A TASTE OF INNOVATION: BABA’s Group of Companies’ Digital Transformation Journey with SAP

Leadership Conversations

By Ilaventhan Vijaya, Head of Finance, BABA’s Group of Companies

Today’s consumers have higher expectations from products and services than they did in the past. With so many choices at one’s fingertips, it is hardly a surprise that customers will constantly evaluate their interactions with brands.

Customer centricity has always been the core of our business at BABA’s group of companies (BABA’s). In the late 70s, a young man put his life savings into a mobile sundry shop, servicing the Klang Valley area of Malaysia. If ever there was a request for a particular product, he made it a point to source the finest quality ingredients and the highest quality items at the most affordable price. Throughout these years, our founders’ principles have guided the growth of our company.

Today our range of over 30 spice mixes and flour products are found on almost every retail shelf nationwide, making BABA’s more than a household name.

First step towards an intelligent enterprise

Digital transformation is a critical part of our business strategy, which not only makes us future-ready but also helps us meet our commitments to our customers, retailers, and distributors.

At BABA’s, we pride ourselves in maintaining high standards in every aspect of business and for that we constantly evolve our processes to become more agile, and resilient.

To ensure we had access to the world-class technology, we partnered with SAP early in our digital transformation journey. The first step in our journey was to digitize our core with SAP S/4HANA and transition from manual, paper- based processes to a digital business platform. We looked for building capabilities that would enable us to achieve greater efficiencies, productivity and propel our business growth to the next level as we expand our business to other markets, including Australia, China, Indonesia, and United Kingdom.

In the first phase, we focused on finance and sales. Our chosen solution was SAP Direct Store Delivery (DSD) with customer relationship management (CRM), a mobile solution that has empowered BABA’s field personnel to simplify complex direct-to-store delivery processes and enable real-time decision-making.

The DSD system has enabled sales leaders based in Kuala Lumpur to have full visibility of activities across the organisation. By using specialised mobile apps, field personnel can plan and schedule store visits and deliveries optimally, improve product placement and in-stock levels, and access key information about customer orders and deliveries in real-time.

Additionally, product returns, process orders, and bill payments can be made on the spot while sharing pricing, promotions, and discounts. The sales team can take real-time pictures, conduct surveys, and record customers’ feedback to make further improvements. This data is then transferred to the payroll department to compute commissions. The entire sales cycle is automated and has replaced tedious manual processes that would cause delays across several functions.

When ‘Movement Control Orders’ were first introduced in Malaysia to curb rising COVID-19 infections, we faced significant challenges in our supply chains, specifically on getting our raw materials which are sourced from all over the world. During this challenging period, we remained committed in ensuring that our customers were serviced without major disruptions. Although we could not travel to our entities outside of Malaysia, SAP systems allowed us to continue running our business seamlessly. Similarly, with SAP S/4HANA as our digital core, we were able to manage our end-to-end supply chain without any compromise on the quality and standards on which our brand has been built.

When remote working policies were first mandated, like every other organisation, we had to adapt to new ways of working. The immediate focus was putting our people first, ensuring their health and safety, and providing them with flexible work options. In the next phase of our transformation journey, we deployed SAP SuccessFactors and SAP Payroll to improve employee productivity as we continuously adapt and remodel workplace processes in the ‘new normal’. We wanted to completely redesign employee experiences by better understanding their needs and ensuring they remain connected and supported.

Today, BABA’s employees are seamlessly connected and enjoy a mobile-friendly user experience with social collaboration capabilities to access information anywhere, anytime. Our HR teams are also able to support employees with data-driven insights, cloud payroll, and timesheet tracking. This journey is a virtuous cycle and will continue for us.

Becoming future-ready

Without a doubt, continuous improvement is a must for every organisation. Likewise, businesses, management, and individual users must be open and receptive to learn from best practices. Organisations must embrace digital transformation to become an ‘intelligent enterprise’ while keeping in mind that customer-centricity is vital for sustainable growth.

Our digital transformation initiatives have helped us embrace industry best practices and become future-ready. I would go as far as to say the pandemic gave us an opportunity to rethink how we do business, particularly by embracing change and technology.

This article was first published on The Edge Malaysia on 25 September 2021.