In an upfront conversation, Viswanathan Kuppuswami, Chief Executive Officer at Zumen spoke to Ashish Bhatia about the company’s alternative to CRM solutions.

Q. How does SRM fill a specific void, and in what ways does it elevate the established CRM to new levels of effectiveness?

A. The Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) on offer compared to the established Customer Relationship Management (CRM) category presents an exciting opportunity. 99 per cent of the manufacturing industry both domestic and international manage their suppliers through spreadsheets, WhatsApp and emails for example. This is a universal approach. By the time the company puts in place Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and sets them up, there are instances of the company getting overwhelmed. Beyond what is very transactional ERP, the interactive and execution aspects of working with the suppliers are very manual and just left out.

The approach is on the lines of a material management module as part of the ERP universe. Now material management is a very detailed process with a very lengthy life cycle. This entails the product development time to the market. From ideation to design engineering to development sourcing to parts assembly and testing. From optimisation to final design up to product sourcing to give a sense of scale. It involves requests for purchases, requests for quotations including supplier quotations, negotiations, sourcing selection, purchase orders, quality checks, tracking, parts receipt, invoice processing and accounts payable. Going through this lengthy process entails communicating back and forth with the suppliers as well as internally to reinforce the decision-making. It’s a highly complex process that’s also very interactive, and a decision-making process unlike SAP, Oracle etc which are ERPs known as the mother ship for running the enterprises. There is still a lot of dependency outside his universe making the intermediate steps involved manual. This is where we step in.


Q. Have you customised it specifically for automotive suppliers, leveraging the unique selling points of existing interfaces and enhancing them with additional layers?

A. As a Founding team, we bring to the table a significant industry experience to our advantage. With over two decades of on-ground experience, we have understood how the industry functions. We understand the limitations and that has enabled us to design an application that solves the problems. It is how we are in a position to address the voids.

Q. Does your solution address the significant variations in turnovers across the industry spectrum, particularly focusing on the often overlooked MSMEs due to limited resources? Can it effectively transcend this barrier and address the complexities faced by these entities?

A. What we have built here is based on an understanding of how companies can set aside investments for advanced systems. This can be built over leading ERP platforms. If this has to be custom built typically the companies have to set aside millions of dollars to get these made. Not everybody except large enterprises can afford this. Even leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are unable to spend that kind of money because of multiple limitations. Understanding the process, and the platform, and leaning on people with core industry process knowledge are among the barriers preventing the evolution of the stakeholders. For automotive tier 1 also, Zumen provides a platform from day 01 without having to invest all at once. If they have to build over the ERP layer, the spends are huge as I mentioned earlier which amounts to a few Crores at the least. We offer an annual subscription where Zumen has in effect invested into a platform and built for others to benefit from. To bring this down to the MSMEs, on one hand for the OEMs if it’s a supplier relationship it is a customer relationship for the supplier instead. In the same context, Zumen can be a very specific customer engagement platform for tier 1 and tier 2 companies and MSMEs can leverage that. For example, in the supplier-vendor collaboration portal, we cover schedules that tier 1s send to the MSMEs. We also cover supplier commitments and advanced shipment notices to offer a complete digitised collaboration for their wide range of requirements.


Q. What is the engine driving the front-end layers?

A. We want it to be independent of any existing platform from day 01. We have built it using core Java so it is a native application and it comes with the application to cater to both business requirements as well as the native integration of existing ERPs like SAP ECC, and SAP S/4HANA for backward integration.

Q. Are you leveraging AI?

A. Yes, we are using select AI models and we will continue to invest in it as there is no other alternative. Despite being a young company, we made sure that we mature the product before going to the market. That’s a very big difference between Zumen and other seemingly similar companies. Even as we build the platform up and bring in all the processes, we continue to integrate AI where possible. We have modules where we can understand engineering drawings and tap the data for use at the back end at a later point in time. We can understand the supplier quotations, standardise them and compare them side by side. These are a few things we are leveraging AI for and we continue to explore.

Q. How capable is the front end and how have you simplified the user interface?

The front end is a capable layer between the engineering layer and the ERP layer.

Q. Can your analysis of granular data effectively eliminate counterfeiting as a major threat to the industry?

A. Through our medium, the suppliers and buyers are very strongly connected. We are already beyond that stage. A system like this brings in a significant level of transparency which extends to the management, supplier engineer and owner. It helps them to visualise better.

Q. What capabilities do you provide for existing e-marketplaces in terms of facilitating backward integration amidst the burgeoning landscape of online platforms?

A. Zumen is the portal for such e-marketplaces for procurement management. If we just step back and look at an available portal which pools 100s of suppliers as aggregates. If they have an Application Protocol Interface (API) we can integrate it with our platform. Every item which is the marketplace can benefit from the data pooling with our capable framework. That is our forte. To give an example, there is a concept called ‘punch-out’ in the e-marketplace. We can leverage it such that Zumen will have access to decisions and be able to punch out at the back end. We have both the application and integration layers.

Q. In conclusion, do you offer tailored subscription plans, addressing the distinctive needs of low, mid, and high-income groups individually?

A. The application is modular. We are also able to customise by looking at the requirements. This will cover early-stage companies, and scale it to the larger tier 1.


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