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Away from hub in Bangalore, NetSuite looks to set up spokes in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune: Lee Thompson

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The transition of NetSuite as an Oracle company has helped cloud ERP solution provider to medium-sized businesses invest more in the product innovation, research and development and accelerate its presence in market like India where it did not have physical presence two-and-half years ago. Other than setting up one of the five hubs of APAC region in Bangalore, now the company is looking to establish spokes in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Pune within the next 24 months.

In an exclusive interview with Mohd Ujaley, NetSuite Group VP and GM, Asia Pacific & Japan Lee Thompson said “When we think of the way ahead in India, we probably would set up spokes which will be cities like Delhi, Mumbai or may be in Pune. Within the next 12 to 24 months, we may look at establishing some of those spokes.”

Edited Excerpts:

How has been NetSuite transition as an Oracle company?

I am an ex-Oracle. I have spent 12 years at Oracle, building commercial sales business in the Asia Pacific region including setting up Oracle’s offices in tier II cities in India. In 2015, I joined NetSuite and then in 2016 the company was acquired by Oracle. So, it was like going back to the mother ship. Since I have closely seen some of the Oracle’s acquisition in the past, so we were keen to understand their strategy and when we met, we were happy to know that they wanted to continue investing in NetSuite and let it work freely and do what NetSuite does the best.

The intention was to give NetSuite the best of Oracle’s without slowing it down. After a two-and-half year of this discussion, I am bloated. Oracle has been nothing but supportive. They have given us brand, access to finance and market. Frankly, we did not have a brand in India but Oracle’s brand is so recognisable in India that as soon as we had Oracle brand, it elevated our position in the market.

Similarly, two years ago, we did not have a physical presence in India. We had a kind of channel representation through which we were selling NetSuite in India but with Oracle’s support, we have beefed them up without our own resources. Transition to Oracle has helped us invest more in the product innovation, additional resources and accelerate our presence and growth in India.

Out of all the regions, how Asia Pacific (APAC) is doing for NetSuite?

Perhaps, four years ago, APAC was treated as a big amorphous territory and frankly, the way we prioritised were based on the value of the deal. It was very transactional in nature. So, we realised that we needed to mature. So, what we did, we established three hubs with the view to retain the best of the NetSuite but enable each of the hubs to localised and make products and services more relevant for the local market.

Four years, we had Sydney as the hub for JAPAC, Singapore as the hub for Asia and Tokyo as the hub for Japan. With Oracle investment, it allowed us to open up two more additional hubs. So, now we have Bangalore as the hub for India and Shanghai as the hub for China. Overall, we have five distinct regions in APAC.

We take out programme and initiatives from headquarter but these hubs allow us to make them more localised and relevant. For example, India is a very price sensitive and channel-centric market. At the entry point level, India has Telly which got a big representation in the market. So, we have to be mindful that initiative that we take into India need to be respectful of the market.

In terms of business opportunity and contribution from the APAC region, our strategy is to ‘destination international.’ We are making a big investment in the international market and we do expect the return. Our growth from our international operation continues as the investment we did.

Within the APAC region, how India is doing and what kind of expectation you have from this fledgeling market?

For us, all the hubs are doing exceptionally well including India. My expectation of India is honestly about referenceability, making sure that we have the customers who speak positively about NetSuite experience. What I want to see is more customers using NetSuite consuming technologies and then referenceability. We want to make sure that every customer has a great experience and they get the value. In the end, every organisation has two things in common – they want to increase their revenue and decrease their cost and that is what NetSuite enables.

What are the key verticals that are early adopters of NetSuite products?

We have the benefit of Cloud Computing and have the ability to sell to small businesses and large organisations. We are very strong in almost all the industry but our sweet spots are distribution, manufacturing, services and retail. All of these are a huge market in India too.

There is a huge market for the small business community in India. They are looking for enabling technology that can help them streamline the process and generate growth. So, we are very measured in our approach in terms of how we go to the market and how we enable them in their digital transformation journey.

Are you looking at any specific go-to-market strategy and investment in India?

We have a hub and spoke model but what I have found that the farther you go away from your mother ship, the harder is to retain the culture and DNA of the organisation. Historically, the risk has been that when you put people in geography, they lose their way. So, it is really important that you bring together as the community and individual. That is why we are passionate that we set up a hub in Bangalore so that we learn our craft and we become truly customer-focused organisation. When we think of the way ahead, we probably would set up spokes which will be cities like Delhi, Mumbai or may be in Pune. Within the next 12 to 24 months, we may look at establishing some of those spokes.

Is NetSuite making any investment in R&D in India?

Research and Development (R&D) has two parts – people and product. Since now we have made the investment from the people perspective, so there has been a lot of product development happening. We have launched NetSuite 9.1 and now we are innovating 9.2 with India in mind. In June last year, there was GST role out, so we innovated very quickly to adjust with that.

We are fortunate that we have the product – NetSuite’s SuiteSuccess – ready for the India market. It has all the potential and capability to address the need of Indian businesses with the price sensitivity of the market in mind.

Are you looking at increasing the sales headcounts in India?

We are looking at increasing all the headcounts. There is no shortage of enthusiasm for Oracle to continue to invest in NetSuite. When the time is right, we will make a big launch. Right now, we want to make sure that our organisation is aligned, our customer is happy and we have customer referenceability in India. I would like to see customers talking about our products.

India is mulling to ask companies to host local data within the country. What are your views on data localisation and data sovereignty?

As far as data sovereignty is a concern, I do find it is relevant for government and financial services and outside of that, it is not so relevant. I don’t think many of the organisations that we deal with will be impacted by data localisation.

As far as serving our customer in India is a concern, we will take advantage of the Oracle technology in India. I remember when Oracle CEO Safra Catz announced about the opening of the data center in India during Oracle OpenWorld India at Delhi in 2017, there was huge applause. We will take benefits of those technologies including Oracle Autonomous Database.

(The correspondent was in Las Vegas for SuiteWorld 2019 at the invitation of NetSuite.)

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