May 6, 2023: British economist E.F. Schumacher may have declared: ’Small is Beautiful’. Our own C.K. Prahalad may have highlighted ‘the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’. But in India’s technology-driven businesses today, the biggest prizes, the fastest growth, is in the vast ecosystem of mid-sized companies. In software services, as in diplomacy, the middle ground sees the most durable opportunities.
At Mumbai’s Jio World Convention Centre, last week, the presence of over 2000 technologists drove home this message at an event hosted by Germany-based global enterprise technology and cloud solutions provider, SAP
Known for its solutions in what is broadly called enterprise software and specifically ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning, SAP used the event to unveil a new offering that responded to and recognized the fact that the ‘middle class’ of business aka the small and medium sized businesses make up almost 80% of registered companies in India
To compete with the biggies, these players needed to swim in the same pool of technology tools and solutions that the business world recognises. But such tools cost money-- and take time and talent -- to install, something Small and Medium Enterprises or SMEs have found to be a challenge.
Cannily setting its sights just a bit lower than its typical enterprise market, SAP told the assembled ‘middle class’: You can Do It Yourself (DIY). And it offered a new toolkit that it called GROW with SAP.
This was a programme that promised to bring to mid sized Indian companies, the quality and efficiency of larger, more mature enterprises, while understanding the unique innovative needs and budget constraints of midsized companies.
And like so many things in technology these days, the answer lies in the Cloud, in adopting Cloud computing technologies.
Said Kulmeet Bawa, President and Managing Director, SAP Indian Subcontinent, “Cloud technology is revolutionizing ERP, and midsized companies are looking for a reliable technology platform that’ll help them scale.”
Having studied the unique challenges of mid-sized Indian companies, SAP launched the solution that hinges on agility and predictability, the two biggest technology needs of the industry.
For mid-sized companies the value proposition was this: GROW came with a ready-to-run Cloud ERP and to tweak it to every company’s special needs, it came with a set of development tools that required no special coding knowledge. users could create Artificial Intelligence-driven BOTS or robotic apps that interfaced with customers.
In making this new offering of Software as a Service (SaaS), SAP was capitalizing on its India legacy of having reached 700 million mobile subscribers, 50 million electricity and gas customers, 40 lakh dairy farmers, and 8 in 10 car users, directly or indirectly through SAP technologies.
India being the fastest growing business unit for SAP globally, and the company seems now to be embarking on a mission to empower the midsized Bharat, that contributes to 40% of exports out of India.
A critical piece of this outreach to SMEs is government support. And fortuitously, Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrashekar, who spoke virtually at the event, symbolizied such support even as he reiterated the government's role in transforming citizen lives through technology.
He said, “Our early investments in digital public infrastructure and our ease of doing business policies have empowered our startup and innovation ecosystem, catalyzing India’s Techade goals.”
While reminding everyone of the role of SMEs in powering inclusive growth of the country, he assured the audience that in the next few years, it could expect to see the country become an important player in the electronics and semiconductor space.
One sobering reality hovered over the gathering: India is the 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitter worldwide, highlighting the urgent need to reduce the carbon footprint. While the new generation of startups and unicorns have deployed environmentally friendly solutions as part of their technology initiatives, no SME is likely to accept any solution that jeopardises its sustainability record.
SAP’s new cloud solutions for SMEs promises to takes care of this aspect -- but it was both sobering and refreshing that India Inc (in all sizes, small, medium and economy) sees environmental concerns as a critical cog in its development wheel, even as Brand Bharat is poised at the cusp of a cloud computing revolution.
See our other report on 25 years of SAP Labs in India here