estimated to have revenue of $130 million.
Intuit’s share isn’t known but the stakes are high.
In the first public salvo aimed at Xero, the accounting software company which started in New Zealand and is now rapidly growing in Australia, Intuit setup a special website and released details of a survey comparing QuickBooks Online vs Xero.
The survey, according to Intuit, shows that twice as many preferred QuickBooks Online over Xero.
And it quotes Richard McNair, office manager at Bellson Electric in Carringbah NSW, saying that QuickBooks Online is his pick over Xero.
“Xero was a bit confusing for a first time user,” he says. “With QuickBooks Online it was quick and easy to get started. I had no problems. I was completely confident with completing key tasks. I had a ‘wow’ moment when invoicing with QuickBooks Online – it was so much easier than I thought, so simple and quick.”
Intuit’s managing director for Australia is Nicolette Maury, a former ebay executive, who started in February.
She’s got a team of 30 in a serviced office and is on the hunt for something more permanent.
“We’re busting out of our walls and looking for some permanent space,” she says. “We’re experiencing explosive growth in Australia.”
Maury says Intuit is playing the challenger role really, making some noise in the market and putting some facts on the table.
“Being new to the market, we’re spend a lot of our time watching what our customers do and getting those deep customer insights which make our product better,” she says.
“We’re the young upstart, the newcomer to the market.”
“That’s the beauty of being a brand new business here. We’re developing our own design of what we want to be.”
Does that mean Intuit is cool like other startups?
“We are really focused more on understanding our customers deeply and build great products for them rather than going out and wearing cool t-shirts,” she says. “But I will always sport a cool t-shirt if you give me a t-shirt.”
Xero says it’s hard to remove bias from a survey commissioned by a vendor and a sample set of 134 people is hardly significant.
“We’ll let our 120,000+ Australian (and growing fast) small business customers do the talking,” Xero said in a statement.
Xero does $1 billion in payroll in Australia each month.
And Xero is growing fast. It just posted $70.1 million in operating revenue for the 2014 financial year, up from $39 million in FY2013.
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