As CEO, Punit Renjen developed and implemented the strategy that grew Deloitte’s revenue from 35 billion USD to more than 59 billion USD in just seven years. Today Deloitte is one of the world’s leading professional services firms, employing 415,000 people in 150 countries. Punit Renjen is also a member of the Leadership Council of the World Economic Forum (WEF). In 2022, he was named “Global Indian of the Year” by the Economic Times. Born and raised in India, Punit Renjen moved to the United States on a Rotary Foundation scholarship to study at Willamette University. He currently lives in Oregon, USA.
Punit Renjen’s chairmanship of the Supervisory Board will be a turning point for SAP and an opportunity for renewal for the SAP community. If you are familiar with the complex Indian epic Mahabharata and speculate that Punit Renjen is also acquainted with the tales found within, you can expect only the very best for SAP. Just as there are many answers to numerous perplexing questions to be found in Greek mythology, so are there many useful pieces of advice in the Mahabharata for resolving complex conflicts. The Mahabharata is a heroic epic, similar to those found in Greek mythology, and an important religious and philosophical work. Director Peter Brook adapts these comprehensive stories of mankind in his three-part straight-to-video film “The Mahabharata” from 1989 (available on DVD and worth seeing).
Hasso Plattner leaves his successor with a well-organized SAP that draws its strength and success from a glorious past. Plattner, who founded SAP in 1972 together with Dietmar Hopp, Claus Wellenreuther, Klaus Tschira, and Hans-Werner Hector, has chaired the Supervisory Board since 2003, and will be greatly missed by the SAP community. However, at the same time, this opens the door for new creativity for SAP. Whether Punit Renjen and CEO Christian Klein will be able to fill Plattner’s shoes remains to be seen. The aforementioned SAP founders, up to CEO Henning Kagermann and CFO Werner Brandt, created a strong foundation that even subsequent CEOs Léo Apotheker and Bill McDermott could not topple. SAP even survived overly adventurous endevours such as the purchase and sale of Qualtrics almost unscathed—thanks to the prudent work of Brandt’s successor, CFO Luka Mucic.
Kagermann left SAP a long time ago and has not returned as a member of the Supervisory Board, neither has Werner Brandt. Luka Mucic is probably planning a similar approach. He was replaced as CFO by Dominik Asam in March of this year. Knowledge of SAP’s past successes continues to fade from public consciousness and SAP has not reached any new heights in recent years. In fact, for the past decade, SAP has struggled to gain customers’ acceptance for Hana and S/4.
The first challenge for Punit Renjen will be a cultural change in the board of directors. The tasks ahead can only be solved together, like much of the Mahabharata. Under Plattner, it was often the case that he had the last word and many experienced supervisory board members’ opinions were ignored. After Plattner, who was more of a visionary, having a more pragmatist CEO could be a real asset. Especially one who previously managed a company four time the size of SAP. In any case, Punit Renjen’s life experience will make him an excellent addition to the young and still inexperienced Executive Board trio of Christian Klein, Juergen Mueller, and Thomas Saueressig.
SAP’s paths over the past fifteen years have been as convoluted and complex as the story of the Mahabharata, from which the following lesson can be learned: there is never just one answer and compromise is real life. It is equally true that because of SAP’s success in the past, all the answers are already there—it is simply a matter of finding them. Or as the Mahabharata says, “What is found here can be found elsewhere. What cannot be found here cannot be found anywhere.”
Punit Renjen will need all his wisdom to orchestrate the necessary turning point in SAP’s history. The company is at a critical junction and desperately needs an organizational and business impetus. On the technical side, Hasso Plattner has done everything humanly possible to ensure the company’s success, and for that the SAP community will be forever grateful. With knowledge of as complex a mythology as the Mahabharata, Punit Renjen should have no problem overcoming SAP’s problems as Supervisory Board Chairman from 2024 onwards.
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