In most of the organizations, including universities, the process to request a reimbursement for a qualifying purchase is severely time-consuming. In majority of the cases, employees spend from their own pockets, then gather receipts and submit them for approval, and the request goes to appropriate supervisor for review, in multiple cases, this review is done by multiple people in the hierarchy and once it is approved the request is forwarded to the finance department for issuing a direct deposit or check. This whole process involves a lot of time and effort. We thought there should be an easy and efficient way to do this, and the result is BuyMeThis.
What it does
This is not just for businesses, say suppose your 8 yr old wants to buy a box of pencils and he/she can just open BuyMeThis android app and search for a box of pencils and request that. A request will be sent to the appropriate approvers, in this case it is mom and dad, so any of them can simply complete the purchase of the item. This is the same case with the businesses when the approver approves the purchase, the amount is deducted from a predefined account rather than charging the employee and the requestor is notified via a text message. One of the interesting features is that every person can be given a certain allowance limit and every time, they request something the approving authority will have a clear view of how much of the allowance is remaining.
How we built it
We built an android app that facilitates the search for any product on multiple marketplaces and gets the results, once a particular item is chosen and requested. The request is sent to the associated approving authority and he gets to see what are the pending requests on his/her end and make a decision. When a decision is made, the purchase with that particular merchant is authorized by Capital One's nessie api, the credit limit and the new balance of the associated account is also reflected in the interface.
Challenges we ran into
The integration of the Amazon Product advertising API, into the android app was really a tough job amazon was limiting us on the calls that we make and there were a ton of security protocols like each time a new search request is made the request has to be signature verified. We also spent a lot of time on designing the database which holds our data really polishing our API to handle requests at various times.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are glad that we tried to solve a problem that currently small and medium businesses live with. Even when everything can be automated, waiting for months to get reimbursed for qualifying expenses didn't make any sense to us.
What we learned
We were surprised to observe that this kind of applications can open the doors for a very healthy relation between merchants, businesses and banks. In our very own example the bank is CapitalOne.It will be a great opportunity for merchants to build good relations with business by providing better service and also for the banks to meet the banking needs of both the employees of the business and the merchant community.
This was our very first android application, we built tons of visualizations and web apps in our previous hackathons, but this was a really wonderful experience. We also put a lot of focus on the backend like database design, API endpoints etc.
What's next for BuyMeThis
We wanted BuyMeThis to be marketplace agnostic, we look forward to integrate even more shopping APIs and provide support for even more banks in our app. The more promising thing that we anticipate is the automation, once we have enough data, we could machine learn the data to see if some of the qualifying purchases can be approved automatically without human intervention. This could make things really fast and simple.