Asian Paints looks back at a decade of SAP HANA deployment

Image courtesy of Asian Paints

Asian Paints is an Indian multinational paint company headquartered in Mumbai, India. In addition to being the market share leader in India, it also operates in 15 countries across Asia, the Middle-East, the South Pacific, and Africa.

“Leveraging IT for key business operations for efficiency and productivity has been the DNA of Asian Paints for many decades and has been one of the reasons for our phenomenal growth over these years to achieve our current scale in business operations,” shares Aashish Kshetry, Vice-President of Human Resources and Information Technology at Asian Paints. “We have always been early adopters of trends and have tried to leverage the same in our nascent stages of development.”

A Steady Journey

The company started using SAP HANA in December 2011, whereby they implemented a side-car approach for billing data to be pushed to HANA from SAP ECC for real-time analysis, thus providing insights for their sales team to manage trade promotions.

This successful implementation gave them confidence to first migrate their SAP BW system on HANA runtime, followed by migrating to CRM on HANA to manage customer interactions more effectively and efficiently on voice and web channels — the first large step in moving a transaction system to the HANA platform.

When the company was evaluating setting up disaster recovery sites in 2014, they found that HANA’s log replication was more suited to their business landscape than conventional block level replication. In August 2014, the company then migrated the SAP ECC to Suite on HANA, with HANA’s compression and processing speed enabling the mto run their business operations better and faster.

As the organisation diversified into home improvement and institutional sales, Asian Paints relooked at their methods of doing profitability analysis across product categories and channels. SAP Simple Finance 2.0 provided the flexibility of COPA allocations & analyses and with the concept of a universal ledger, the reconciliation between FI and CO got eliminated. 

In 2015, they implemented Simple Finance on Suite on HANA and implemented the new COPA, being the pilot customer for the NZDT tool for Simple Finance Conversation.

After the GST implementation in 2017, the overall direction of the company was to have a strong digital core for the entire Asian Paints group, including the international business operations which were running local instances of a different ERP system. This led them to fully adopt S/4 HANA (Simple Finance & Simple Logistics) in 2018.

This was one of the first implementations of S/4 HANA in India’s manufacturing industry and was an on-premise implementation. This platform helped Asian Paints achieve a 60% reduction in database requirements, and set the foundation for future innovations by allowing IT to rapidly integrate the core transactional platform as newer business models emerged for the company. This was essential as we were increasing the services offered to end consumers and entering into the décor space.

Following that, the company rolled out a global template for the implementation of S/4 HANA for their international business unit, completing the implementation of S/4 HANA at their 11 international business units in less than 14 months.

Since then, SAP HANA has formed the digital core of the organisation, and emerged as a single platform for both transactional and analytical workloads for real-time processing of data, with a large part of the enterprise and applications leveraging the SAP HANA platform, including advanced analytics which feed out of the digital core. This has heavily benefited areas such as trade promotion and sales, where real-time data is necessary to boost decision-making and maximize business impact.

Drawing Value from the Cloud

Whilst the initial implementation of HANA was on-premise, Asian Paints has also harnessed the cloud model to facilitate its business operations. Its journey to the cloud has been gradual, with measured moves on its different platforms. Over the years, they have shifted a number of the critical enterprise processes such as employee lifecycle, frontline sales engagement, customer visualisation to the cloud, and end user reporting to the cloud.

For example, persona-based IT systems that are tailor-made to cater to employees in sales functions have been implemented. This has significantly enhanced not only productivity, but also decision-making and speed of execution. By moving the Sales force and other personas that interface with the consumers in the journey to the SAP C4C cloud solution, Asian Paints has also been able to ensure greater agility in reacting to consumer needs as they focus on the B2B segment.

SAP HANA has also added value to the running of the company’s large number of trade promotions every month. After the implementation of S/4HANA in 2018, they decided to provide real-time information to the sales force, allowing them to run trade promotions more effectively.  Using SAP Landscape Transformation (SLT), they pushed the billing related data to the HANA Enterprise Edition platform and developed a solution which integrated with a third-party Rules Engine where almost 2000 such trade promotion definitions are maintained every month. 

HANA’s processing capabilities have also enabled them to track real-time progress towards achieving the targets set by their customers for various trade promotions, and give more information to their sales team when selling to their customers. They are also looking at how consumers themselves can benefit from these capabilities, such as through the sharing of information on their partner’s portal to help guide decision-making.

On-Premise, or on the Cloud?

Aneesha Shenoy, SVP, Head of Platform and Technologies, SAP Asia Pacific & Japan shares that the choice between on-premise, cloud, or hybrid deployment of SAP HANA depends on a number of factors such as the needs of the organisation, price considerations, need for customisation, and the availability of in-house tech support.

For example, on-premise deployment is well-suited for any industry enterprise which requires a full range of features consolidated with highly flexible customisation. In particular, for large enterprises with well-proven business processes, having the solution on-premise offers the maximum level of control for the enterprise and a fast time-to-value for outcome delivery.

Whilst on-premise deployment provides a company complete oversight of everything from the HANA Database to its related applications, servers, and networks, this also means that the business needs to have the space, money, and IT team to properly manage the system.

On the other hand, cloud deployment is a popular option for middle-sized companies who are looking for a light and flexible database platform to scale, even as they continue to grow and expand their operations. In these instances, cloud allows them to cover their core business strategies, yet still provide the agility and flexibility to adopt faster upgrade cycles every quarter rather than annually.

Another key benefit to cloud deployment is that it takes place in a public or private virtual environment. This means that businesses do not need to invest additional resources on infrastructure, storage, or an in-house team to manage. Some opt for a hybrid cloud approach, which allows them to balance between agility and security. This allows them to have control of data and applications on-premise for reasons such as meeting security or legal requirements, but still have some flexibility to tap on cloud technologies.

Spurring Innovation with SAP HANA

Aside from business operations for Asian Paints, SAP HANA has also helped the company with business innovation, tapping on Artificial Intelligence processes to provide next-generation processes, connecting the dots and operations, and allowing smarter and faster workflows. As part of innovation, Asian Paints has successfully conducted Proof of Concepts in emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, AI algorithms, conversational chat-bots, natural language translation, and 3-D visualisation for home home décor. The company has used a combination of industrialized sensors, automation, and social media analytics to catalyse both internal operations and customer-driven marketing outreach.

“As Asian Paints continues to evolve its business model, there is also a growing need for solutions that can handle bigger amounts of data, integrating these from external and internal sources, and providing the information we need without complexity or rigidness”, shares Kshetry. These innovations have helped the company adapt to changes in their operating landscape and consumer needs.

For example, the company was able to pivot quickly to strengthening their offerings in the Health and Hygiene space in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, introducing products such as floor cleaners, toilet cleaners, hand wash, and sanitisers with great agility. The eco-system has also made it possible to introduce such as Safe Painting and San Assure sanitisation services to meet consumer needs. Aside from products and services, they were also able to quickly secure mechanisms for remote working for their staff and transition seamlessly to the new way of working.

This agility and adaptability can be seen as a function of the company’s commitment to building strong IT and digital capabilities, in-house and with their partners. “Our IT team has a great mix of people with technology skills and business acumen, and they work closely with our end users to deliver, sustain, and improve our solutions,” shares Kshetry. “Until the turn of the century, a lot of this came from applications developed in-house, but this has changed since towards packaged applications. SAP has been the strongest partner in this period, providing not only stability, but innovative solutions.”