How Suzlon Energy Australia digitised its operations and developed a transparent sales cycle using Zoho One
An early mover into Australia, Suzlon Energy Australia set up its operations in 2004 and soon went on to become a market leader in the country. The subsequent global financial crisis and slowdown in global investments in renewable energy had an impact on Suzlon Australia's global operations.
Today, however, Suzlon Energy Australia Pty Ltd provides clean, green energy through wind and holds 17% of the Australian wind energy market. Suzlon Energy Australia serves customers like AGL, Pacific Hydro, and Tilt Renewables.
While the team at Suzlon Energy Australia found themselves in the right place at the right time, they also had their fair share of internal challenges. Being a large company, Suzlon Australia had hundreds of projects running at any given time, and it was managing them all with Excel trackers. This meant the team was doing huge amounts of manual work, and their productivity suffered.
Suzlon Australia's Chief Financial Officer, Marshal Fernandes recognised the importance of digitising their operations. "We wanted to be more productive and remove a lot of manual paperwork, and we were looking for something that could help us in this journey," said Fernandes. But management had to be cautious because most of their employees had never experienced a major technological change. The Suzlon Australia team was determined not to overwhelm their employees.
Thanks to the company’s well-established standing, they were able to evaluate some of the biggest names in the software market. As with any business-critical purchase, they wanted to try the products first. However, most of the vendors they looked at didn't offer long enough trial periods to evaluate the offering thoroughly.
Suzlon Australia uses a detailed evaluation process for new initiatives. In this instance, apart from the usual considerations like price, longevity, and product track record, the team also had to draw up a business use case for management approval. "We were evaluating a lot of other operating systems," Fernandes mentioned, "but what really stood out about Zoho was their openness and willingness to let us trial their products for a longer period."
Suzlon Australia found Zoho through one of their employees. Knowing that they wanted to do a deep dive into product options before purchase, Zoho was happy to provide the Suzlon Australia team with an extended trial. It made all the difference for them to be able to test Zoho CRM and Zoho Projects, especially during their evaluation.
Most of our employees hadn’t been through such a huge change, and it was a massive learning experience for them," explained Marshal Fernandes. "Zoho allowed us to use its apps extensively, and we had their technical support users behind us to help our employees troubleshoot the Zoho One platform. That was the differentiating factor for Suzlon Australia to go with Zoho,” he added.
Over the next three to six months, Suzlon Australia and their Zoho implementation partner, FI Digital, were in constant communication with Zoho support teams to clarify questions, brainstorm, and train. They specifically made extensive use of Zoho's 24-hour phone support system.
One of Suzlon Australia's significant challenges was shifting their employees' mindset about technology. To make sure that it didn't feel like too much too soon, Marshal and his team were strategic about implementing their new Zoho system.
They chose Zoho One and started with CRM as this would have the biggest impact on Suzlon Australia. Once CRM was set up, it made their order fulfilment process more transparent and easier to navigate for everyone in the company. Throughout the sales lifecycle, from generating a lead and closing a deal to sending out quotes and managing purchase orders and payments, Zoho CRM has helped simplify Suzlon Australia's process. Every step is now clearly defined and monitored. As Fernandes put it, "There's so much stability that wherever there's a bottleneck, we can identify it right away."
Commenting on the impact of their CRM system, Fernandes pointed out that "if we tried to do it manually and track calls, without a proper platform, it would be really challenging. This is where we've seen massive impact—the cycle times have become clear right from lead generation all the way through to collection. The platform has brought transparency to the whole order fulfilment cycle."
Next up in the implementation was Zoho Projects. According to Fernandes, it was an easy progression from their trial setup to their actual deployment because their team had already received training on the product and how it would be used. As more people became familiar with the system, adoption rates grew across the organisation. “Once [our employees] became confident that they had support, not only from Suzlon Australia management but also from the Zoho support team, they really started driving their own projects,” he said.
They succeeded, too. “There was a lot of push to do away with Excel sheets and have Zoho One as the centralised platform where we track all the weekly internal review meetings," Fernandes told Zoho. Now, Zoho Projects functions as their primary review tool. Most of the internal communication about upcoming and ongoing projects happens through the app, which means that instead of having information scattered across emails and document files, they can now find everything they need in one place. This includes the status of each project, any updates, and prerequisites for project completion.
Here's an example of how it fits into their regular workflow: Every time the team completes a task, the platform automatically sends a notification to the finance team indicating that they’re ready for the invoicing stage. This way, everyone knows the status of a project. As with any business, there are unique complexities. When there’s a subcontractor involved in the project, there may be a delay waiting for their invoice before the task can be completed and sent to the finance team. Zoho Projects allows them to leave a note explaining the delay so everyone can stay in the loop. “There’s transparency, and nothing gets lost or stuck in emails," added Fernandes.
Apart from these critical products, Suzlon Australia teams also use Zoho Survey, Zoho WorkDrive, and Zoho Connect. Fernandes explained, “We used to invest in different applications, but with Zoho One, we’ve been able to eliminate standalone apps, and everything is under one roof now.”
Benefits and ROI
With Zoho One, Suzlon Australia has managed to establish transparency across its order fulfilment cycle. They can now accurately measure how long each stage takes and address issues right away.
As an organisation, Suzlon Australia encourages fresh ideas and experimentation. In fact, according to Fernandes, the company’s willingness to hear and respect contributions from across the business was one of the reasons he joined Suzlon Energy Australia. For a business culture like that, Zoho Connect was an ideal fit, helping people from across teams and departments participate in periodic innovation drives. Because everyone had a platform to share their ideas, they knew that their voice was being heard. "We have so many ideas coming through, especially because people now know that their idea doesn't get stuck somewhere where no one will take any action. We've made a push to make sure that every person has been heard and that feedback is given," Fernandes explained.
For Suzlon Australia's management team, Zoho One has become the one-stop shop for all critical project information. They now track over a hundred projects on Zoho Projects, effortlessly keeping up with everyday business progress without having to shuffle through multiple tools.
Suzlon Australia is currently working on implementing visitor management systems across their wind farms in regional areas. These apps are largely powered by Zoho Creator, which integrates seamlessly with Zoho CRM. Speaking about this new update, Fernandes noted, "Everyone's keen for this rollout. Previously, it was all handwritten induction sheets we had to fill in. In case of an emergency evacuation, we now have all the information we need at our fingertips. We’ve seen initial demos, and it's heartening to see so much power in such a small app." These apps will replace the manual process Suzlon Australia previously had in place, automating everything from their tablets and mobile devices.
As of 2021, Suzlon Australia has been running on Zoho for just about two years. In the beginning, they weren't sure Zoho would stick around for long, but they hoped. Reflecting on that, Fernandes said, "Over two years, we've never seen that support let down. It's been consistent. In my experience, I've seen that a lot of service providers tend to onsell products, but their after-sales can't match that. A lot of systems fall by the wayside. That's not been the case with Zoho." After all, when you're in the business of providing sustainable solutions, you need sustainable solutions for yourself, too.