Zoho, the Chennai-headquartered global technology company, announced today that it will be launching its Zoho for Startups program globally, starting with the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. The program, which turns five this year, was launched in 2017 with the goal of removing access barriers to enterprise technology for early-stage startups. It has impacted more than 9,000 startups in India through partnerships with over 150 collaborators that include incubators (70+), accelerators, government bodies, and co-working spaces across 19 states.
Zoho provides collaborator-associated startups with Zoho Wallet credits, training, consultation, and support. The Wallet credits can be used to purchase any of Zoho’s 55+ applications. This includes Zoho One, the operating system for business that provides a unified platform of over 45 applications. Zoho, in collaboration with the ecosystem partners, also engages with the startups through periodic and exclusive workshops, in addition to community-building activities.
“Since the time we launched the Zoho for Startups programme, India has seen a 12 to 15% growth YoY in the number of startups, making it the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world,” said Kuppulakshmi Krishnamoorthy, Global Head of Zoho for Startups. “Government initiatives like Digital India and Startup India have been critical in creating a conducive environment for entrepreneurs, and we are happy to have been one of the first to have partnered with them. In its fifth year, we are taking the programme globally, starting with the MEA region. We will be partnering with collaborators in countries where we have a presence to help develop the startup ecosystem in those economies.”
The Zoho for Startups programme offers the most diverse range of SaaS applications for startups to choose from. The apps, all built on the same technology stack, integrate seamlessly and scale easily. As Zoho has data centers in India, startups can be assured that their data stays within the country. The company’s privacy commitment extends to all users that come through the programme.
Through Zoho for Startups, the company has observed the following trends emerge among Indian startups over the past couple of years:
App adoption: The highest demand is seen for the Zoho Books (accounting) and Zoho Invoice (invoicing) apps, followed by Zoho CRM and Cliq (team collaboration). Accounting and invoicing software have become a basic necessity for every startup. The apps help them keep track of finances, provide online payment options for customers that improve cash flow, and also run detailed reports enabling them to make smart business decisions. Founders looking to raise funds use the apps to share up-to-date financial data during pitches. Zoho Invoice is a completely free invoicing app, and Zoho Books is one of the top GST-compliant accounting solutions in India, making these apps preferred choices.
Geographical distribution: Most of the startups participating in the programme are from Bengaluru, followed by NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Pune. However, over the past two years, there has been an uptick in startups from tier 2 towns like Ahmedabad, Jaipur, and Coimbatore, and even tier 3 cities like Indore and Bhubaneshwar.
Sector adoption: The education sector is the most popular for Zoho for Startups, followed by IT services, e-commerce, and IT hardware. The education sector went through a massive upheaval during the height of the pandemic, and it continues to transform even now. Edtech startups require digital communication tools like a team collaboration platform (Zoho Cliq), web conferencing and webinar solution (Zoho Meeting), an office suite (Zoho Office Suite) in order to expand their reach. State governments have also been promoting access to education, especially during the pandemic, which had further led to an increase in demand from the sector for these tools.
“One of the most common mistakes that founders make is not investing time in researching SaaS tools,” said Krishnamoorthy. “They need to look at it as a long-term investment. The decision needs to be made based on whether they can scale using the tools, and how these apps would work with each other. They also need to carefully evaluate which function needs to be handled through a SaaS tool at what time, and keep in mind that buying software applications and implementing them are two separate processes. Through Zoho for Startups, we help the founders plan their SaaS journey, ensuring they have a holistic view of their SaaS architecture.”
Zoho respects user privacy and does not have an ad-revenue model in any part of its business, including its free products. More than 80 million users around the world, across hundreds of thousands of companies, rely on Zoho every day to run their businesses, including Zoho itself.