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How SAP is Impacting the Start-up Ecosystem In every corporate complacency seeps in after a certain period of time. But what can one do to avoid the same?

By Punita Sabharwal

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In every corporate complacency seeps in after a certain period of time. But what can one do to avoid the same? Either one can replicate the way start-ups work and their culture or make them a part of one's campus. The latter seems like a better option. The German enterprise software giant SAP did just that. Here's how.

Dilip Khandelwal has worked across SAP's technology and business portfolios namely product development, quality, partner qualification, consulting, support, localization and now more prominently cloud delivery. Khandelwal has also led SAP to the number one slot in the great places to work. His aim has been to revamp the culture with innovation that too with start-ups. Khandelwal comes from a business family background and says he is the only one in his family who's working for others. One can sense his love for start-ups in his long working hours and his passion for learning. His day starts early at 8 in the morning and ends at 10 in the night. Khandelwal has spent more than 16 years with the tech giant. He holds dual responsibility at SAP. In his role as the President of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC), he is responsible for SAP's HEC Business globally. Additionally, he heads the cloud delivery, globalization services and the support functions. The 40-year-old is also the managing director for SAP Labs in India where he is responsible for SAP's development facilities in Bangalore, Pune and Gurgaon.

Today, SAP offers applications and services that enable companies across more than 26 industries irrespective of size, to run simply and smoothly. SAP is the technology partner of choice for more than 9,700 customers across the Indian subcontinent, out of which 7,300+ customers are SMEs.

Culture for Innovation

This year itself SAP was listed first among the best places to work with for providing the culture of innovation in a survey carried out by Great Place to Work Institute. To support employees who want to pursue their entrepreneurial desires, SAP Labs started a sabbatical programme in August 2016, exclusively in India. Employees who have successfully completed two years or more in SAP are eligible to apply for the sabbatical leave for up to two years. Till date, three employees have taken up the entrepreneur sabbatical and if their ventures take off, they can continue their entrepreneurial path and if not, they will be welcomed back to SAP Labs. Khandelwal says, "When you are looking to scale up, certain things need to be replaced. It is all about how you get ground-level innovation in place and build a culture to promote innovation, irrespective of size. The collective mind of so many people can just multiply as opposed to somebody merely giving you directions from the top." In a large enterprise, this process at times takes over the culture. As for a small enterprise, you are nimble and adaptive but it becomes much more complex when the organization scales as the processes somehow start interfering. You need certain processes to reach that scale. According to him, it is better to rather create a platform wherein employees get opportunities to come up with ideas. In the words of Khandelwal, "If you have to improve people's lives it has to be done via technology, via innovation. That way you will create a massive impact."

Building Collaborations

SAP Start-up Studio is a two-year old start-up accelerator program aimed at providing end-to-end engagement platform to start-ups to accelerate their growth story. NASSCOM has recognized it among India's top 10 corporate accelerators. Start-up Social is SAP's flagship annual event for nurturing and fostering start-up ecosystem, which is attended by over 400+ ecosystem stakeholders and over 30+ investors.

SAP recently announced the graduation of 16 start-ups from the second cohort of its accelerator program. Six of these start-ups are developing co-innovation products with SAP, while a few others are building on the SAP Leonardo platform that combines emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced analytics and blockchain to solve specific business problems.

There are two investment arms of SAP. Sapphire Venture based out of US invests in mature start-ups. Their focus is market's current happenings. In 2017, SAP launched its $35 million artificial intelligence-focused fund SAP.iO, which is an early-stage investment arm of SAP. Last year, it made its first investment in

About the second cohort, Khandelwal says, "From seven start-ups we have 16 start-ups now. We help them in aligning; we link them if it makes sense to invest. B2B procurement start-up Moglix was one of the seven start-ups to have graduated from the first cohort. While selecting the start-ups we are looking at some critical technologies, which will impact the world."

(This article was first published in the October issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

Punita Sabharwal

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur India


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