Text Book Centre (TBC) reinvented their business with SAP on Google Cloud by Incentro and Soft Consult

The case summary

No industry has been untouched by the pandemic. Businesses have to change overnight to stay relevant and grasp new opportunities. Cloud gives you that agility. Read on how Text Book Centre (TBC) reinvented its business as Incentro does the rest.

The reinvention of the retail business

Retailers today are facing some of the most formidable headwinds the industry has ever seen. Retail executives have to deal with rapidly rising customer expectations, increased competition from non-traditional retail business models and formats, rapid technological shifts, and continued pressure on margins. Text Book Centre (TBC), the leading bookstore chain in East Africa, is in this business. Its retail, wholesale, and distribution services have unrivalled capacity.

This is to meet the demands of the region’s vibrant education sector, stretching beyond the boundaries of Africa to the Diaspora. With its flagship store at Sarit Centre, TBC currently has ten branches with a plan to open more. It was founded in 1964 as a partnership between two businessmen in Kenya, S Vidhu Shah and Mahesh J Rughani. Over the years, TBC has grown tremendously to become the unrivalled leading bookstore chain in East Africa.

The problem

TBC was trying to modernise the organisation and brand from an operational perspective and to ensure the business was more consumer-driven. With employees empowered to meet their customers’ needs efficiently. One of the biggest blockers to this was an outdated ERP system that had been in place for the last 15 years, which could not meet the growing demands of the business with over ten remote branches operating in Kenya alone.

Led by the Managing Director, Armand Houhau, the team quickly put down their requirements. Further evaluation led to choosing SAP as an ERP platform. The next big decision was the infrastructure that would host the SAP workload. The choices were on-prem and Cloud hosting.

The goal

The management team was ambitious and forward-thinking regarding what the organisation should look like in the next five years. Moving to the Cloud was a no-brainer. It was the right choice with considerations like future flexibility, scalability and ease of management, and access. “It was not a hard decision; the goal was to ensure we focus on what makes the difference for our consumers and offer better services to our customers and not spend our resources in managing infrastructure.” – Armand Houhau, MD Text Book Centre.

The solution

Text Book Centre benchmarked the three largest public Cloud companies to decide which one they would choose to run their SAP workloads on. They benchmarked Amazon (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and finally met Incentro, who demonstrated the capabilities of Google Cloud Platform.

The firm was convinced that in terms of flexibility, for example, in virtual machine sizes, Google was superior. TBC also believed Google Cloud was more innovative than other cloud solutions; that it has better monitoring capabilities with services like StackDriver Monitoring and leveraging BigQuery to enrich data and run advanced analytics for full insight across the business.

Another argument to “go Google” was the price. Google pricing was a lot more compelling compared to other Cloud vendors.

Echoing the decision was Dennis de Weerd, CEO, Incentro Africa. “The reasons to choose Cloud have become even more obvious. The fragility of logistics, maintenance, and the need for physical presence to manage and maintain a data centre has become a big challenge for companies. While it’s business as usual for companies who’ve adopted Cloud.”

The journey to the Cloud

A challenge for TBC in migrating SAP workloads to Google Cloud Platform was that they didn’t have any experience with Google Cloud, nor sufficient resources to gain these capabilities internally.

That’s why they decided to work with Google Cloud Premier Partner Incentro, who has experience with migrating their customer’s SAP workloads to Google Cloud.

Incentro was vital in helping TBC understand what it means to be on, and optimise, the Cloud. Incentro simplified the journey with best practices and reference architectures while providing proactive support, security, and analytics reporting.

It is refreshing to work with a visionary leader like Armand, who just gets it. No quick fixes or keep doing what you’ve done for the last decade, but leapfrog forward and truly embrace the amazing opportunities Cloud has to offer.” – Dennis de Weerd, CEO Incentro Africa.

Every enterprise customer is different. Each has its unique journey when it comes to migrating SAP applications. Incentro offered market-approved industry-specific best practices tied to reference architectures, underpinned by SAP Platform, and GCP services through their transformation.

These solutions helped TBC modernise and create experiences using 100 per cent VM-based, highly secure, and highly available Google Cloud infrastructure, as well as access to the latest advances in the areas of Big Data, analytics, and Machine Learning (ML).

“Incentro embraces commitments of partners and customers who are bold to continue growing their business and offerings even in unfavourable conditions. It is through this resilience and working as one team that more growth than had been anticipated is realised.” – Simon Muraya, Lead Google Cloud Consultant, Incentro.

The methodology

In a nutshell, the methodology brought together TBC, SAP Platform Consulting Partner, Soft Consult Limited, and Incentro. The migration of SAP workloads was done in phases. First, the development environment at Google was completed. Next, the testing environment for agile testing and lastly, the production environment was live.

This was the most seamless digital transition I have experienced.” – Armand Houhau, MD Text Book Centre.

The results

The upfront cost was minimal compared to the massive upfront investment required for on-premise physical servers. In addition, Google Cloud Platforms offered a “pay as you go solution offering”. Only pay for what you need, scale VMS with additional vCPU, RAM, and Disk on-demand as the database grows or shrinks during the year.

Google Cloud uptime SLA at >= 99.99 per cent during the COVID-19 period. Operations, especially online purchases, have remained efficient with sales and IT teams being able to access the information they need anywhere, anytime.

Unmatched flexibility: TBC can turn servers on and off on an as-needed basis, thus running a flexible environment that will allow more innovation in e-commerce, providing new apps for their clients, and such, saving up to 50 per cent of site reliability engineers’ time for innovation.

” Going Cloud was the best decision we made this year.” – Ezekiel Kagongo, IT Manager, Text Book Centre.

The future and next steps

The TBC team is delighted with the collaboration and partnership with Incentro in their Cloud journey. Armand reaffirms this saying, “This is a great kickoff to our Cloud journey. We are working on a three-year road map to offload all workloads to Google Cloud and become a digitally driven company.”

He continues, “We would like to build dynamic customer experiences: leverage products including App Engine, Cloud Datastore, Cloud Storage, and Chrome-based devices to build custom apps and power dynamic kiosks/signage enabling us to improve customer engagement and influence in-aisle purchase and point-of-sale decisions.”

His vision does not end there. “The goal, in the long run, is to Transform the workforce: G Suite and highly secure devices, including Android and Chromebooks, can empower us to transform how our sales associates work. Google Cloud also enables us to provide these tools at scale with unparalleled affordability.”

“Cloud is more than a virtual data centre, and it is about more than just saving costs. This leapfrog technology will enable early adopters in this market to beat the competition. Definitely. I’m convinced that TBC is going to be one of them,” concludes Dennis de Weerd, CEO Incentro Africa

About Incentro

Incentro is a Google Premier Partner with over ten years of experience in Cloud migration, Enterprise Collaboration and smart application development. We have grown our Cloud team in Africa over the last three years, making sure we are ready to support organisations like TBC on their Cloud journey and give them that competitive edge.

We support companies opening up their time to innovate and grab that competitive advantage by reducing the time spent on operational maintenance. Migrating on-premise data (centres) to the Cloud is a proven Cloud strategy. From Hybrid Cloud to a Full Cloud, native infrastructure, we meet you where you are and will get you there.

This article first appeared in CIO East Africa.