“We've turned into a true blue cloud company,” says Kulmeet Bawa, MD & President, SAP Indian Subcontinent

The year 2021 has been a landmark year for the company as SAP completed 25 years of launch in India. In his conversation with Shradha, Kulmeet delves deeper into the achievements of SAP India, the newly launched Project Nakshatra, challenges ahead and advice for Indian startup entrepreneurs.

When former army man turned corporate leader Kulmeet Bawa joined SAP India amid the pandemic in July 2020, he had a clear vision on how to approach the new battle ahead of him. Being responsible for driving and delivering an 'exceptional SAP experience' for employees and customers across the Indian subcontinent, what he chose as his primary weapon was “cloud”.

“At SAP, we have transformed ourselves into a cloud company from an on-premise solution provider to one of the largest cloud companies in the enterprise application space today in the world. We understand how to adapt to new market conditions and how to build or create new business models. And today, we've turned into a true blue cloud company,” Kulmeet tells Shradha Sharma, Founder, YourStory in a fireside conversation on Day 1 of TechSparks 2021.

The year 2021 has been a landmark year for the company as SAP completed 25 years of launch in India. In his conversion with Shradha, Kulmeet delves deeper into the achievements of SAP India, the newly launched Project Nakshatra, challenges ahead and advice for Indian startup entrepreneurs.

On SAP’s 25 years journey in India and the role played

As Kulmeet describes, SAP in India today is the second-largest establishment globally. With around 13,000 customers in the country, where 80 percent are small and midsize customers, it has some amazing innovation and intellectual property that gets built out of India.


Kulmeet believes that the last 25 years have been clearly destiny defining for India as a nation. It's been an amazing period during which India has rewritten its future and stakeholders have seen transformational growth across almost every single socio-economic parameter factor.

All these years, SAP has been actively working in transforming sectors such as electricity, where it boasts of supporting more than 50 million households and consumers of gas and electricity. Another core sector is automotive, where it works with almost all the automotive majors in India, both in the conventional as well as the new electric mobility space.

“Today, eight out of 10 cars that are sold in India are manufactured by companies that run SAP. In the oil and gas sector, our solutions are helping all the 20 oil refineries in India to manage their crude oil production,” he adds.

It is the same story in areas such as education, telecom and railways across the gamut of India's growth. 

“India's grown about 10X. And I just feel privileged and humbled to say that a very large part of India's GDP today, more than 60 percent, touches SMP (SAP Mobile Platform), and we are seeing how to grow that right. So we take a lot of pride in what we've done so far, but are definitely ready for the next leg of this voyage, that India is on to,” he adds.

On helping startups scale

SAP India has recently launched its new initiative, “Project Nakshatra” for Indian startups. The startups will get a byte size starter pack that has been created keeping in mind the changing landscape.


As Kulmeet shared, all SAP offerings today are cloud-native, which can allow startups to have a very modular approach to their scale, based on their appetite and how they want to scale and grow.

The company looks at end to end processes today and has the confidence to help startups differentiate through the experiences that they provide right through the personalisation, the individualisation built on true customer 360, as Kuldeep calls it because everything in the digital economy today is an experience economy.

“SAP knows how to scale, what it means to take a business global, and what it means to arm that business for robustness, as well as agility. I think we've done it, we understand how to do it,” he says.

Road ahead for Indian startups and advice for entrepreneurs

Kulmeet has always been fascinated by startups - by just the energy, the passion and the manner in which dreams start getting translated into reality. But he does accept that there are challenges.

First, there needs to be a lot of investment at all stages of a startup lifecycle, considering the pace at which startups are growing. Also, it's super important for them to be part of a larger business network so that they get access to a global supply-demand ecosystem.


“Next challenge is talent acquisition as well as management. There needs to be a lot more investment into human experience design, as that's going to be the differentiator for organisations as we move on,” he adds.

Today, the combined valuation of unicorns is about 7 percent of the market cap of BSE. This is prophesied to be in high double digits by the time we hit 2030, fueled by the rise in entrepreneurial culture, especially in tier two, tier three cities.

“As we see more unicorns and more IPOs, the quest for future growth will be coupled by making a bigger difference to the country using the leverage of either nation-building or using levels of sustainability, which again, we are seeing massive adoption of everywhere,” he adds.

He further advised startup entrepreneurs to not prepare for growth but prepare for scale as it's coming on to them faster than they can imagine. Some other pieces of advice he shared are:

  • Adopt a robust digital core as the heart of your startup, while keeping an eye on the future. 
  • Get the building blocks for scaling exponentially. 
  • Think of sustainability, customer experience, intelligence span --look at all those aspects, rather than tactical, immediate gratification. 
  • Have an exponential mindset. So anything incremental is boring. It's passe. 
“I think we have a huge competitive advantage as a country today with our youth population that is unparalleled. So no country in the world can ever emulate us. So let's make the most of that. And my last piece is that, although we can give fantastic vision statements, I'm a big fan that if you have the culture set, if you have the culture right, that becomes your biggest competitive advantage as you move on,” he concludes.

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For a line-up of all the action-packed sessions at YourStory's flagship startup-tech conference, check out TechSparks 2021 website.

Edited by Anju Narayanan


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