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September - 2006 - issue > Tech Marketing
How SAP markets its business
Harish Revanna
Friday, September 1, 2006
Analyst forecast for 2007 is out. IT spending for large companies in India is expected to grow by 2.5 times in number, while small and midsize companies will grow 4.5 times. And this holds true for every one who wants to do business in India. Predictions aside, if you look at SAP India’s last year’s results, the company’s SMB customers grew three times more than their large customers. If the company’s enterprise software solutions business accrued 1000 customers, its small and medium players are racing at 575 to get to the top spot. At SAP, it is said, 30 of every 45-customer acquisition are from the SMB segment. Nagaraj Bhargava, Director of Marketing and Alliances, SAP India explains what SAP does to garner small and medium businesspersons’ mindshare.

Business in India for companies headquartered outside India, as Bhargava explains, is uniquely tied to the clichéd ‘localization’. “If you can’t act and behave like a local company, you’ll find the going tough,” he warns. SAP India, since its inception in 1996 follows the localization mantra. “Not only does SAP seek to and absorb the local culture, but we also focus on localizing the products, solutions, marketing and even channel partners,” says Bhargava. Most of SAP’s early channel partners were MNCs like the IBM, Accenture, but soon the company partnered with Wipro, Caritor, SpectraSoft, Unisoft, TCS and CVS IT for better servicing and understanding of its customers. Such leveraging of Indian channel partners and also their customers have opened new business to SAP. The company has also added specific vertical and business requirement features to its products based on India’s tax structure, regulatory and HR payroll requirements.

Marketing for SAP, and in turn for Bhargava is a three-fold strategic approach. First, the ‘forums’ organized by SAP provides a platform for customers to share their experiences while other potential customers and channel partners get a better understanding about SAP. Second, its ‘two exclusive solutions to the SMB market’ called the mySAP All in One and mySAP Business One that are marketed at these forums. The solutions are based on SAP’s ERP and CRM solutions, which has helped SAP’s All in One and BusinessOne suites to get a good brand identity. Third, “with the domain knowledge and expertise SAP has gained from the global markets, we have the appropriate bandwidth and pace to define the market in every sense of the word,” says Bhargava. However, SAP too, like its peers in the industry, is optimizing the tool of advertising. SAP’s advertisement is carried not just in technology and business magazines, but also in some news magazines—a reach out to all small-scale businessmen of different hues?

The company’s single tagline world-over ‘Best run businesses run SAP’ in the advertisements features customers at the SAP premises. Although the tagline remains the same globally, SAP has done a lot of localization to each of its ads as well. “We have kept the thought global but the content, graphics and language are local,” says Bhargava. “When you say Asian Paints or Tata Group or Mahindra and Mahindra runs on SAP, it’s a different thought process for Indian audience,” he says adding each of SAP’s advertisements or advertorials deliver value to its customers in certain verticals.

Customers for SAP are not just revenue generators but also tools of advertising. “So SAP in turn needs to understand the customer really well. And create a value proposition that is very specific to each customer,” says Bhargava. SAP’s SMB business today is leading the 20000-odd small and midsize market in India. And the company no more wants to consider itself as an IT company, but a business delivery organization.

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