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Innovation is much more than a competitive advantage

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SINDHU GANGADHARAN, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, SAP Labs IndiaSINDHU GANGADHARAN, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, SAP Labs IndiaSINDHU GANGADHARAN,
Senior Vice President & Managing Director, SAP Labs India

Being an Intelligent Enterprise has never been more significant and meaningful. According to Sindhu Gangadharan, senior vice-president & managing director, SAP Labs India, digital disruption is happening everywhere – and changing everything. The Covid-19 pandemic has hugely altered the business landscape and pushed the need for companies to go digital. “The new ways of working will give a chance to reimagine the nature of work, workforce, and workplace,” she tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interview. Excerpts:

What is your outlook for SAP Labs India in 2021?
Year 2020 was challenging for everyone across the globe. We, at SAP, are proud that we successfully navigated the challenging environment and demonstrated our agility. SAP SE had a solid finish to 2020. We grew our top line while expanding operating profit and margins. Specific to 2021, when I took over as MD of SAP Labs India in the second half of 2019, I had set a four-point goal. To make Labs India location the most innovative place in the SAP Universe, focused on customer centricity, where thought leadership flourishes and employees work in a highly diverse and inclusive environment. Since then, we have made significant progress towards our goal.

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We contribute to SAP’s success through emerging transformative technologies from our Innovation Centre Network and SAP Startup Studio. Set up in 2016, this first in-house startup accelerator programme of SAP offers support to the onboarded startups through guidance, deep dive, and technology mentoring on SAP technologies.

Which skills are you building internally at SAP Labs to keep the innovation engine moving?
Our inclusive culture and focus on collaborative learning ensure that our employees are ready to face the current and future challenges in the technology landscape. Our innovation engine needs to be running to help our customers and attract top talent. We ensure that employees have an opportunity to keep innovating and support them to acquire the needed skills to keep pace with the fast-changing technology landscape.

Our flagship internal initiative called Innovation and Venture Challenge (InnVent) challenges our employees to innovate under four buckets: Customer, Venture, Social and Operational, and trains them to build and nurture a successful startup. We have created a learning and enablement programme to educate our large army of young engineers on next generation technologies. We also provide them with detailed hands-on experience on technology and business processes to reimagine customer use-cases and solve them with innovative ideas.

Last year when we shifted to work from home, we announced a new digital learning initiative that offers innovative and interactive educational content to support students, professionals and anyone wishing to continue to learn during the lockdown. This dynamic initiative is based on three educational pillars—massive open online courses, teaching journeys for universities and the SAP Young Thinkers programme. All the offerings are accessible through the openSAP platform, our most popular online learning initiative.

Digital transformation is a top priority now for many companies. How are you helping customers here?
For CEOs, digital transformation is a top priority as they understand that integrating intelligent technologies into all areas of their business leads to enhanced performance and business processes. CEOs are also cognizant that for their business to be resilient in the ever-changing global environment, becoming an intelligent enterprise is an urgent imperative. However, many companies struggle to transform themselves into a digital enterprise holistically. They also realise that digital transformation cannot happen just by migrating to the cloud or investing in new technologies. They are beginning to understand the need to transform their business models and adopt an intelligent process to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. Therefore, we recently launched RISE with SAP – a business transformation platform that gives customers all the needed services and software components to become an intelligent enterprise.

As a leader representing one of the large MNCs in India, what do you think organisations should focus their energies on— people, processes, or innovation?
In my opinion, people, process, and innovation are equally important for an organisation to succeed. However, people-focused companies have a better chance of surviving during times of crisis. A company that invests in employee wellness, diversity, and inclusion, tends to innovate more. In the present times, where companies are digitally transforming themselves, innovation is much more than a competitive advantage. Many companies that I have come across are embedding innovation into their processes and in their ways of thinking.

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