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SAP Ariba and Muru: Trail-Blazing Startup Uses Profits to Make the World a Better Place

Feature Article | September 13, 2017 by Susan Galer

When Mitchell Ross co-founded Muru Office Supplies, he couldn’t think of a more fitting name for his Australian-based office supply startup.

That’s because Muru means pathway in the coastal Sydney Aboriginal language, a pitch-perfect reflection of the mission behind this certified Indigenous business. Muru donates 15 percent of company profits to community projects and initiatives.

Ross is dedicated to providing a pathway that helps Indigenous people improve their lives

“We are dedicated to providing a pathway that helps Indigenous people improve their lives,” said Ross. “Even as we’re all busy in our daily lives, you have to take a step back and ask yourself what kind of world do you want to live in and want your children to have. If we all play a role in our local community, we can make the world a better place.”

As an Indigenous entrepreneur whose bona fides include growing up in a close-knit Aboriginal community, Ross was keenly aware that other people around him lacked the same advantages he enjoyed.

“I was lucky to have two parents with great jobs, but other people around me didn’t have that and faced many hardships,” said Ross. “I wanted to go into business not just for financial gain, but to put myself in a position where I could give back and make a difference in my community, as well as others in Australia.”

SAP Ariba helps Muru provide a pathway for Indigenous people to improve their lives

Muru is sponsoring an early education program in Queensland designed to prepare young children with the knowledge that’s vital to their future. Historically, Indigenous children reach primary school behind in their literacy skills, and this support is designed to help level the playing field for them to learn and grow. Additionally, the company has sponsored a computer literacy training program for people living in Pormpuraaw, a remote Indigenous community on the western side of Cape York.

Having a higher purpose also helps attract top talent and great customers from diverse backgrounds who share a social responsibility spirit.  Ross added, “There’s certainly a business case for it. You may have less employee churn and higher staff morale.”

From IT Support to National CEO

Ross said he organically fell into selling office supplies after beginning his career in IT support, followed by providing printer products to large companies that demanded a wider array of products. Today he is CEO of what’s become a thriving office supply and stationery business, selling over 20,000 products from nine warehouses throughout Australia. To streamline logistics for its fast-growing customer base, Muru partnered with COS, the largest family-owned office supply company in the country, and joined the Ariba Network.

“COS has been using SAP Ariba for a number of years, and partnering with them has given us the ability to go to market and effectively compete with larger companies,” he said. “We’ve won 100 percent of Fortescue Metals Group’s office supply business, and greatly increased our opportunities to generate more revenue. All of our respective organizations have great synergies, sharing the same values to grow a substantial business that also gives back.”

Virtuous Cycle of Doing Good Through Business

According to Alex Atzberger, President of SAP Ariba, Muru’s experience typifies the kind of social impact and positive change on people’s lives that both organizations stand behind.

“Across procurement, we see people trying to tackle issues that impact the global supply chain such as slavery, poverty, diversity, conflict minerals. But they are struggling because they lack visibility and data on their suppliers,” said Atzberger. “At SAP Ariba, we connect more than 2.8 million companies around the world – many of whom share similar passions – and deliver the intelligence and transparency they need to manage these challenges and make a difference.”

Muru has sponsored a computer literacy training program for people living in Pormpuraaw, a remote Indigenous community on the western side of Cape York, Australia. Image via SAP.

Muru has sponsored a computer literacy training program for people living in Pormpuraaw, a remote Indigenous community on the western side of Cape York, Australia

Ross views Muru’s participation on the Ariba Network as liberating, providing process automation that allows him to focus on building relationships with customers. “SAP Ariba gives us a lot of freedom. We have more opportunities to sell to our customers, which produces more revenue and profits to give back to the community,” he said. “Selling office supplies involves processing many orders each day, and we’ve been able to save time and reduce errors while accelerating account management, including invoices and payment.”

Powerful Economic force for Good

Muru recently signed a national contract with KPMG, and Ross anticipates further growth. He has also co-founded a new Indigenous-owned and operated business incubator called Bariyu in his local community, partnering with other corporate supporters to help build business capability within Indigenous communities across Sydney.

“One of my key passions is supporting people who want to start their own business but don’t have the knowledge they need,” he said. “I know what it’s like to launch a business, and we want to provide the network and training to help someone understand how to develop a strategy, get financial support, and create their own future.”

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