‘Blundering e-tailers nearly killed the market’

He’s
practising what he preaches. Ever since 1996, when he set up the liaison office
for QAD India in the country, he has been responsible for managing the business
cycle in India–forecasting, planning and evaluating e-needs for the new
economy enterprises. And he sells products that help companies do exactly the
same through a suite of e-commerce, SCM, CRM, ERP and business intelligence
applications. Last but not least on the list is the aspect of collaborative
application tools. He is also responsible for developing alliances and channel
strategies of the company for India and the subcontinent. In an interview with
DATAQUEST, Arjun Erry, country manager, India and subcontinent, QAD India Inc,
talks about QAD, where it fits in today’s e-economy and its strategy for
India. Excerpts:

How do you define QAD in this e-economy era?

If you look at QAD, it has been a provider of business applications and
software to large and mid-size enterprises across the world, primarily in
manufacturing. Hence the shift that is happening is sort of complementary. The
big advantage and the opportunity that such companies can have through the use
of the Internet are clearly defined by QAD products. This essentially means that
we take into consideration inputs of the tools based on a bunch of rules. If
these tools are provided to sales staff, which is a nomadic traveling work
force, then the company is transferring vital information out into the field.

It means cutting down the lead time in terms of the salesman going out in the
field, understanding the need, coming back to office, sitting with the product
guys, configuring and again going back. Using QAD tools and by making them
web-enabled means that a salesman can access information from anywhere and
anytime. Similarly, a company can benefit by sharing information of a major deal
signed or quantity and type of product the company intends to produce in a time
frame with sub-contractors, vendors and suppliers. This would help the partners
speed up the entire process of managing people, inventory and down time with a
focussed approach to meet the company’s requirements.

Opportunities like these are fast emerging for manufacturing companies. That’s
the big shift in the way companies are working today and therefore in the
approach of software companies like us.

Are you trying to address it from an integrated approach, where there
could be a single product that includes the ERPs, CRMs and SCMs of this world?

There is no single real answer for that as businesses and their models vary
across industries and even within a particular sector. Every business faces its
peculiar set of challenges. If the main challenge is logistics, one has to look
at supply chain and optimization. If there is a business, where the model needs
better understanding of what is getting lifted and forecasting, the need is for
demand forecasting solution. On the other hand, if the business model mandates a
better hold and understanding of the supply side, the need is for a procurement
solution.

So a company may need all of these or only a few of these. There may be many
different combinations, which can be figured out only by understanding what the
company wants to achieve in a given time frame and the challenges to it.

How do you look at the present e-business scenario, with everyone
clambering on to the bus? Does everybody need every new system?

I can’t make a sweeping comment on it, but this is a valid point. Maybe
everybody needs it, maybe everybody doesn’t need it, The way to go about it is
to understand what the company wants to do today, and what sort of market,
products, business model the company is planning. These need to be considered to
determine the kind of organizational structure, processes, type of human
resources and systems that would be required to make the transition. Like they
say, you cannot put the cart before the horse. One needs to first determine the
requirements and then deploy resources accordingly. However, there is no doubt
that sooner or later companies would require e-business applications; what form,
shape, color it takes is a different issue and would vary from case to case.

What market size are you looking at in India?

Market estimation at this stage is very difficult as these are early days.
These products are still being talked about at a conceptual level. What is of
interest are the changes that are happening in the e-business space triggered by
the 1991 liberalization process, the formulation of cyber laws, WTO and other
such issues. Also, I believe that integration between companies that operate in
optical supply chain is going to become crucial. This would include all those
involved in the single business process of convergence of raw material into a
finished product and making it available to the end user. This also means that a
huge amount of exchange of information is involved. This is critical information
and integrating it is the only way a company can become more competitive.
Integration is going to be the key to business and hence the potential is
immense.

How do you propose to work out a plan for India, particularly when you do
not have market projections?

We don’t plan for a particular market. We plan for the global industry. It’s
a question of which market moves in what particular direction. But then, if you
follow the market you are always left behind. One should know what is coming
down the pipe 2-3 years in advance. That is how we started developing
collaborative applications in 1998, while consultants and enterprise have just
started talking about it. The potential is huge and we are ready to offer
applications that bring information, commerce and people together so that the
industry can streamline its business functions.

Then, what has been the basis of QAD’s India strategy?

Our strategy in this country is based on two key factors. One, we have a base
of more than 750 customers using our enterprise applications in India. All these
companies will, at some point of time, begin to e-enable–some earlier, some
later. That’s a standard cycle that any new thing goes through. So we are
talking individually with our customers and helping them, working with them,
understanding with them the direction they intend to move towards. Our advantage
is that, being a leader in this space, we saw it coming two years ago. Today we
have all products to meet emerging demands. On the other hand, we are also
suggesting that even if a company does not have an enterprise application, it
can still implement the complete system at one go by bypassing the earlier
phases.

In fact, there are a lot of benefits in implementing it in a single phase as
all the change management–both within the physical boundary of the enterprise
and its external operations–happens at the same time. This saves a lot of
money
and time needed to marry a new system with a legacy system. The key here is
integration–for a given set of requirement and processes. Unless there is
integration, things will continue to fall apart in this e-era.

Shubhendu Parth in New Delhi

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