At the start of 2020, Arundhati Bhattacharya reached out to a close acquaintance from the Indian tech industry to discuss a new assignment. Bhattarcharya had retired as chairperson of India’s largest public sector bank, State Bank of India, in 2017, and she was itching for a new challenge. It finally came in the form of Salesforce, the ~US$280 billion US-based SaaS SaaS SaaS Software as a Service model entails offering subscription based access to software over the internet  company.

Salesforce wanted Bhattacharya to head its India operations, a fledgling market for the SaaS behemoth. While Salesforce’s estimated revenues for the year ending January 2022 stands at US$26.35 billion, its India sales operations contributed somewhere in the range of US$130 million to US$180 million, two senior executives who have worked closely with Salesforce India told The Ken. The company discloses only the revenue generated from the work done in its development centre for its global operations.

Bhattacharya’s appointment, which was formalised in April 2020, was a marker of intent for the US company. 

Despite its relative nascency, India is one of Salesforce’s fastest-growing markets, growing around 30-40%, year on year. Sensing the potential, Salesforce wanted to make India into an Operating Unit (OU) Operating Unit (OU) Operating Unit (OU) For an 'operating unit' country, Salesforce brings together all its local investments under a leader, who usually holds the position of chairperson and CEO , with local leadership and billing. It had already begun hosting its data in local data centres to comply with data localisation norms, which opened doors for large deals with finance and the public sector organisations. Where it lagged was with tapping into the wide and cheap tech talent available in India for engineering and product development. In this department, Salesforce was undoubtedly playing catch up with pioneers such as Microsoft, it’s biggest competitor, and the Germany-based SAP.  

Despite her lack of tech or tech sales experience, she was seen as the perfect candidate for the job. Her tenure at SBI, from 2013 and 2017, was filled with turbulence. She inherited a bloated non-performing asset book and had to deal with the aftermath of demonetisation, when the government invalidated 86% of the country’s legal tender overnight. She also oversaw two major projects that reshaped SBI’s image as a staid, old fashioned bank—the merger of five associate banks and a fully-owned subsidiary bank into the main SBI entity as well as its entry into the fintech space with its super app YONO super app YONO The Ken SBI’s one app to rule them all Read more .

AUTHOR

Pratap Vikram Singh

Pratap is based out of Delhi and covers policy and myriad intersections with the other sectors, most notably technology. He has worked with Governance Now for seven years, reporting on technology, telecom policy, and the social sector.

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