Zoho is an Indian web-based online office suite that is supported by applications developed by Zoho Corporation which is based in California. Their office suite consists of spreadsheets, word processing, database, note-taking, customer relationship management, presentations and more. They were one of the first companies that initiated a work from home for all its employees.
Rajendra Dandapani, Director of Technology at Zoho Corporation gets into a conversation with Radhika Udas from Express Computer about technologies used at Zoho and their future plans.
Kindly brief us on Zoho’s business model and what problem in businesses does it solve?
Zoho is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company that offers a wide variety of applications in nearly every major business category, including sales, marketing, customer support, accounting, back-office operations and an array of productivity and collaboration tools. When they choose Zoho, businesses don’t have to deal with multiple vendors or integration hassles, saving them both time and money.
One of the biggest problems of using multiple vendors is that the data gets stored in silos, and the managers do not have the whole context when they make decisions. In Zoho, because all the products have been built from the ground up on the same stack, they integrate deeply with information flowing smoothly between the apps, ensuring that the decision-makers get a 360-degree view of the business. With Zoho One, which combines all our 45+ applications, businesses get the added advantage of advanced analytics and AI that works across multiple apps and can pull in the relevant information with simple queries.
What kind of technologies are you using and how are they helping grow business?
Zoho runs on Zoho. We use our own products and have been able to scale well.
As deadly virus Covid-19 spreads rampantly across the globe, how do you think technology makes it easy for people to ‘work from home’?
From the first week of March, Zoho has adopted a ‘work from home’ policy for all its 8000+ employees across 10+ offices around the world. The reason we have been able to successfully implement this is because our own collaboration tools allow us to maintain business continuity, even with a dispersed workforce. Realising how companies will require this kind of technology in the current scenario, we have started offering them for free till July 1. Remotely, our virtual collaboration and productivity platform was put together by teams spread around the globe, working from home.
Our CEO, Sridhar Vembu, himself has been running the company from a remote farm in Tenkasi, thanks to the availability of the 4G network. With high-speed internet being available even in villages, there is absolutely no reason why companies can’t adopt work from home policy until the threat is contained.
How do you manage data privacy and security of your services?
For Zoho, data privacy and security are a top priority. We don’t collect user data for the purpose of selling them and we have never shown ads even in the free version of our software, and are GDPR compliant, not just in the European nations, but in all countries. Our internal security teams constantly test for vulnerabilities and fix any that are found. We also hold regular bug bounties. Zoho follows the latest security standards and has certifications such as ISO/IEC 270001, ISO/IEC 27017 and more.
What is the great differentiating factor in Zoho that’s ahead of its competitor’s curve?
We have the broadest portfolio of products. We have heavily invested in R&D, and built all the products on the same technology stack. This ensures that our 45+ applications can be easily and deeply integrated with each other, with data seamlessly flowing from one app to another.
Specifically, we offer integration, customization and extendability in our products.
Integration among Zoho Products, and with products outside our ecosystem, to ensure seamless and secure data transfer and a holistic view on data that helps derive useful insights.
Customization is key if users want to reduce their cognitive overload and reduce focus depletion – two silent killers in a complex world filled with disparate user interfaces. We provide extensive customisation features, including theming and a modular approach to software development that allows power users to morph the toolkit to their specific needs.
Extendability is important if our offering has to keep pace and grow with the business that has invested in our products. From Micro through Small to Medium and Enterprise level requirements, our product suite will need to expand and accommodate elastically. To that end, our low-code programming environment called Deluge allows you to build your own offerings on top of Zoho’s platform.
So, ICE – Integration, Customization, Extendability – a combination not easy to come by anywhere else in the business productivity product landscape.
What are your plans to scale in the near future?
Virtualisation of the workplace, democratisation of learning, deurbanisation of the talent pool, and meaningful fragmentation of monolithic campuses has already begun. Zoho has been moving away from the urban centers, towards rural roots for a long while. Our office in Tenkasi is one example. Our CEO is currently running the company from a farm near Tenkasi. With high-speed internet being available even in remote areas, there is nothing that’s binding businesses to metros. Over the next 5 years, Zoho intends to invest in creating jobs in rural areas or what we call cloud-enabled rural reinvention.
In terms of products, we have been following a full-stack approach, wherein we want to build every part of the technology stack. We have apps, services, and platform layer. We also run our own data centers and have invested in a solar power plant as well. In the coming years, we will be investing in developing and strengthening each part of this stack.
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