BusinessWeek features Zoho

Douglas MacMillan @ BusinessWeek features Zoho’s role prominently in a story about the online business productivity software market in the Asian countries, India & China in particular. Excerpts:

Prithwis Mukerjee, a professor of management at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur in eastern India, needed a convenient and low-cost way for his students
to create spreadsheets. But rather than turn to Microsoft, the granddaddy of spreadsheet software, he opted for a lesser-known maker of free, Web-based software that gives his students more flexibility than Microsoft’s Excel. “Many people don’t have Excel, and that becomes a big challenge,” Mukerjee says.

Aiming to meet that challenge are two California-based upstarts. One is Google, owner of the most popular Web search engine, and the other is Zoho, the maker of online business productivity tools that won over Mukerjee
as a customer.

Because many new computer users in India lack familiarity with Microsoft’s Office and other desktop software, they’re generally more open to the idea of cloud computing, says Zoho Chief Executive Sridhar Vembu. “There’s a whole set of new companies that have no apprehensions” about Web-based software, Vembu says. “We are now starting to see this as a major market opportunity.”

Since opening an office in Vembu’s former hometown of Chennai, in 1996, Zoho has attracted about 400,000 users, or 20% of its base, in India and China. It now employs more than 300 workers in the office. In China, Zoho distributes its wares in partnership with local company Baihu. With demand for PCs, mobile phones, and broadband Internet growing more quickly in these markets than in the West, Vembu predicts that a decade from now the majority of Zoho’s revenues will come from customers in China and India.

Businesses use the software to equip salespeople in the field. In 2008, Mumbai-based data hosting company NetMagic Solutions signed up to use Zoho’s customer relationship management (CRM) software to help sales teams in different offices share information about customer leads. At first, a lack of connectivity in many parts of India
was a problem. “There were complaints from the salespeople saying that they were unable to connect to Zoho” while traveling, says Jayabalan Subramanian, the company’s chief technology officer. Now that AT&T is rolling out more of its 3G wireless broadband network throughout India, NetMagic says that has become less of a concern.

If you happen to run a business in India or China, we believe you are giving online services like Zoho some serious thought, for the economic and productivity benefits they provide.

Thanks to Doug & BusinessWeek!

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