Values and Convictions

Business isn't only about the bottom line. Or at least, it doesn't have to be. When a company is built on good core principles, good company culture will follow. We didn't leave our values at the door when we opened Zoho; we sewed them into the fabric of the company.

Redefining capital

Zoho embraces an expansive definition of corporate capital that extends far beyond our balance sheets and asset ledgers. Zoho's true capital includes the shared culture, skills, and dedication that flows through the people who make up our organization.

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Redefining capital

Most companies—especially large companies with shareholders and major investors—approach everything they do through the lens of traditional capital growth. Every decision boils down to "Will this increase the monetary assets of the organization?" That brass-tacks monetary thinking is so ubiquitous that it seems like the only way to survive in today's economy.

But when business success is only measured by numbers on a spreadsheet, or the price of the stock, employees become assets to be optimized. In this capital-centric approach, everything is reduced to its monetary value, completely invalidating other, larger, longer-term goals in the process.

Embracing a broader understanding of capital

We reject that limited definition of capital and the even more limited business models that it produces. We see capital as the capability of a group or individual to meet their own economic needs. In this light, we've committed to building skills internally, rather than outsourcing core functions.

For example, rather than hosting our apps on the public cloud, we learned how to build and maintain our own data centers. Rather than hiring outside marketing firms to handle our branding and advertising, we do everything in-house. In both of these cases, we've prioritized the building of long-term knowledge capital over short term costs or speed-to-market expediency.

When your notion of capital becomes expansive rather than restrictive, you start to see opportunity everywhere. While roadmaps and milestones help along the way, truly building a successful business is about stretching the limits of your imaginative powers.

Taking a stance against measurement

Success is measured in more than just revenue, trend lines, and KPIs. Some things can't and shouldn't be tracked or quantified. By resisting the impulse to measure and optimize every aspect of our business, we ensure those intangible assets aren't disregarded or forgotten.

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Our culture drives our strategy here.
Sridhar Vembu CEO and Co-founder

Taking a stance against measurement

We live in the age of metrics and big data, where anything that can be measured and optimized will be. But just because something can be measured doesn't mean it should be. Software can provide innumerable insights into how to improve your operations, but it can't capture everything. You can't put a score on an individual's passion to succeed.

Similarly, the value of a company's culture cannot be quantified. You can look at things like headcount, or revenue, or customer growth to judge the success of company culture, but the intangible will still remain.

Intangible value rather than financial valuation

How can you calculate the worth of a team that's worked together for decades? How can you measure the value of trust between colleagues? How can you quantify loyalty or dedication or commitment to a shared vision? The answer: you can't.

However, these immeasurable elements are just as imperative to our success as any number on a spreadsheet. We're far more interested in building a vibrant, thriving company culture than in calculating market caps and valuations. Not everything can be translated into a number, nor should it be.

Retaining the freedom of corporate self-determination

Very few global corporations have managed to get where they are without ceding control to investors or shareholders. Zoho is the exception. Bootstrapped and privately held for 25 years, the only people we serve are our customers and employees.

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We are in business to run it, not run away from it.
Sridhar Vembu CEO and Co-founder

Retaining the freedom of corporate self-determination

We've been bootstrapped and profitable from day one, a result of smart spending, hard work, and a bit of luck. We've had buyout offers, but politely declined. We didn't get into this business in the hopes that we would go public. We build software because it's what we love to do.

The last decade has seen hundreds of new tech companies rise (and fall) on the valuations of venture capitalists. But taking on investors would've meant letting go of the freedom to take big risks. So we've never taken a dime of funding, a distinction that we wear as a badge of honor. We only make money from what our customers pay us, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

By staying private we've also stayed nimble. We're guided by what will best serve our customers, not the stock price. This allows us to take risks that would never fly at a company that had shareholders to answer to. Some of our best products are the culmination of years of work that wouldn't have been possible with a "growth at all costs" mentality.

Prioritizing R&D over Sales and Marketing

When you buy software, you buy it for the engineering its built upon and the solution it provides. You don't buy it for the marketing that promoted it or the sales team that convinced you it was the right solution. That's why Zoho is and always will be 100% committed to R&D.

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Treating privacy as a principle, not just a policy

From the beginning, Zoho has held privacy to be a moral issue, not merely a legal one. That's why we've consistently been at the leading edge of data privacy, implementing strong protections before any government regulation forced us to do so.

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Prioritizing R&D over Sales and Marketing

We aren't in the business of marketing, we're in the business of developing software. So what does this mean in practice? That we spend twice as much on R&D as we do on sales and marketing. That Zoho runs entirely on Zoho, and that we are our own largest beta testers. This is one of the reasons we can release new products at such a fast clip; when we see the need in our own operations, we create something to meet it.

That commitment is how we've managed to build a suite from the ground up, rather than growing our portfolio through acquisition. Some SaaS providers plug the holes in their offerings by buying stand-alone products and grafting them into their product ecosystem. When we find a gap, we start coding.

R&D isn't always a linear process. Sometimes products have to be completely rethought, or scrapped. Some products take months to build, some years (or decades). But with patience and persistence, we move ahead. And by developing it ourselves, we save money, we grow our employees' skill sets, and we increase the value of the product delivered to the customer. It's a win for everyone.

Treating privacy as a principle, not just a policy

Our philosophy on customer privacy has never changed: your business is yours, helping you run it better is ours. To that end, we decided we wouldn't do anything with your data we wouldn't want done with our own.

So we have never pushed third-party ads in our products, not even in the free editions. And since we aren't interested in mining your clicks for retargeting purposes, or (worse) selling it to others, we removed all trackers from our websites in 2020.

Leading the industry rather than just following regulations

"Don't be evil" is a good starting point, but "be decent" is even better when it comes to privacy. That's why we extended the protections of GDPR to all of our customers, no matter where they're located; we always aim to give you more rather than less control over your data, its access, and storage.

Valuing customer privacy shouldn't be the result of government legislation; at Zoho, it's been baked in from the beginning.

Leaving money on the table

When you put profits before people, you end up with less of both. We'd rather help our customers achieve success than charge them license fees that stifle their growth and exclude them from the market.

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We want our customers to reap the fruits of our technology and productivity, without having to pay the market price for it.
Sridhar Vembu CEO and Co-founder

Leaving money on the table

When you are planning for a long-haul rather than a quick buyout, you don't need predatory business practices—like nickle-and-dime pricing or forced multi-year lock-ins—to prop up flagging revenue reports.

Neither strategy builds good will or trust with customers, and trust and good will are essential to successful long-term business relationships.

Priced for shared growth

Instead, we seek to find the balance point of mutual benefit. We neither want to charge so much that it hurts our users, nor so little that we can't continue to build great products. That spirit of partnership is all the more apparent when you start comparing our prices to the prices of our competitors.

In fact, we have been told—by journalists, analysts, partners and customers—that we could charge a lot more. But just because someone is willing to pay a higher price doesn't mean we should charge it. After all, if our users thrive, so will we. If they grow, we will too.

But most importantly, our growth should never come at the expense of the users who we serve.

The fruits of a customer-first business model

Instead of chasing the bottomless pit of "investor returns," we are content to charge a fair price for valuable products. And this, too, fosters trust and loyalty with our customers. When decency is more important than profits, it shows; in your company culture, in your customer relations, and in how and why you make big decisions.

Balancing change and continuity

We have seen a lot of change in the past 25 years. New technologies, new business models, new regulations...change is a constant. And while we pride ourselves on being a leading-edge tech company, we take equal pride in the ways that we haven't changed, the ways that we have held on to our values and still proven innovative.

We are a state of the art tech company with a very old-fashioned approach to company building.
Sridhar Vembu CEO and Co-founder

At Zoho, the products we build may have changed, but the people building them didn't. The markets may have been disrupted, but our values weren't. Entire industries have grown (and failed) in the last few years alone, but our honest, humble approach to business remains unchanged.

And we plan to spend the next 25 years doing more of the same.

The Zoho family