Skip to Content
Author's profile photo Richard Hirsch

From kirana stores to hybris: SAP’s evolving Business Network strategy

hybris larger contextA variety of details about how SAP intends to exploit the commerce functionality of the hybris platform emerged at a press conference this week announcing the completion of the hybris acquisition. The slide to the right showed hybris in the larger context of SAP’s broader strategy particularly well.

There was some additional information provided on the relationship between the new acquisition and existing cloud assets.

SAP officials say hybris is also complementary to Ariba. Luedi puts it simply: Ariba makes the processes of procurement more efficient; hybris does the same for the sell side. [Jonathan] Becher [SAP CMO] adds that there will be natural connection points between Ariba and hybris. [SOURCE]

The idea of “Matrix Commerce” as promoted by Ray Wang and Constellation Research is a good example of an interpretation of commerce that provides a context for such connection points to take place.

Matrix CommerceYet, the mere presence of such connection points fails to provide any further details about how hybris really fits into SAP’s broader strategy.

We have to travel halfway around the world — to India — to find clues about one possible interpretation of its future.

Project Ganges

A good starting point for our exploration is an an SAP project called Ganges. It focuses on improving the IT infrastructure of micro-businesses, such as kirana shops (“small, usually family-owned shop selling groceries and other sundries”).

A start-up project within SAP’s Global Business Incubator, Ganges would come out with case studies to tell what all small businesses should do benefit from IT solutions.

“We are doing research and development on how to make kirana shops benefit from IT. So far, only small IT is in use there. They use it mostly for point-of-sale. But there is a lot. They can use it to interact with distributors and product companies for inventory management,” Aiaz Kazi, Senior Vice-President (Platform, Products and Invention) of SAP, told Business Line.

At first glance, this innovative project would appear to have nothing or very little to do with the hybris acquisition, but a LinkedIn profile from someone in the project provides additional material to consider. One must take job descriptions such as this associate product manager position with a grain of salt, but it yielded two interesting points:

  1. The description “SAP Last Mile Retail Network” showed that a broader focus — retail networks — was involved, though the main focus is on those micro-businesses in the supply chain that are often difficult to involve in IT-supported processes.
  2. The description of active involvement with the “device team” is intriguing and demonstrates that the project was more extensive than I had thought. 

At this point, there were only a couple touch points between Project Ganges and hybris:

  • FCMGs and distributors are potential hybris customers
  • Hybris also provides similar POS-related functionality.

Abhijit De

The Retail Network

Continuing my search, I discovered a presentation from Abhijit De (Vice President & Initiative Lead, Ganges) that provided a broader context. As described in his slides, the focus is on business networks – in this case, retail networks.

A video interview with Abhijit De provides further evidence of the goal of Project Ganges: the creation of Business Network as a Service (BNaaS)

Project Ganges has a much broader scope than I had ever imagined and involved a variety of customer types beyond just the kirana stores.

Emerging EconomiesWhy is the Retail Network so unique/important?

India is just the initial market for the solution — other markets are planned in the future.

Such notions of Matrix Commerce are usually focused on larger economies and their participants. But the Retail Network / Project Ganges focuses more on emerging economies, where SAP expects/requires that much of its future growth will be based.

The inclusion of all participants in the retail supply chain — as seen in the design thinking-based deep analysis of the requirements of kirana stores — demonstrates the project’s awareness of the unique characteristics of such markets and their participants.

Global RolloutThese are non-traditional customers usually ignored by traditional vendors, yet they represent the most promising avenue to increase SAP’s global reach.

What could hybris possibly contribute to the Retail Network?

If you look at the initial diagram of the Retail Network, there are a variety of potential touch points between the Network and hybris, especially regarding Retailers and CPGs.

The B2C functionality of hybris was a critical interest for SAP, as the company’s Mark Ferrer noted at the press conference this week. Retailers want to reach their customers via every channel, including mobile and online, as well as in their stores.

“We’ve been transforming SAP over the last three to five years,” Ferrer said. “Now all of these technologies are starting to converge.”

This feature-set fits quite well to the customer-related goals of the Retail Network:

FMCG/CPG companies

Improved supply chain efficiency

Higher efficacy on marketing and promotion spends

Increased revenue due to increased retailer capital


Access to additional working capital (through bank credit)

Increased income from selling value-added services (e.g., billpay, mobile top-ups)

Thus, the hybris functionality complements the existing BNaaS plans and provides the Retail Network additional features earlier than expected and in a quality and maturity that might not otherwise be possible. 

The goal is that the “SAP Retail Network is the first of five last-mile business networks (pharma, oil and gas, steel, food, and microATM) that together generate more than $1B+ for SAP.” [SOURCE] and hybris provides functionality – especially regarding B2C – that directly benefit these planned Business Networks. 

Note: I’m not suggesting that SAP only acquired hybris to fill in gaps on its Retail Network offering – obviously, hybris solutions will be used in a variety of other contexts. Yet, such usage scenarios – although involving various other SAP assets (OnPremise CRM, HANA, etc) – don’t really provide a long term (5 years+) strategic perspective that I’m hoping is guiding SAP’s activities in this area. 

Note: I’m also not underestimating the efforts involved in integrating Ariba or hybris in the Retail Network or indeed in other Business Network as a Service offerings – they are non-trivial. Yet, SAP is evolving and its acquisitions are made with this evolution in mind. 

Other POV

  • HANA: As to be expected HANA is also involved in such BNaaS offers and I’m often reminded of Vishal Sikka’s remarks at the Business Suite on HANA launch in January where he described “re-inventing business networks with the transformative capabilities of the SAP HANA platform” [SOURCE].
  • The role of the HANA Enterprise Cloud: It appears that the Retail Network will be running on the HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) [SOURCE] . If true, then the Retail Network is a new variety of HEC application that is not focused on traditional SAP solutions (Business Suite or BW) but rather on the “new and unprecedented applications powered by SAP HANA” that also run in that environment.
  • Timeline: Some might suggest that such offers are just ideas and still far from reality – yet SAP is much closer than some might expect. The first Go-Live of the Retail Network for India is planned on August 15, 2013. [SOURCE]
  • Design Thinking: The emphasis of design thinking in the Retail Network is impressive and extensive. I was especially pleased to hear about the role of this methodology in the design of the POS device so that even illiterate retailers might be able to use the device. 
  • One cloud strategy: I think the inclusion of the Ariba functionality in the offer is critical inasmuch as it shows that SAP’s various cloud assets – which are usually viewed separate – are coming closer together.
  • Adapting to the mobile-related requirements of emerging economies: The fact that SAP is using GPRS to send the POS data to the cloud-based Retail Network [SOURCE] shows that SAP has learned from its experience in Africa and the banking sector there.

Assigned Tags

      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Very Good Article

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great article, and a great direction for SAP. Question: where does the Connected Cars initiative fit into this? Isn't this also an example of a last-mile network, in this case for Automotive, Oil & Gas, Retail, Service Providers (parking), Utilities (electric cars) etc?

      Author's profile photo Richard Hirsch
      Richard Hirsch
      Blog Post Author

      where does the Connected Cars initiative fit into this? Isn't this also an example of a last-mile network, in this case for Automotive, Oil & Gas, Retail, Service Providers (parking), Utilities (electric cars) etc?


      That is an excellent question.  I'd didn't see automotive in the list of last-mile Business Networks that I found but I also think that it would be excellent opportunity for such an offering.  Moya might be able to give us an update regarding this topic.


      Author's profile photo Moya Watson
      Moya Watson

      Great article Dick - thanks for pulling me in so I could see it.  Great evaluation of hybris and Ariba.  I'm sorry I don't have any updates specifically on the Connected Cars topic and have been remote from it for awhile - makes sense from a transactional / POI / real-time offer management perspective for sure.  If I can find any direction will let you know.  It's all an exciting space.



      Author's profile photo Kumud Singh
      Kumud Singh

      This gives a very nice high level overview of the project. I am wondering why is the name of the project 'Project Ganges'? Is it to give it a holy name? Thanks!



      Author's profile photo Richard Hirsch
      Richard Hirsch
      Blog Post Author

      The project has a long history at SAP.

      Unfortunately, I don't know how the project got its name. Maybe a business network is like a river and since the project started in India, they named in Ganges.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      This overview is great. I can just see the evolution of the Business Network As a Services from what I knew in the past (back in 2000-2001) from the Ariba Network to what the new proposal is. Very interesting, very good focus and for sure will be a game changer and put the value where the value really is.

      Author's profile photo Chandra Mouli Krishna Moorthy
      Chandra Mouli Krishna Moorthy

      Nice and informative blog on Last Mile Network. Project Ganges should also address the different languages  for its better adoption and penetrability. There are around 22 languages which are recognised as official out of some 1576 classified " mother tongues" in India.

      Also Pharmacy Shops across India is too lucrative , in perspective of Project Ganges.

      With the penetration of more internet, this should be possible in creating an all time linkage machine of B2C & B2B businesses in India.. There are several other network which can adopt namely courier industry,pharmacy shops,mobile recharge shops etc.

      Author's profile photo Richard Hirsch
      Richard Hirsch
      Blog Post Author

      I like the idea of using the same technology for Pharmacy Shops.  It looks like a good market opportunity.


      Author's profile photo Chandresh Patel
      Chandresh Patel

      Hi Richard,

      I would like to implement this solution in USA. I am SAP BW consultant. Also, I am running small gas station. I have very good network with other Indian business owner who run small c store in USA. This will be great benefits for them.

      Where to buy POS system. and other information.

      any input will be great help.


      Chan Patel

      Author's profile photo Ankur Godre
      Ankur Godre

      Great insights!

      Author's profile photo Binoy Vargis
      Binoy Vargis

      It would be a great product and would make SAP a "KIRANA-hold" name. Great article.!!!!

      Author's profile photo Swarup Das
      Swarup Das

      This is a terrific read, and I want to express my gratitude to you. Every single minute of it was completely enjoyable for me. I've bookmarked your site so that I can come back and see what you've been up to. kirana stores