The South African managing director of enterprise software giant SAP is excited about the “fantastic” growth opportunity the Philippines has in the digital age.
“I have never been so excited to work with SAP Philippines and that goes not only for the company but for the region as well. I think we have fantastic opportunity in Southeast Asia and the Philippines specifically to make a material difference, to live up to our vision,” SAP Philippines managing director Ryan Poggi says in an interview at a restaurant in Fort Bonifacio commercial business district in Taguig City.
“With 7 percent GDP growth and a young digital economy, we [SAP Philippines] should be leading and driving as one of the growth engines for SAP,” Poggi says.
SAP, a German multinational corporation, is considered the world’s largest business software company whose vision is to help companies of all sizes and industries run better. Poggi says SAP empowers people and organizations to work together more efficiently and use business insight more effectively to stay ahead of the competition.
“We have grown exponentially. We started SAP Philippines in 1995 with three employees and one customer [San Miguel Corp.]. We now have more than 1,500 customers across the Philippines. We have over 1,600 employees, if you count Concur,” says Poggi, referring to SAP’s recent acquisition of Concur Technologies.
SAP now has four offices in the Philippines spread in Fort Bonifacio, Makati and Ortigas CBDs. “With the recent acquisition of Concur, we have about 1,600 to 1,700 employees that is split between our Concur, as well as SAP. Our shared services centers [in Makati and Ortigas] serve our customers globally. What we have here [Fort Bonifacio] is the typical operations, sales and delivery office,” says Poggi, who has over 12 years of international management experience.
Poggi who was assigned to lead SAP Philippines operations last year was previously assigned in Singapore and Dubai. “My family is from South Africa. I moved to the Middle East to look for the Middle East region from a commercial standpoint. About five years ago, I moved to Singapore again with SAP. About a year and a half ago, I got the exciting opportunity to lead the Philippines,” he says.
He settled at Fort Bonifacio along with his wife and his daughter. Aside from the economic potential of the Philippines, Poggi was impressed by the country’s natural beauty. “I have been to Cebu, Camiguin, Dumaguete, Coron, and I really want to go up to Batanes,”he says.
Poggi says SAP can help Philippine companies in their digital transformation. “If you look at the economy of today and economy of tomorrow, software is going to be the enabler for the way people live. I don’t think there has ever been a better time for SAP or any other software company to actually enact that vision,” he says.
He says an unprecedented convergence of technology and trends is changing the world, ushering in digital transformation. Poggi says digital transformation requires a complete rethinking of current operational processes.
“In the digital economy, we see the traditional lines between industries get blurred. Telcos are not just telcos. Retailers are not just retailers. Utility companies are moving into services. What we have been able to do, and the strength that what I believe SAP has is we have deep industry expertise across 25 of the world’s largest industries,” he says.
He says traditional companies need to evolve to take advantage of the digital economy. “It is a fundamental mind shift to what is possible. Companies don’t yet understand the possibilities that are available in the digital economy,” he says.
Poggi says Cloud technology plays an important role in transformation. “Cloud is a delivery mechanism to simplify how businesses operate. What cloud necessitates is for companies to be simple in their operations. Cloud enables the simplification of the way companies operate, the way they communicate to themselves and to the broader world. It frees up resources, assets,” he says.
Poggi says SAP can help Philippine companies expand beyond national borders. “The reality is we have a lot of companies in the Philippines that are expanding globally. In order to do that, they need to simplify the way they operate. Taking a business that has been traditionally Philippine-based or any country-based, and expanding globally either through acquisition or organic growth, you need to have a very simple core operation in order to ensure that all other divisions that you are running or buying out globally are able to run at the same pace, or run with the same flexibility,” he says.
Poggi considers the Philippines as an extremely important market for Southeast Asia and for Asia-Pacific. “If you look at the global growth of regions, APJ [Asia-Pacific including Japan] and Southeast Asia, it [the Philippines] is at the forefront of global growth. If you look at the Philippines with 7 percent growth in GDP, it is one of the fastest growing economies anywhere in the world, certainly in Asia,” he says.
“You combine that sort of underlying growth with the fact that the Philippines has the highest Internet adoption growth rate of any country, at 530 percent, one of the highest Twitter and Facebook penetration rates at 80 and 90 percent, [respectively]. You combine the adoption of digital technology from the consumer standpoint that the Philippines has with the growth in the economy, I think the opportunity here is endless,” says Poggi.