gst

GST is not really a tax problem but a technology issue

-Deb Deep Sengupta, President & Managing Director, SAP

GST compliance is the hot issue with most organizations in India. And SAP has a major role to help organizations become GST-ready as most of them use SAP ERP or other applications. To understand how SAP is helping customers adopt GST-ready applications, Dataquest had a tete-a-tete with Deb Deep Sengupta, President and Managing Director, SAP India.

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As Digital India has become a buzzword presently in India, how do you see transformation in various industries?

The digital transformation is now opening up to a lot more industries in the ecosystem. We are hearing quite a bit about security from some time now. So therefore, security is going to be very critical; especially for a country like India where the mindset is not process and policy oriented. Other than that, the new tax regime is giving a huge push to the Government’s Digital India campaign. Micro, small and medium enterprises will all have to digitise their processes. More taxpayers are to come into the fold of the formal economy and move on to digital modes of payment.

We are seeing a lot of action in the market from large established and well-known technology companies to SMEs due to GST. How do you think it will impact everybody?

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I think everybody knows the long-term impact of GST because it is going to increase India’s tax net. Secondly, it will make systems more transparent. As new policies that come up, there will be a lot of operatives involved. Companies that have a consistent strategy and which can support their clients and customers on a consistent basis will only be able to survive. Otherwise, they’ll just wither away. I guess it is good in a way – at least it creates awareness. Then it is for these organizations to be able to figure out whether they can sustain and whether it’s an opportunity they would want to pursue. In my opinion, whenever one market policy such as GST is rolled out, most companies aim to become compliant. The biggest advantage of GST, other than at a macro level, even at an organizational level is that it will give companies the opportunity to redesign their supply chain.

The effects of GST on organizations will be in three stages. Stage one – there will be compliance, transparency and no leakages. Stage two – there will be improvement in the efficiency of the supply chain. These two stages will then lead to the third stage, i.e., improvement in customer experiences because at the end of the day, that’s the real impact which most companies are looking for.

How big is the GST business opportunity for SAP?

It’s very difficult at this point of time to quantify but it’s a significant opportunit. We currently have 8500 customers in India and due to GST and other digital initiatives; we believe we can have almost 100,000 SMEs as customers in the next few years. We have actually productized our offerings, like ‘GST in a Box’, as well as a Digital Compliance Service for GST – which is a cloud based online app. We are seeing a tremendous response not just from SAP customers but also from non-SAP customers for this.

We are offering enterprises that have absolute manual or home-grown systems, an opportunity to get GST ready in 100 days on a hosted cloud model at a very minimal fixed price per month. For the enterprises that already have their systems and processes in place, we have come up with an ASP solution. They can leverage our ASP solution to hook on to any GSP and get compliant. All of this is part of the first phase.

How do you provide GST training through online platform?

We have created a GST portal (sap.com/India/SimpleGST) that guides interested parties to our SAP solution centres and our various partners who can educate and guide them. For companies that have already gone through our GST portal, we have a 24/7 helpdesk support for all our customers –if there is something that is required.

Has GST taken the industry by surprise regarding the technology readiness which is required?

The answer is yes as well as no. Industry segments that are more organized and formalized like automotive, consumer products, etc., these enterprises have been preparing for GST for the last 6-12 months, at least. For these companies, it is not just about getting GST-ready but also bringing about their tier one/ tier two suppliers into GST-ready mode. It is also about their customer contracts and internal processes being updated. GST means different things to different industries and sectors. GST policy for textile is completely different from automobile. Similarly, GST policy for oil and gas is different.

Through SAP’s standpoint, we started our GST journey way back in November, we created GST awareness workshops. We realised that many mid-sized businesses, SMEs and MSMEs across the nation are the ones that needed education and hand-holding. We went to 21 cities for our GST health check drives and also launched specific GST solutions for their benefit.

What are some of the biggest challenges for large organizations, SMBs and MSMEs with respect to gearing up for GST?

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Large organizations usually have multiple suppliers. But not all suppliers will be GST ready, which is a threat to these organizations, as well as to the suppliers. Some of these big organizations have taken a very principled approach and are willing to not work with suppliers who aren’t GST ready. This will push a lot of tier two and tier three suppliers to become GST compliant. Also, large organizations have worked on their fallback options, so technology readiness or preparedness won’t be a big challenge. It is more about the preparedness of the ecosystem and to see how it operates altogether.

However, for SMBs and MSMEs, it is more about the awareness of moving from an informal sector to a formal one. But everybody is seeing this as a tax problem, which isn’t correct. It is actually a technology issue. SMBs need to check their level of readiness, awareness and what kind of advice they are getting to be technologically ready, not just from compliance perspective will be the key factor.

What is the status of your GST solutions centres; how do they work and what’s been the response so far?

Our GST Solution Centres are in collaboration with our partners. Each of our partners is ready and enabled. At these centres, our clients walk in for the GST awareness and readiness checks. Basis their readiness and awareness levels, we show them how the entire process works. We show them how data gets uploaded and how we tackle the various steps within the process. At the same time, we have a methodology by which these companies can become GST ready in 100 days. We do a lot of online and digital marketing through our partners to reach our potential clients. They get to know that a centre is available locally and then just walk into the centre. From a business opportunity perspective, the pipeline has gone up significantly, specifically for these opportunities over the last few weeks.

Is the communications infrastructure is organized and ready to really roll GSTN?

Today, we don’t need broadband and VSATs and lease lines. As long as there’s mobile and data connectivity, data can be even uploaded in a batch format. It need not be a fully 24/7 online service. Uploads can be done at the end of the day. Even for SMEs, it will all be at a concentrated level, not a multiple office level. I don’t think that infrastructure will be a challenge in India, with the tele-density and the 4G network in place.

What is the progress on GST Suvidha Providers’ front?

Many companies have been listed as GST Suvidha Providers and it is a great opportunity. We have created the ASP application for SAP and non-SAP customers, through which, they can log on to any GST Suvidha Provider. While we have announced a specific tie-up with Reliance where they would bring in their GSP capabilities, we are also interacting with other Suvidha Providers to help them and their applications.

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