How SAP is helping India's startups reach the next level in their scale-up journey

The world’s eyes are on India’s startup ecosystem, which is now the third largest globally. Innovations and technological advancements driven largely by the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem are enabling us to stand shoulder to shoulder with the biggest countries. With over 100 unicorns and over 80,000 government-recognised startups across 656 districts, the sector isn’t showing any signs of slowing. So much so, startups are expected to contribute up to five percent to India’s GDP in the next five years.

One of the key partners that have supported and witnessed the phenomenal growth of the ecosystem has been SAP. For over 25 years, the company has been instrumental in helping India Inc. reach the next level. In the last two years alone, SAP India has accelerated the cloud journey of more than 100 startups and digital natives, driving growth through co-innovation. The company has been aiding startups through unique initiatives like SAP Startup Studio and SAP.iO, which are tailored to address a startup’s unique digital requirements.

Due to efforts like these, startups from across sectors such as agritech, fintech, edtech, EV, consumer industry, eCommerce, media among others, have benefited from working with SAP, including more than 40 percent of the nation’s unicorns.

Scaling with SAP

SAP has been working with startups with the objective of providing them with the world’s most pervasive digital core, which helps accelerate their growth journey. So much so today, four out of five unicorns who have gone for an IPO in India are on SAP. The reason for this is simple, a startup with global ambitions needs to have a strong digital core and a partner that can help it keep up with hypergrowth plans, be compliant in varying markets, plan for supply chain disruptions and protect investor wealth. SAP cloud solutions and RISE with SAP have played a crucial role in building newer business models to avoid disruption, gain efficiencies to fund innovation, and transform mission-critical systems without business risk.

Sanket remarked that new-age startups reach out to SAP not just to seek disruptive technology but desire a strong foundation to get a 360-degree of how their organisations are functioning. There is data coming from all sides for a growth-driven startup, and SAP can provide that single source of truth. With SAP cloud solutions, startups can easily monitor their supply chain functions, reach out to customers, understand finances, drive employee engagement, and, most importantly, be compliant with regulatory requirements.

An example of this is SAP’s cloud-native SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management (HXM) Suite. The solution spans core HR and payroll, talent management, HR analytics and workforce planning, and employee experience management. It delivers individualised experiences that engage employees, enables them to keep learning, staying productive and connected, and helps startups build the workforce agility needed to keep pace with continuous change.

These solutions only push India Inc. towards the path of success. SAP plays a role in every major industry and sector, be it the auto industry riding on the EV revolution or connecting the nation’s farmers with technology. As the nation continues growing, there is a glimpse of SAP in each leap it makes.

“Today, India’s top three payment gateways, one in three EV scooters on the road are manufactured, and one out of two food deliveries are by SAP customers. In addition, SAP customers empower over 30 million students using online platforms. Our customers also drive purpose-led impact for over 2.5 million farmers,” Sanket said, adding that VAHDAM Teas became the first startup to embrace S/4HANA public cloud with a mission to make India’s wellness wisdom accessible to the world.

Another given for a digitally native startup is that inherently, they need omnichannel touchpoints. This means that startups need a system that can analyse each customer or prospect’s data across their journeys and maximise customer lifetime value. Here is where SAP CX solutions help startups manage customer experiences, like how SAP helps a leading ed-tech firm facilitate better student and teacher relationships. They also help predict fan behaviour for a leading fantasy gaming platform analysing and crunching information that runs into millions of data points.

Sanket further stated that startups appreciated the simplicity of SAP and its support in removing complexities.

Supporting and co-innovating with startups

To help startups further, SAP launched its Startup Studio in 2016, SAP.iO in 2017 and the SAP Startup Joint Go-to-Market Program in 2021.

The company has especially proven to be a competent co-innovation partner for startups in India’s growing B2B industry – an industry that shows the potential to add $1 trillion to the economy and create more than 500,000 highly skilled jobs. Noting that the success of India’s B2B SaaS business lies in finding and creating global markets especially in the US and Europe, Sanket Deodhar, VP – Unicorns & Digital Natives, SAP Indian Subcontinent, said that SAP has been working on those lines as well. “This is where the SAP Startup Joint Go-to-Market Program comes in – where our deep expertise across industries and geographies comes into play with access to our 450,000 customers globally,” he said.

Startup Studio is an open innovation program, aimed at nurturing early and growth stage enterprise tech startups, with the focus on giving them the opportunity to mature and expand their business. The programme has helped 62 tech startups in building and integrating solutions on SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP). “Out of these, 18 startups have successfully co-innovated with us and 15 joint customer engagements have been carried out with customers such as Nerolac Paints, Vedanta, Cairn Oil & Gas, Titan Paint, LivNsense and many more. These co-innovations are in the areas of Connected ERP, AR Technology, AI and AI-driven chatbots, IoT based intelligence, etc,” Sanket said. He added that they already have engaged with one unicorn, two soonicorns and two minicorns as part of the programme.

Meanwhile, SAP.iO brings together leaders from every region, industry, and line of business to transform how businesses run. Sanket revealed, “Since its launch, SAP.iO has supported 400+ external startups and incubated employee ventures, fast-tracking innovation to SAP customers. In fact, 44 percent of the SAP.iO portfolio includes startups led by women and social entrepreneurs.”

With an eye on India’s startup ecosystem’s upward trajectory, SAP.iO Foundry Bangalore was born in 2020. The programme aimed to support the nation’s most promising startups, launch partnerships with SAP, integrate their solutions and go to market via the SAP Store.

Sanket expects new requirements coming from startups as SAP gears up to penetrate further into India, beyond the metro cities. But he is sure that even as the requirements change, SAP will remain a steady partner for India Inc.

As more and more startups take birth in India, we will see newer sectors take shape or transform the legacy ones. While Indian startups have transformed the gig economy and ride-hailing, they have given birth to EVs and agritech. In the next 25 years, as we eye a $20 trillion economy, this growth must come from digitally native businesses that chart into new-age sectors. The coming years are exciting and filled with opportunities, with SAP poised to lead from the front.

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