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It’s been about 5 years since we launched our first product, Zoho Writer. We’ve since then considerably expanded from 1 stand-alone service to a still-growing expansive portfolio that consists of more than 20 different online services. All of them attacking a particular scenario, and all of them healthily growing over time. Most people are surprised at the breadth and depth of our product portfolio. But there is more to it than just a collection of separate products. There is a method to the madness that we haven’t really talked about before.

The 3 Areas of Our Product Strategy
All of Zoho Products fall in one of three categories: Communication and Collaboration, Business Applications and Personal Productivity. It has our vision since our very beginning that we’d help people conduct their daily work online (hence our tagline, “Work. Online”). So while we initially started as an online office, we quickly expanded way beyond that definition. Now, Zoho CRM, Zoho Projects, Zoho Creator and Zoho Invoice lead the pack in terms of users and growth. But more important is the fact that today, most of what you need to do on a daily basis on your work life you can do online, with Zoho. 

Our Communication and Collaboration products include services like Zoho Mail, Zoho Meeting, Zoho DiscussionsZoho Wiki and others. They help people work with each other across the room or in different geographies. Zoho is a globally distributed company with offices in California (HQ), Austin, London, Yokohama (Japan), Beijing and Chennai (India). So we are aware of the challenges that companies face when they need to collaborate. We use, on a daily basis, all of our collaboration products. 

The Business Application products include those line-of-business applications that are particular to a select group of people within a company. Zoho CRM and Zoho Recruit are great examples of this – Zoho CRM is a great tool for sales and marketing professionals, while Zoho Recruit is targeted at HR departments and recruiters. More often than note, if you are using one of them, it is likely you are not using the other. If you look at our offering in this category, it is evident that there are still some things that you still cannot do with Zoho. We have some gaps in that product line that we are actively working to fill. You will get more news from us in this regard this year.

Personal Productivity services include Zoho Writer, Zoho Show, Zoho Notebook, and others. While not everyone is ready to switch to a full cloud-based offering, online productivity is truly an alternative for many people today, and almost exclusively what we use at Zoho, a 1,200 people (and counting!) company. Of course we don’t expect Wall Street financial analysts to use Zoho Sheet for their financial modes… yet. While we don’t see significant market uptake for this (in terms of revenue) in the short-term, we continue to invest on this as we know it: services+services, and not software+services as Microsoft was claiming last year, is the future of personal productivity. It’s good to finally see Microsoft finally coming to terms with this new reality.

Contextual Integration Ties It All

It is not enough to have a comprehensive portfolio. Our users and customers benefit the most when we integrate our products. The first -basic- level of integration we did was of course our single sign on across all of our services. Since then, we have quickly moved to provide what we label “Contextual Integration”. By that we mean that our products try to anticipate all the possible touch/overlaps that exist among products. Some of them are obvious, some of them are subtle. Our CRM+Mail integration has been very well received among customers. It brings many business benefits in terms of tracking customer communications (and without extra effort!), but it also brings instantaneous personal productivity efforts by keeping your entire workflow within the same browser tab. Our Mail+Docs integration is another great example – you can bypass the desktop that way when dealing with attachments. We are just seeing the beginning of the kind of integrations that can be done. The Contextual Integration theme is something that has us very excited. Having software on “the cloud”, and the underlying architecture for it is clearly a key enabler of this kind of integrations. But that’s not all. Having direct control of all those products also means that we can integrate them more easily.

Our Relationship with Other SaaS (and non-SaaS!) vendors
Our expansive portfolio sometimes leaves customers with one question: are you going it “solo” or will you play nicely with others. Those who have been following Zoho already know the answer: we are happy to integrate with anyone. Depending on customer feedback, market potential and engineering priorities, we might do the integration ourselves. Sometimes leave it up to third parties to integrate their services with us, we are very liberal with our APIs because, contrary to many other software vendors, we recognize that the data belongs to our customers, and we try to make it easy for them to get their data out whenever they want, be it for migration to another service, or to tie multiple services together.

Proof of this is our integration with Google Apps and our participation in the Google Apps Marketplace – eWeek already has Zoho CRM as one of the Top 10 Apps there. And like that, there are many other integrations with other third-party services. But integrating different services with different -sometimes competing- goals remains a non-trivial undertaking, especially since we are talking about complex integrations that affect business processes. That’s why we believe we are creating significant value for our users when we are able to provide the whole package to them.