Grooving to the SAMBA beat
Sony Entertainment Television
Senior VP - IT & New Media, SET India
Implementing an ERP in the most optimal manner is not everyone's
cup of tea. Rare are those that actually build an ERP of their own. This outstanding
effort has won Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India the Computer Associates
Intelligent Enterprise Awards 2004 in the Information, Communication and Entertainment
(ICE) category. by Anil Patrick R
|Project: SAMBA, SET India's homegrown ERP system.
Date Started: 1999
Date Completed: 2004
Project Cost: Rs 20 lakhs
Project Objective: To automate the company's key business processes.
Benefits Accrued: Reduction in daily sales outstanding resulting
in improved cash management, accurate reporting, better turnaround times,
and reduced paper generation.
Innovation: The complete solution was conceived and built in-house
with a small team. It is now being 'productized' to be more flexible and
customizable so that it can operate in different regions across the world.
As the saying goes, anyone can buy an ERP, but the crux is
in customizing it for your business. This is more so in the case of the broadcasting
industry where domain knowledge skill sets have to be merged with knowledge
of the local business environment to get optimal results out of the ERP system.
SET India's ERP success lies in their effective modular ERP solution to automate
their complex business operations called System for Automated Management of
Broadcast Activities (SAMBA).
"SAMBA is the only solution of its kind in the Indian broadcast industry
and one of the few such solutions across the world," said Anil Garg, Senior
VP - IT & New Media, SET India.
The road less traveled
The biggest innovation that SAMBA brings to the table is that it is SET India's
entirely homegrown system.
"Unlike other broadcasting organizations that opted for expensive readymade
software involving huge customization and licensing costs, the organization
decided to take the path less traveled and develop an in-house system,"
To trace SAMBA's development and evolution, we need to go back in time to circa
1998. SET India was already three years into its operations and growing rapidly.
It was dealing with customers worldwide and sales were booming. The need for
an automated system to manage key business processes like advertising sales
was felt at this point in time.
Advertisements are perishable commodities highly dependent on factors like those
related to a sale in terms of currency, exchange rate, the client, agency, and
export clearance. In addition to this, multi-channel broadcasting environments
bring in more challenges.
Tracking these manually is not always possible since advertisement slots get
booked many months in advance. This resulted in outsourcing the development
of an ERP called Television Management System (TMS).
TMS failed to take off due to the lack of intensive domain knowledge. And thus
SET India decided to develop the ERP themself.
"We looked at broadcast packages across the world but
were not able to find one that suited our requirements. This is when we first
started developing software to automate crucial business processes like sales,"
|The other nominee in ICE category was Wipro Spectramind's
Pegasus-45 project. With this project, the organization consolidated existing
individual 2 Mbps links to a 45 Mbps DS3 architecture for their national
and international backbone.
SET India took special care to build the system around standards and make it
multi-channel, even though most broadcast companies did not have more than one
channel at the time.
"The basic premise was to follow standards, have a plug & play architecture,
and be prepared for the future. If you don't need a module, you need to be able
to remove it," said Garg.
SAMBA was started in 1999 and completed in 2004 at a cost
of Rs 20 lakh. At present, SAMBA and various modules power key business processes
like all revenue streams accruing from advertising sales, pay television (through
cable operations), and the enterprise's financial accounting. The various system
modules take care of ad-sales related operations, traffic & scheduling components,
media library, copyrights, television operations, and financial accounting for
The business's operational aspects were first addressed by SAMBA. After users
recognized the software's power, Garg and his team added more modules to the
system resulting in the 20 modules that are in use at present. More SAMBA modules
are on the works.
This Windows-based ERP runs on the Intel platform and uses the client-server
model. SET India's distributors are connected to the system using an external
server that connects to internal servers.
Such a great achievement culminated as a result of the dedicated
efforts of a small but committed team. "We started with a three member
team. By 2000, we started hiring and team size has remained constant at seven
people since then," said Garg.
|"Winning the Intelligent Enterprise Award has been a proud moment
for me and my team. SAMBA demonstrated the power of software to our organization
when we first implemented it. The Intelligent Enterprise Award is one of
the best recognitions that we could have got for SAMBA, a result of many
years of hard work. It is also very motivating for my team and SET as a
Gains all the way
SAMBA has helped improve SET India's processes in a major way. SET India claims
that 90 percent of its employees have benefited from the deployment of SAMBA.
Customers and members in the value/supply chain have also benefited from the
Garg says that the major benefit of the solution vis-à-vis other available
broadcast managing solutions is on the licensing and customization front. Developing
the solution in-house has helped to keep SAMBA away from such hassles. This
translates to direct long term cost benefits.
"Typically, packages like SAMBA will cost million of dollars. There will
also be annual license fees and customization fees," said Garg.
SET India has been able to reduce its daily sales outstanding
and achieve better turnaround times. This has helped it achieve improved cash
The next advantage has been in the generation of more accurate reports. SET
India deals with many channels for their distribution business. To streamline
this, each channel requires customized reports from SET India that can be directly
sent to their ERP systems. Garg says that SAMBA has made accurate reporting
possible for this.
Other advantages include reduction in paper generation, fax, and courier costs.
Customer accounting and speed of communicating with customers have also increased
through the use of SAMBA.
Conceptualization and implementation of the ERP hasn't been a glitch-free affair
for Garg and his team. This is why credit has to be given to SET India for battling
the odds and emerging victorious.
The learning involved in ERP creation is not simple. Garg and his team had to
rewrite or even discard many parts of the system due to new user requirements
and system constraints.
"It has been a great learning experience and continues to be so. For example,
there were these modules that we wrote for paid TV operations. This is very
complex in a country like India where you are managing thousands of operators
and we learned a lot from it," said Garg.
Interaction with users was the next constraint faced during SAMBA implementation.
Many of SET India's users (like cable operators) were not well versed with the
use of computers. Getting required system specifications and feedback from them
was an uphill task for the team.
Team motivation was yet another problem faced by Garg. The small team was faced
by the huge task of implementation on one side and user expectations on the
other during the initial SAMBA testing days. According to Garg, the biggest
motivation that helped them through those tough days was the joy of creating
a unique solution.
A promising future
SET India is working towards the addition of new intelligent modules like those
for 'smart selling' to SAMBA at present. This will help the company offer better
deals to its customers while maximizing the potential of its inventories. Many
modules to be passed on to SET India's customers are also being developed. Work
is also on to improve the visual appeal of SAMBA interfaces.
Making the ERP vendor independent and migration from Windows
to Linux-based servers is on the charts. SET India also has ambitious plans
to make SAMBA a product.
Anil Patrick R can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org