After spending nearly 18 years in Germany, where the enterprise software maker SAP has its headquarters, Sindhu Gangadharan
recently returned to India to take over SAP Labs India
as managing director. In an interview with Samreen Ahmad
, Gangadharan, who also became the first woman to head SAP Labs India, talks about her immediate priorities. Edited excerpts:
I have laid out a vision for SAP Labs, which has four main pillars. The first is innovation and customer centricity because as a development organisation, it’s important we are in sync with a customer’s demands. The second pillar is about thought leadership. The third is about end-to-end product focus. As our aspirations increase in cloud technology, end-to-end product focus becomes really important. Fourth is to build a culture of inclusion. It is no more only about gender diversity inclusion but how to leverage technology to help build an inclusive workplace.
What does India offer you as a key R&D base for the company, globally?
It provides us with several opportunities. We have a huge talent base in the country and the average age of our employees is 32. This means they are more open to work on newer ideas and technologies, be it AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning), blockchain or deep capabilities in the database side.
What are the future technology areas that SAP (India) is currently working on?
We are particularly looking at small and medium-sized businesses, and also how to provide tailor-made solutions to the India and China markets. These are cost-sensitive markets and we do not believe in the concept of one size fits all. We are also looking at automation of behind-the-scenes configurations for small and mid-sized businesses. What we are driving forward is how we bring a consistent experience across business processes for which we are embedding analytics and ML into the core of our applications.
What is your hiring outlook for 2020?
We maintain a good balance between early talent and lateral hiring. We are looking at around 800 new hires on a yearly basis. We have people with expertise but we also want to bring in fresh ideas.
Coming to technology, SAP has made a big bet on Cloud and expects the revenue from this space to grow three-fold to $15 billion globally by 2023. How realistic it is?
We are driving customers to become true intelligent enterprises by giving them a framework, a lot of which is centered around Cloud. A lot of emerging technologies are also being embedded in our core Cloud products. Over the last decade, we have also made several acquisitions in areas such as HR, business networks, travel and expense management, manufacturing and supply chain. These are some core areas and a lot of growth will happen as customers transition to Cloud.
How important is India as a market for the company?
Our strong presence in India for the past 20 years speaks for itself. We are 13,000 strong (people) in India with an R&D team of over 8,500. We will further grow our facilities in Bengaluru. Plans are on to set up a second campus in the city. That clearly underlines our growth aspirations in India.
How has the transition been for you from India to Germany and the coming back to India?
When I moved to Germany in 2001, the biggest challenge was the language. The breakthrough happened when I started speaking German. After living there for 18 years and coming back to Bengaluru which is also my hometown, I am challenged by the traffic here. I hope that by using technology together with the government, we can solve this problem.