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Emerging SAP Retail Solution: SAP Ganges, Powered by HANA

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: January 13 2014

Many people may not know that 40 percent of the word’s retailers are located in India—about 9.8 million retailers, many of them small one-person businesses, supply the whole nation. These businesses face many challenges: stock-outs, supply, pricing, and competition, just to name a few. And working capital–strapped small retail business owners in India are feeling the pressure of managing their inventory levels and their ability to anticipate demand.
 
They are often isolated from, and negatively impacted by, supply chain factors that can mean the difference between running profitably or not. Efficiency gaps, thin margins, and limited growth potential are especially worrisome for mom-and-pop shops, which are at risk of not being able to compete for business in a just-in-time (JIT) manner. On the other side of the value chain, manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors may be forced to rely on delayed information flow; their operations are often scattered across the country and they lack the infrastructure to connect and manage data from their own customers.
 
To tackle these challenges, SAP Labs India created SAP Ganges, powered by the SAP HANA big data platform. The idea was first brought to life by a small team under SAP’s Global Business Incubation team. Starting out in April 2012, the team used a design-thinking approach to engage the stakeholders, process maps, assess their pain points, and define personas. Later the team enlisted the help of other teams from around the world (Brazil, China, South Africa, etc.) to design a solution to address the inefficiencies; most of the development work was crowdsourced.
 
SAP Ganges end users may have only little or no experience working with a point-of-sale (PoS) system, and some are only semi-literate. The solution includes an out-of-the-box PoS device to process transactions, a Web-based interface for billing and inventory management, and a real-time connection to distributors. In addition to the value for retailers, distributors, and manufacturers, the SAP Ganges solution offers benefits for local credit institutions and banks. Business owners are given the tools to monitor and track their sales activities, which could be used to encourage outside investment to help grow their operations. The pilot program was rolled out in August 2012.
 
By expanding into retailer and distributor segments across the globe, SAP hopes to not only broaden its addressable market but also build new ecosystems and partnerships to become a business platform company leveraging the strengths of SAP HANA and cloud. The network was launched in India on December 2013, and aims to connect one million retailers, twenty-thousand distributors, the top twenty-five consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, and top ten original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) throughout India by 2015.
 
SAP Ganges is not currently leveraging Ariba Network due to the complexities of India’s financial banking system. Once SAP Ganges gains some major momentum in India, the plan is to take it globally, with the goal of then connecting to the Ariba Network.
 
A lot of retailers in remote markets prefer to do business in cash (to avoid administration and taxation), and their suppliers might be relatives with vans. Since it is not always easy to fire unreliable relatives or even force them adhere to a schedule, it will be interesting to see whether SAP Ganges can inspire productivity or compliance.
 
In any case, with this retail network it is now in theory possible to maximize the business potentials of millions of retailers in India. See SAP’s video on SAP Ganges—Making Retail Flow Faster.

 
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