SAP India president and managing director Deb Deep Sengupta says the technology major achieved success by remaining centered on its key values and principles—focus on the customer, innovating around its business environment, and using technology to solve the biggest challenges. And he believes SAP’s philosophy is relevant for India’s midsized businesses, who form a major part of the company’s clientele.

Sengupta was speaking about achieving success in the digital age at the Fortune India Next 500 Summit and discussed the dilemmas founders and boards grappled with—one of them being how to retain and preserve the core DNA and value system of the organisation, while growing and expanding.

Sengupta said building a great ecosystem and contributing to the society and nation, and “giving back” were key to preserving a company’s culture.

“Being a technology company, we leverage technology to help our employees, our customers, and make the entire experience much better,” he concluded.

Krishnan Chatterjee, chief customer officer and head of marketing, SAP, Indian Subcontinent, shared three questions entrepreneurs should ask themselves, during a session titled ‘Design to disrupt’. The first was, if there was an opportunity to be disruptive. Chatterjee tackled the question using the example of the unicorns. He said there were 24 unicorns in the country, with a combined valuation of $80 billion. The Nifty 500 was $2 trillion, and unicorns made up 4%. Around a decade ago, during the collapse of Lehman Brothers, there were no unicorns on the Nifty mix. If we were to look 10 years ahead, we could look at a digital native valuation of $1.5-$2 trillion, he said.

On the supply side, around 50% of India’s exports were made up of technology and technology-related services, which bolstered the fact that there was an opportunity to be disruptive. “Organisations who understand how to view/solve business problems driving technology are going to win,” Chatterjee said.

The second question Chatterjee addressed was on how entrepreneurs should design to disrupt? He explained that traditional businesses generally had a pyramidal structure—a strategic layer on top that designs the business, technology in the middle that manifests that design, and at the bottom, this designs operations, which contribute to a customer’s experience. He highlighted that time and again, many people set up businesses to fulfil an experience gap, which is created in the bottom layer of operations. The problem gets amplified as traditional businesses are built department by department, with each department having an operations base which operated in silos.

To solve this, Chatterjee said businesses should invert the pyramid, where if businesses observe an experience gap, they should design holistically across the entire business—and organisations should invest most of their resources and time on design. The proper design should then be manifested through a technology platform which is used to leverage operations. And in operations, “less is more”, he said.

He cited the example of airlines allowing customers to print their own boarding passes—this resulted in happier passengers and lower costs for the airline. Businesses should minimise transactions as customers “do not enjoy transactions” he said. And the biggest takeaway of digital design for businesses is that it simultaneously reduces cost while significantly impacting experiences, thereby revenues. And with the kind of technology available now one could intelligently connect “people, things, and the processes which define our businesses” he said.

 Deb Deep Sengupta, MD
Deb Deep Sengupta, MD
Image : SAP India

The third question businesses should be asking themselves was if there were early indicators if that approach was working, Chatterjee said. He cited the example of MG Motors. While automobile sales have been sluggish, MG has hit 4x the order capacity it had intended in their launch phase for the Hector, their connected car. SAP helped them with the dealer experience, “which is a big component of buying and owning a car”.

“This design philosophy can fundamentally create an operational design, and as opportunities get spotted, will enable that organisation to rapidly take advantage of that opportunity,” Chatterjee said.

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