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Emergence of SAP Consulting Services in India

The rise of SAP consulting services in India has developed a large pool of certified SAP professionals. Indian consultants are known for their competitive pricing and high technical expertise, making them highly sought after. The combination of excellent educational infrastructure and extensive training programs has ensured a steady supply of skilled SAP consultants. Their impact is felt worldwide, as they play a critical role in numerous international SAP implementation projects.

This article from IgniteSAP explores the rise of SAP consulting in India, the contribution of Indian SAP consultants to the global workforce, and ways they can optimise their career progression, at home or abroad. 

Contributions of Major Indian Consultancies

Major Indian consultancies like Infosys, Wipro, TCS, and HCL Technologies and many others have been instrumental in addressing global demand for SAP services. These firms have developed comprehensive SAP practices, providing end-to-end solutions from consulting to implementation and support. Through strategic partnerships with SAP, these companies co-develop tailored solutions and enhance SAP’s market presence both domestically and globally.

Indian companies such as Infosys, Wipro, TCS, and HCL Technologies, Tech Mahindra, and Cognizant, are market leaders. Infosys boasts a significant portion of its 300,000 employees specializing in SAP services. Wipro, with around 220,000 employees, has a dedicated SAP division. TCS employs over 600,000 people globally, many of whom are SAP experts. HCL Technologies, with 220,000 employees, also has a substantial SAP consulting workforce.

Smaller consultancies like YASH Technologies and ITC Infotech are also emerging, offering specialized services in areas such as SAP Leonardo and SAP SuccessFactors.

Indian SAP consultancies leverage a global delivery model to provide cost-effective, high-quality services. This model allows firms to offer 24/7 support and capitalize on time zone differences for faster project delivery. For example, TCS’s “Follow the Sun” model enables continuous project progress by utilizing teams across different time zones. Infosys’s global presence ensures constant service delivery, and Wipro’s distributed agile model accelerates project timelines. These strategies not only reduce costs but also enhance efficiency and client satisfaction.

Strategic Partnerships

Strategic partnerships between SAP and Indian consultancies have significantly bolstered SAP’s market presence. These involve co-developing solutions that cater to specific industry needs. For instance, Infosys’s partnership with SAP on S/4HANA Cloud has resulted in innovative solutions for sectors like manufacturing and retail.

Wipro’s collaboration with SAP focuses on driving digital transformation, leveraging SAP’s suite of solutions for global clients. This partnership emphasizes adopting cutting-edge technologies like AI and machine learning to optimize business processes. 

TCS and HCL Technologies also work closely with SAP to develop industry-specific modules, addressing unique challenges in sectors such as finance and healthcare. These partnerships strengthen SAP’s competitive edge and ensure the delivery of specialized, high-quality SAP services both domestically and internationally.

SAP Labs India

SAP Labs India was established in 1998 in Bangalore and has grown to become one of SAP’s most significant R&D hubs outside Germany.

Initially focused on supporting local SAP implementations, it rapidly expanded its scope to contribute globally, developing cutting-edge solutions and enhancing SAP’s technological capabilities. The Bangalore center plays a central role in driving SAP’s innovation agenda, making substantial contributions to the company’s global product development.

SAP Labs India has been instrumental in advancing several key SAP technologies. Innovations in the SAP Business Technology Platform have improved integration and analytics capabilities. Contributions to SAP S/4HANA have included localized solutions and industry-specific modules. In 2022 SAP Labs India received the SAP Pinnacle Award for Innovation for work on integrating AI into SAP S/4HANA.

In SAP Ariba, the team has improved procurement processes through blockchain technology. SAP Cloud Platform innovations include advancements in IoT and edge computing, enabling real-time data processing and enhanced scalability. Additionally, the integration of AI and machine learning into various SAP products has provided further predictive analytics and intelligent automation solutions.

Economic Expansion and Tech Industry Role

The Indian economy has experienced significant growth in recent years, outperforming many other major economies in several key areas, with the tech industry playing a crucial role. In 2023, India maintained a growth rate of around 7%, which is higher than many developed economies like the USA, Japan, and most European countries​. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India has seen a substantial increase over the past decade, rising from $22 billion in 2013 to $46 billion in 2023.

This growth is fueled in part by the increasing adoption of digital technologies, which has positioned India as a global IT services hub, creating numerous high-value jobs.

Government initiatives such as Digital India, and Make in India, have further accelerated the adoption of advanced technologies.

Digital India aims to transform the country into a digitally empowered society by improving digital infrastructure and services, promoting e-governance, and digital literacy. Digital India’s emphasis on technology adoption has also increased the need for SAP implementations in government projects and public sector enterprises, and the initiative includes specific incentives for IT companies, such as tax benefits and easier compliance requirements.

Make in India focuses on boosting domestic manufacturing and innovation, encouraging both local and international companies to invest in India. These initiatives have significantly impacted the SAP consulting services market by creating a tech-friendly environment that drives growth and efficiency across various sectors.

Make in India’s push for manufacturing excellence has driven demand for industry-specific SAP modules. These programs have created a fertile environment for SAP consultants to develop their skills and gain valuable experience, making them highly competitive in the global market.

Development of the Indian SAP Talent Pool

India has cultivated a large SAP talent pool through extensive training and certification programs. Leading educational institutions, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and other prominent universities, offer specialized courses in SAP technologies. These programs provide foundational knowledge and practical skills needed to excel in the SAP ecosystem. Platforms like Coursera and Udacity offer specialized SAP courses, making high-quality training accessible to a wider audience and helping bridge the skills gap.

In addition to academic institutions and online learning platforms, SAP-authorized training centers play a crucial role. Centers operated by organizations like NIIT and Aptech offer certifications that are highly regarded. These certifications validate the expertise of SAP consultants, making them more attractive to potential employers. The training centers provide a comprehensive learning experience that includes theoretical knowledge, practical exercises, and real-world project simulations.

Major tech corporations have implemented their own talent initiatives to ensure a steady supply of skilled SAP consultants. These companies have developed in-house training programs and established partnerships with academic institutions to align their training offerings with industry needs. Infosys, for example, runs the Infosys Global Education Centre, which focuses on continuous learning and skill enhancement. Wipro’s TalentNext program collaborates with universities to design industry-relevant curriculums and provides internship opportunities, helping bridge the gap between academic learning and professional requirements.

Career Barriers for Indian SAP Consultants

Despite the expanding opportunities, Indian SAP consultants encounter significant barriers in skill acquisition. Access to advanced training and certifications can be limited due to high costs. Although many institutions offer SAP training, advanced modules and niche specializations are often out of reach for many professionals. To overcome the high costs of advanced training, companies are increasingly offering in-house programs and partnerships with online platforms to subsidize learning, along with their university collaborations.

The Indian job market for SAP consultants is highly competitive, due to the large number of graduates entering the market annually. Graduates often face difficulty securing entry-level positions due to the high demand for experienced professionals. Additionally, organizational structures within many larger companies can limit opportunities for advancement, leading to stagnation for mid-career professionals. This bottleneck can result in talented consultants not reaching their full potential.

Securing overseas employment poses its own set of challenges for Indian SAP consultants. Visa regulations in many countries are stringent, making it difficult for consultants to obtain the necessary permits to work abroad. The lack of support for integration away from home can further complicate the transition, affecting job performance and career satisfaction. These barriers highlight the need for more structured pathways and support systems to facilitate international career opportunities for Indian SAP consultants.

Career Opportunities

SAP consultants can build rewarding and fulfilling careers in India by joining major companies, or other smaller and more specialized consultancies. Larger organizations offer professional growth opportunities, access to advanced training, and the chance to work on high-impact projects, while employees of smaller consultancies may benefit from accelerated opportunities for career development. Multinational companies with offices in India provide other advantages, such as allowing consultants to work mostly on global projects while being based domestically.

To advance their careers in India, SAP consultants should focus on continuous learning and skill development, focusing on core SAP components like S/4HANA, but also with an eye on specialization in SAP solutions for industry, or emerging SAP technologies. With the rise of cloud-based solutions like SAP S/4HANA Cloud, there is a growing demand for consultants specialized in cloud migration and security. 

Networking within the industry, attending SAP-related events, and joining professional organizations can also provide valuable connections and insights. Seeking mentorship and guidance from experienced professionals can help navigate career paths and identify growth opportunities within the Indian market and beyond.

Preparing for International Careers

For Indian SAP consultants aspiring to work abroad, obtaining advanced SAP certifications is essential. Countries like Germany, the USA, and Australia have a high demand for SAP consultants. Consultants aiming to work in these regions should focus on obtaining local certifications, such as the SAP Certification Program in Germany. Certifications like the SAP Certified Application Associate for SAP S/4HANA and others offered in German, among other languages, are particularly advantageous for those looking to work in German-speaking regions​.

Developing supporting skills such as fluency in local languages, project management, and understanding global business practices will enhance employability further. Consultants should familiarize themselves with the visa requirements of target countries and securing the necessary documentation, as part of a longer-term career strategy.

To secure job placements abroad, Indian SAP consultants should investigate global job portals and international recruitment agencies specializing in SAP roles. Participating in global SAP forums, conferences, and webinars can help build a professional network and stay updated on international job opportunities. Tailoring resumes and cover letters to highlight relevant experience and skills for the international market is also important. Consultants should consider short-term international assignments or projects to gain exposure and build a global professional profile.

Supporting The Rise of SAP Consulting In India

To support and develop the Indian SAP talent pool, even greater collaboration between SAP, SAP partners in India, and global SAP services providers is essential.

Such partnerships can also facilitate the sharing of best practices, resources, and innovations, benefiting both the Indian and global economies. Enhanced global cooperation can lead to more efficient and effective SAP implementations, allowing India’s vast talent pool to address the global SAP skills gap and drive technological advancement across industries.

To make it easier for Indian consultants to work internationally, to meet the growing demand for SAP consulting services and help bridge the SAP skills gap, several steps can be taken:

Expanding existing training and certification programs with more routes of access and financial support will maintain the existing talent pool and encourage continuous professional development.

Simplifying visa processes and providing better support for SAP consultants working abroad will help consultants transition smoothly to overseas roles. 

Creating more international internship and exchange programs will give Indian consultants valuable global exposure.

These initiatives will improve individual career prospects but also strengthen the global SAP consulting ecosystem: by ensuring the availability of the required talent pool of extremely skilled and experienced SAP consultants to fulfill the increasing requirements of a rapidly growing global SAP market.

If you are an SAP professional looking for a new role in the SAP ecosystem our team of dedicated recruitment consultants can match you with your ideal employer and negotiate a competitive compensation package for your extremely valuable skills, so join our exclusive community at IgniteSAP.