Friday, August 20, 2010

Entering the game-changer funnel: story of SAP Labs India

When Boria Majumdar, the cricket expert (he has a PhD on history of cricket from Oxford!) was invited to give a talk at SAP Labs Gurgaon, little did anyone know that it will catalyze the first idea from India Lab to enter the game-changer funnel. Game-changer is a new business incubation process at SAP Labs where only 3 ideas enter every year each having a potential of generating at least $20M of annual revenue. Last Wednesday V. R. Ferose, MD of SAP Labs India, narrated this story in Bangalore Innovation Forum at IIMB while speaking on how SAP Labs India is building an environment of innovation. What’s cricket got to do with software products? Let’s look at the story in brief and related questions that came up during the Q&A session.

When Ferose took over as MD at SAP Labs Gurgaon, he observed a fundamental issue with the environment. There were 500 smart employees with an average age of 26.5. However, they were surrounded by the same kind of people. Even outside the office they were mingling with their friends who were also from the same background i.e. IT. If one of the tenets of innovation is to “think different”, how can that happen when everybody thinks the same? Of course, one can’t control who one makes friends with. Then can we invite people with different background to the company and share their perspectives? That got a series of talks started where a non-IT person was invited every week for an hour. People who visited SAP Labs during this series are: Kiran Bedi, Dr. Abdul Kalam, Rahul Bose, Harsha Bhogle, Harish Hande etc. Boria Majumdar visited as part of this series.

Boria spoke about the problems with cricket administration. He mentioned how corrupt the whole administration is and how there is a huge need for bringing in efficiency in sports administration perhaps through a software. One of the employees picked it up as a potential opportunity. During the market survey it was clear that if we take into account the cash rich sports clubs like English Premier League (EPL) then there is indeed a huge opportunity. Perhaps IPL belongs to the same category. The idea was taken further – relevant patents were filed. And the idea got selected to enter the global business incubator i.e. game-changer process.

Q1: How did the idea author get rewarded in this case?

The idea author gets recognition in two forms. The first is that he becomes part of the incubation team not necessarily as a leader to the take the idea further. It took one and a half year for the idea to be incubated. The second form of recognition is an option given of going for a week to a design school either at Stanford or in Berlin for a course on design thinking.

Q2: Did $20 M goal act as a deterrent in submitting ideas?

We realized that technology people are not good at creating a business case. We have a value engineering group who help pre-sales in creating value propositions for prospective customers. We got the good ideas from technology people validated from the value engineering folks. This brought out the business potential of the ideas.

Q3: Have you come across an idea which started as incremental and then led to a disruptive innovation?

I don’t know all the innovations that came out from SAP Labs. However, from my experience I haven’t seen any incremental idea becoming disruptive.


  1. This is simple great! This opnes up many new dimensions to think about strategic innovation, intrapreneurship, etc. I know MindTree also had similar platforms to think about newer aspects of life which may or many not connect to the business. I think we need more discussion on this.

  2. Thanks for sharing this info about SAP Labs India innovation system.

  3. Interesting way to bring diversity to the thinking process!!!

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