In a previous avatar at SAP AG’s US offices, Ranjan Das, the new president and chief executive for the German software giant’s Indian operations, played an instrumental role in developing its latest offering built on a new framework called SOA (service-oriented architecture, which structures software in a modular fashion and makes it easy for upgradation, customization and maintenance). Assigned with the task of growing SAP’s presence in India, an economy growing at 9%, Das, born and raised in Assam, says he aims to grow SAP’s customer base in India five-fold, from around 3,000 at present to over 15,000, by 2010. Most of the new customers will be from the small and medium enterprise (SME) space, he said in an interview with Mint. Edited excerpts:
Large customers such as ONGC Ltd and Bajaj Auto Ltd already run SAP’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software in India. Where do you see growth coming from?
Indian customers are going to be using more core applications such as ERP and CRM (short for customer relationship management). I believe public sector enterprises and manufacturing companies in the country will be big spenders. I am excited because the pace of change is so fast amongst Indian enterprises, especially at firms such as Tata and Suzlon.
Also, Indian customers are very IT (information technology) literate, so selling new solutions and getting pilot deployments is much easier here.
India also has the best SME growth story for us. We are looking to sign around 15,000 customers in the country by 2010, and majority of them will be from the SME segment. This is the segment where we will compete more with Oracle and Microsoft. At present, we have over 1,000 SME customers.
In three years, India will be the fastest growing market for SAP. I want to transition from a state wherein we are saying ‘the best run businesses run on SAP’ to ‘India runs SAP’.
As SAP customers such as Tata grow dramatically and acquire other firms, there is a need for adapting to a business process platform, with an underlying layer of core applications such as ERP and CRM.
There are around 75,000 members of SAP’s software developer network in India—almost 10% of the global SAP developer community. We also have a council called ‘Business Process Expert’, which has around 20,000 members from India. These guys are business analysts and technology evangelists continuously giving feedback to us.
Your arch-rival Oracle Corp. has been quite active in the Indian market, especially on the business software side. Do you foresee any strong competition?
We have a better chance because we are the complete story—across large, medium and small enterprises.
Let’s understand what the customers want. They want to enable and optimize their business processes with the help of technology. Now, what Oracle is trying to do is integrate different pieces of business applications.
Their recently announced ProjectX is apparently going to take capabilities from 31 application suites and loosely stitch them! What is worrying here is the term ‘loosely’, because you are not sure if you will be able to get things like business logic right. Oracle has got a reasonable database, but on the application side we are good while they are OK.
What are your plans for offering your applications on a pay-per-use basis to the Indian customers?
My personal view is that software-as-a-service is still evolving, because not all applications could be offered through a hosted model. However, since some customers want flexibility, we cannot ignore this model, and have started offering our CRM software (on a pay-per-use model).
How does service-oriented architecture make life easy for Indian chief information officers (CIOs)?
SOA helps IT align with business and make rigid business processes flexible. A survey of 175 customers earlier this year told us CIOs are looking for operational efficiency and business agility by addressing integration challenges. Our ‘Business Process’ platform and SOA solutions help them achieve exactly this.