With his net cast towards those companies in Sweden with upwards of €50 million in revenue, Ola Hammarlund estimates he has 2,000 potential clients. “The others, to be frank, I don’t need to have a relationship with or be known by,” the Gateway Digital Sweden CEO tells The CEO Magazine. He is aware his words may come across as harsh, but he is also someone who knows exactly what his business is. “We are a business-to-business company that helps mid-size companies achieve their results in the B2B space. For that, we don’t need to be everywhere and known by everyone.” When a company is in growth mode like Gateway Digital is in Sweden, it’s difficult to turn down any leads, especially in an organisation “which tends to see business everywhere”, Ola explains.
A leader in digital transformation solutions designed to help its customers become true customer magnets in their target markets, the Gateway Group was established in 1997 by a trio of Indian IT entrepreneurs.
Today, it has a truly global reach with 20 independent companies across 16 countries, of which its Swedish operation is one. “The company’s Indian DNA breeds a never say no, always say yes, mentality,” he adds. “Yet, while there may be opportunities, they are not always the right ones for us.” With more than two decades of experience in the Nordics, including his most recent role heading up the Swedish and Finnish business of another Indian technology firm, Tech Mahindra, Ola knows what is required for global businesses to achieve local success. “Be connected and put your efforts where you can make a difference,” he insists, adding that his is an almost Germanic approach to business.
Having signed his employment contract on 24 December 2019, he officially became CEO in March 2020. “When I joined, I was expecting to grow the business a bit faster than it actually has,” he admits, reflecting on 12 months like no other.
But while some industries have been devastated by the COVID-19 crisis, it’s no secret that others are thriving, such as gaming. And it’s in this space, with Svensk Travsport (ST, the Swedish Trotting Association), the state-owned body responsible for betting in the country, where the first deal landed a month after he started. “People are engaging and gaming as before, and we are working with them on a lot of development projects,” Ola says. “This means that we have now created almost 50 full-time positions within Gateway Digital in Sweden.”
Ola has been quick to realise that in this current environment, it is imperative to be even more selective in the opportunities the company pursues. ”We have been fast to change direction towards those businesses that are actually still investing,” he shares, adding that even these clients are more risk-averse and cautious when it comes to decision-making, something which has seen a shift in its approach to new business. “More than ever we are turning to proof-of-value projects, risk-reward structures, even co-investment and share the outcome models. It is increasingly important to showcase the results we will achieve together.”
The CEO is currently focused on “building a local brand” with the support of Gateway Digital’s headquarters in both Zoetermeer, Netherlands, and Ahmedabad, India. “Six of our seven development centres are based in India, but our financial headquarters is in the Netherlands and most of our clients are European-based,” he points out.
From a local perspective, Ola is the company’s second employee in Sweden, brought on board to grow brand recognition and sales in the country.
“It’s been a very small company here for four years, building its presence with a single person,” he shares. Now, he says, that’s set to change. “Today our revenue is €2 million and the time has come to take a leap towards €5 million at least.”
Ola wants Gateway Digital to be known as “the technology-driven yet business-oriented change agents who drive digital transformation in a practical and affordable way for all mid-size companies in Sweden”. As he looks to access new clients, particularly in its fields of expertise such as transportation and logistics, entertainment and online gaming, and automotive industries, a recruitment drive is underway to bring English- and Swedish-speaking talent to the team, the latter to address the need for local language in our target markets. He also has the blessing of his main stakeholder, Gateway Group Founder, Chair and CEO Niraj Gemawat, to identify potential acquisitions.
A geographically small country, but one that has produced the likes of Volvo, IKEA, H&M, Spotify and Sandvik, Ola appreciates that Sweden is very mature when it comes to business-to-consumer digitisation. “It feels like we don’t even have to touch cash anymore, everything is more or less done with Swish and BankID,” he says, referring to the mobile payment system that was launched in 2012 by six leading banks. “B2B, however, is far from digitised. There’s great potential within the mid-size companies, particularly to make more use of digital opportunities to save costs, help the environment and also create new revenue streams and customer delight.”
Ola is enthusiastic to see what the future holds for the business, but is also aware that finding the perfect balance between its global network and local presence is a constant opportunity and a challenge. “Building a local IT company is different from just representing the larger Group. You can count on a Swedish interface, account and program management to get the best of the global Gateway Group,” he stresses. “We want to be the great local IT Company helping our international clients to succeed.”
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