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BENGALURU: Salesforce Inc. is increasingly focusing on small and medium businesses (SMBs) in India as they invest heavily on digital transformation post covid. The US cloud-based software company is on an expansion spree as it plans to hire 12,000 people globally over the next year and 3,000 people in India by 2023.

In an interview, Arundhati Bhattacharya, CEO & chairperson, Salesforce India, spoke about the company's focus on the SMB segment in India, the challenges, the outlook for next year, among others. Edited excerpts:

Are you seeing increased demand from the SMB segment in India post covid?

Small and medium businesses have always been the cornerstone for growth and innovation. With increasing proliferation of digital, SMBs are becoming ubiquitous. Digitalisation will continue to play a key role in this growth and it will rewrite the SMB story.

According to Zinnov research, in 2019, SMBs offered a massive $30-billion digital opportunity, only 53% of which was tapped by players in the ecosystem. This opportunity is set to grow even further.

Across the country, SMBs are spending larger portions of their revenues on technology. According to our Salesforce SMB report, the top priorities for budget allocation in Indian SMBs were - customer relationship management (CRM) followed by technology services and financial software. We have seen immense a year-on-year growth from the SMB segment in India. I also believe an SMB today, could be a unicorn tomorrow. The segment continues to be a huge focus area for us.

What has changed in the market after the covid-19 pandemic?

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation in all aspects of our society. This trend always existed but today it’s imperative for the survival of a business. Leaders now recognize the level of risk that their companies will be exposed to if they don’t have a digital strategy in place. CEOs must now act as chief digital officers too, leading the digitalization of their businesses. The stark reality is that few of us will go back to the way we were before. We are moving to an all-digital work from anywhere world. Digitalization is critical to catalyzing a global recovery. The pandemic has established new ways of working and living, mainly enabled by technology.

How have you addressed the challenges and pivoted to the changes?

We think about the covid-19 crisis in three distinct phases: the crisis response, recovery and reopening the new normal and return to growth. In every phase, we are focused on three areas: health and safety of employees, helping our customers navigate this crisis, and supporting our communities globally. We pivoted our company quickly to help our customers and partners navigate through the crisis. Salesforce has developed a roadmap for rapid response and resiliency. Regardless of where you are in your journey, Salesforce has solutions to help you be successful. We developed Work.com to help businesses build trust and resiliency with employees and customers and make data-driven decisions. It is inspiring to see customers revamp strategies and pivot so quickly to lead through the constant change we are experiencing.

How are you addressing India’s data localization requirements?

Based on our conversations with customers over the last 12 months, we announced that we would have a local instance to host data by the end of this year. An instance is a unit of scale or capacity for our multi-tenant infrastructure. A single instance supports multiple customers. The data for the customer is contained or stored within that instance and customers can view the status of the instance that they are on in real-time.

What’s your strategy and business outlook for next year?

Customer-centric digital transformation is a key area of focus for us as it drives business value, growth, and success for our customers. Second, it is about vertical alignment where we will continue to accelerate our focus on innovation across key industries, creating an ecosystem of trailblazers. Our third area of focus is on the SMB market. Our customised solution Salesforce Essentials will empower every small business to get started and tap into the power of Salesforce. Our fourth area of focus will be on tier-2 and tier-3 market expansion as these cities are showing great propensity to adopt and buy technology. We will also be expanding our footprint to these regions.

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