"Transform-OK-Please": How SAP India is planning to accelerate cloud transformation for mid-market companies

Understanding one of the world's largest software company's foray into Indian mid-market, on a bus!

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As businesses went digital with their operations during and post pandemic, the relevance of cloud transformation has never been higher. It makes sense now to host one's business infrastructure in alignment with the business objectives of the organization over the cloud as remote operation continues to hold significance. An IDC Info-brief on the 'State of Indian Mid-Markets' indicated that 74% of enterprises are likely to move applications to the Cloud in 2022.

SAP India's Transformation Express
SAP India's Transformation Express

Seeing a business opportunity in this movement, SAP India on April 12 released a unique initiative facilitating organizations' transition to cloud. The company released a bus dubbed as the 'Transformation Express' to advance cloud adoption and drive business transformation for Indian mid-market.

On the face of it, the bus appears to be a normal yellow school bus that you might see on the street. But when you step inside it is designed as a hi-tech experience centre, which can facilitate a person's complete learning and understanding of cloud. The bus is equipped with state-of-art technologies like RISE with SAP, SAP's Digital Core, Procurement, Customer and People Experience solutions providing businesses a front row view of how they can speed-up their cloud migration and digital transformation initiatives.

The company launched the bus on a pan-India journey of 45 days, during which it will visit 15 cities. Starting from Delhi, the bus will travel to Gurgaon, Ludhiana, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Coimbatore, Kochi, and Bangalore. In total the journey would be of 7,000 kms. For each kilometre the bus travels, the company has pledged to plant one sapling.

Speaking at the launch, Kulmeet Bawa, President and Managing Director, SAP Indian Subcontinent, said, "Indian SMEs are the engines of economic growth and equitable development. They contribute to more than 30% of our GDP. As the sector grows and expands, moving to cloud is becoming an imperative for organizations to scale. The 'Transformation Express' initiative reaffirms our commitment to empower Indian SMEs to improve cost efficiencies and agility, and transition into intelligent, sustainable enterprises."

Speaking to Entrepreneur India, Bawa confirmed that although the initiative required a lot of planning, it is a one-time thing only at the moment. "Last time we embarked on such a pan India journey was five years ago and we got a good result. There is no plan as of yet to make this a recurring initiative of SAP. It all depends on the response that we get," he discussed.

The bus will stop in each city for two or three days, depending on the clientele and interest that it is able to generate in the city. Another interesting facet of the journey is that SAP has partnered with several academic institutions in the states that they are to touch upon during the journey and will impart education about cloud technology to school going and college going students in the states.

SAP will be joined by their global strategic service partner, Tech Mahindra, to collaboratively bring SAP's 'RISE With SAP' cloud momentum to customers who are across phases of their digital transformation and to give them an entirely new method to reimagine processes for improved business outcomes.

Discussing the business that the bus can be expected to generate for the company, Rahul Singh, VP and Head of Marketing, SAP India, tells Entrepreneur India that the company is planning to touch about 5,000 SMEs in the country. With the infrastructure on the bus, the company will give potential customers, that is, SME companies, function/ industry based demos. Some of the functions that were up for a cloud demo on the bus including financial services, HR tech, consumer goods, among other.

The bus started its journey from Delhi on April 12, post the launch event, and will last reach Bangalore at the culmination of the journey.

SAP India is not, however, undertaking a fresh incursion into the Indian mid-market segment with the bus. It is only a part of their expansion into the space. Singh details that at the moment, over 80 percent of their existing clientele is of mid-sized companies.

Their business numbers are more skewed towards top 10 cities at the moment. However, in the past two years, the company has seen an increase in business from tier-2 and tier-3 cities, more customers are coming in from Surat, Porbandar, etc.

He explains that digital adoption in the MSME sector was still happening pre-pandemic, but the number of customers that they got during and post pandemic was up. "The pandemic was an unfortunate call to many business owners. The message was loud and clear that if they don't demonstrate the agility to adopt changes quickly, they won't survive. Cloud enables that agility to the business owners as it gives them real time visibility. You can look at the performance of multiple facets of your business at a real time, not at the end of the month or on a quarterly basis. It is an exercise in retrospect," Rahul Singh, VP and Head of Marketing, SAP India, said.

To address the business that would come out with this tech adoption, the company launched an MSME initiative called Global Bharat in June, 2020. With Global Bharat initiative, MSMEs will have open access to SAP'S Ariba Discover, where any buyer can post sourcing needs and any of the four million suppliers on Ariba Network and respond with their ability to deliver the goods and services required with no fees. Singh spoke at length about the idea behind Global Bharat, "The idea was to build a three pronged approach that could help mid-market companies. First pillar was an access to global market. When demand dried up, people were looking for new customers, within India or outside, especially companies with export capability. The Ariba platform, which allowed them to list themselves in a market place where companies can find suppliers, put a lot of eyeballs on them and thus possible business opportunities for them. Second pillar was to find out ways to digitally enable their employees, especially given that demand dried up and supply chain also broke. Third pillar was the technology pillar which is provide tech that is affordable and scalable given their work plans."

The program is a subset of their Growth matters forum, which is a community of about 35,000-36,000 business owners in the mid-market. Singh discussed that the platform enables businesses to share knowledge, bring in experts, and share their success stories. They also added another layer to Global Bharat recently, called the Mentors of Global Bharat. The Mentors of Global Bharat program gives 20 selected entrepreneurs the rare chance to network with bigger players and learn from their success stories and best business practices. "We have identified 8 business leaders who will handhold budding talent and share their business acumen with them. SAP India is engaging the business leaders to not only inspire but also to create a platform where they can pass on the mantle of entrepreneurship. As of today, we've 8 mentors and 16 mentees on board," Singh details.

Detailing SAP's future prospects in India, Singh said, "Our focus would be to reach out to companies that are at the threshold of scale and complexities which is suitable for a cloud driven digital transformation. Most look at moving their core operational area to the cloud which is powered by the ERP that we sell. We would also like to forth the transformation of other aspects of business like employee experience, customer experience etc. That is a massive market for us and we are trying to explore it further."