Digital transformation was a line item on many business agendas long before COVID-19, but the pandemic catapulted it to the top of the priority list for virtually every organisation in the world.

German software giant SAP is increasingly focusing on digitally transforming micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in India by helping them migrate to the cloud. In an interview, Kulmeet Bawa, president & managing director, SAP Indian subcontinent, talks about the firm’s priorities, focus on the MSME sector, and how it is helping customers adopt digital technologies.

Edited excerpts:

What are the key business priorities for SAP in India?

SAP has 48 years of strong and rich history of innovation. In India, SAP has seen customers transition from the mainframe age, to the client server era, and now taking onto the cloud. Strategically, I believe SAP is at an inception point of becoming a true cloud company which is more critical in today’s context. I have experienced it and am a firm believer that cloud technologies are instrumental for businesses to make use of big data and to develop new business models.

The need to be digital and doing it in an agile way on cloud is imperative. Customer success is a top priority for us now more than ever. Our aim is to elevate customer experience and make it easier for them to not only have access to the right solutions but the business values that can help them run better. I would also like to add a lot of emphasis on the potential of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

How are you tapping into the SME segment?

SAP is all set to support and enable the SME market by helping them embrace digitalization, focus on upskilling their workforce and enhancing overall business value. Our recently launched Global Bharat Program is designed to enable Indian MSMEs become globally competitive by equipping them with digital technologies. Approximately 80% of SAP India’s customers are SMEs. What we like to do is help SMEs maintain their vision, speed, and flexibility and we stand strong to support them in embracing digitization, focusing on upskilling their workforce and enhancing overall business value.

Global Bharat will enable SMEs to become future-ready while driving greater efficiencies by adopting three initiatives: gaining access to global marketplace, digitally skilling workforce, and digitally transforming businesses.

What’s the strategy to sail through the pandemic?

SAP’s business continuity has not been impacted. We were able to quickly identify trends impacting the marketplace such as supply backlogs, job posting reduction, increased e-commerce order volumes, etc. We shifted computing resources to cloud products to help our customers continue running and offer digital solutions. We have automated many of our processes and made them more intelligent. Remote operation across all functions has been a reality at SAP for many years.

How are you helping your customers go digital?

In good times and challenging times, all businesses have the same goal—they want to run at their best. They want to adapt to changing markets and business models. Digital transformation was a line item on many business agendas long before COVID-19, but the pandemic catapulted it to the top of the priority list for virtually every organization in the world. Helping customers succeed always starts with the customer, not technology.

SAP first recommends embracing a mindset shift—around business outcomes rather than rapid adoption for the sake of innovation. Second, partnership, direction, and knowledge are key differentiators and game-changers, so choose the right partner. Last, customers need to adapt, stay agile, deliver quick time to value, and become integrated businesses.

What is SAP doing to develop digital skills in the country?

Through our Code Unnati corporate-to-citizen digital literacy and IT skills development initiative, we aim to foster digital inclusion in India. Since the launch in June 2017, Code Unnati has digitally educated 1.8 million citizens and trained 5,200 teachers across 1,500 centres. As part of the Global Bharat initiative, MSMEs will have access to Code Unnati’s 240+ courses on digital financial, soft skills, productivity tech that will digitally skill their blue-collared workforce, helping them adapt to the new working environments.