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Baba’s Group of companies’ digital-transformation journey

(Source: Supplied)

Today’s consumers have higher expectations from products and services than they did in the past. With so many choices at one’s fingertips, it is hardly a surprise that customers will constantly evaluate their interactions with brands.

Customer centricity has always been at the core of the business of Baba’s group of companies (Baba’s). In the late 1970s, a young man put his life savings into a mobile sundry shop, servicing the Klang Valley area of Malaysia. If ever there was a request for a particular product, he made it a point to source the finest quality ingredients and the highest quality items at the most affordable price. Throughout those years, its founders’ principles guided the growth of the company.

Today the company’s range of more than 30 spice mixes and flour products can be found on almost every retail shelf nationwide, making Baba’s more than a household name.

First step towards an intelligent enterprise

Digital transformation is a critical part of the company’s business strategy, which not only makes it future-ready but also helps it meet its commitments to customers, retailers and distributors.

Baba’s prides itself in maintaining high standards in every aspect of business and for that, it constantly evolves its processes to become more agile and resilient.

To ensure the company had access to world-class technology, Baba’s partnered with SAP early in its digital transformation journey. The first step in that journey was to digitise its core with SAP S/4HANA and transition from manual, paper-based processes to a digital business platform. Baba’s looked to build capabilities that would enable it to achieve greater efficiencies, productivity and propel its business growth to the next level as it expanded the business into other markets, including Australia, China, Indonesia, and the UK.

During the first phase, Baba’s focused on finance and sales. Its chosen solution was SAP Direct Store Delivery (DSD) with customer relationship management (CRM), a mobile solution that empowered Baba’s field personnel to simplify complex direct-to-store delivery processes and enable real-time decision-making.

The DSD system enabled sales leaders based in Kuala Lumpur to have full visibility of activities across the organisation. By using specialised mobile apps, field personnel can plan and schedule store visits and deliveries optimally, improve product placement and in-stock levels, and access key information about customer orders and deliveries in real-time.

Additionally, product returns, process orders, and bill payments can be made on the spot while sharing pricing, promotions, and discounts. The sales team can take real-time pictures, conduct surveys, and record customers’ feedback to make further improvements. This data is then transferred to the payroll department to compute commissions. The entire sales cycle is automated and has replaced tedious manual processes that would cause delays across several functions.

When ‘Movement Control Orders’ were first introduced in Malaysia to curb rising Covid-19 infections, Baba’s faced significant challenges across its supply chains, specifically on sourcing raw materials from all over the world. During this challenging period, the company remained committed to ensuring that its customers were serviced without major disruptions. Although Baba’s staff could not travel to its entities outside of Malaysia, SAP systems allowed the business to continue running seamlessly. Similarly, with SAP S/4HANA at its digital core, the company was able to manage its end-to-end supply chain without any compromise on the quality and standards on which its brand had been built.

When remote working policies were first mandated, like every other organisation, Baba’s had to adapt to new ways of working. The immediate focus was putting its people first, ensuring their health and safety, and providing them with flexible work options. In the next phase of its transformation journey, it deployed SAP SuccessFactors and SAP Payroll to improve employee productivity as it continuously adapted and remodelled workplace processes in the ‘new normal’. Baba’s wanted to completely redesign employee experiences by better understanding their needs and ensuring they remained connected and supported.

Today, Baba’s employees are seamlessly connected and enjoy a mobile-friendly user experience with social collaboration capabilities to access information anywhere, anytime. The company’s HR teams are also able to support employees with data-driven insights, cloud payroll, and timesheet tracking. This journey is a virtuous cycle and will continue.

Becoming future-ready

Without a doubt, continuous improvement is a must for every organisation. Likewise, businesses, management, and individual users must be open and receptive to learn from best practices. Organisations must embrace digital transformation to become an ‘intelligent enterprise’ while keeping in mind that customer-centricity is vital for sustainable growth.

Baba’s digital transformation initiatives helped it embrace industry best practices and become future-ready. The company believes the pandemic gave it an opportunity to rethink how it conducts business, particularly by embracing change and technology.

Download the Cloud Transformation White Paper report created by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services to learn more about the benefits of cloud transformation to drive growth for your business.