Zoho Success Story – The Internet is such an ingrained part of our collective lives that it is hard to imagine a time without it. But just three decades ago, in the 1990s, the Internet was simply endless possibilities. The Silicon Valley dot-com boom had brought to light giants like Amazon, Apple, Paypal and many others.
While everyone knows these Western tech giants, there is one Indian tech company whose work and path to success has been a source of inspiration and awe. So, let’s get to know Zoho better.
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Zoho Success Story
Zoho was founded as AdventNet in 1996 by brother Sridhar, Kumar & Sekar Vembu together with Tony Thomas. Senior management was in a state of flux for the first few years. Thomas handed over the role of CEO in 2000 to Sridhar Vembu, who became responsible for the incredible growths of the company. (Zoho Success Story)
Born into a middle class family in Chennai, Vembu was a brilliant academic, earning a BA from IIT Madras & then an MA and Ph.D. from Princeton University. He had worked for Qualcomm for a few years, but had a yearning to create something of his owns.
AdventNet first product, WebNMS, was quickly embraced by network leader like Cisco. By the year 2000, the company had revenues of $10 million. By this time, the company had gained a firm foothold in the emerging Internet markets, selling software products to companies increasingly turning to the digital sphere.
Why Loose the Freedom
Building a business is an expensive affair. When you venture into an emerging industry that has new outbreaks & breakdown almost daily, it becomes an even more dangerous game. Many technology companies around the world have relied time & time again on outside investment to keep them going. Not AdventNet. In 2000, AdventNet had an interested investor who was willing to invest $5 millions in the company. But this money would have meant losing control over decisions and direction. In a shocking decision, Vembu turned down the offer & all the others that came after. (Zoho Success Story)
The timing could not have been more unfortunate. The dot com bubble finally burst after excessive speculation by internet companies. Hundreds of Internet & technology companies around the worlds went bankrupt and closed, other lost almost everything they had built. But AdventNet managed to survive the storm without helper.
What Makes Zoho Work
Since 2005, the company has taken a number of step in the right direction that have made it the tech giant it is today. These include–
- First of all, the company remains private even after twenty year in the field & more than ample opportunities to go public. Those who control the company, including chief executive Sridhar Vembu & his sister, majority shareholder Radha Vembu, have valued independence & innovation over large payout.
- By predicting market trends, the company realizes that companies no longer wanted to buy expensive software, but rather retain the benefit of digitizations. Therefore, the company started to release cloud based application from 2005. Zoho Writer appeared in 2005, followed by Zoho Creator in 2006 and start to create a comprehensive online suite. (Zoho Success Story)
- One big way the company has won over customer is by keeping things private. Zoho is one of the few online suites that doesn’t allow advertising, even in its free version. In doing so, they showed that they care about customer privacy & independence as much as their own, thus giving weight to their business decisions.
Doing Things the Right Way
So who makes these innovative products at Zoho? There are, of course, many with diverse background & degrees from pre-eminent schools. But there are also many others, just as talented.
In 2005, the Vembu family started an ambitious project. Young talents from lower socioeconomic strata were trained & hired for the company. Now, nearly fifteen percent of the company is made up of such talent. Limited by their economic condition & the assumptions of society, they have been given the opportunity to show their talent and lead a better life. (Zoho Success Story)
Another radical agenda on Sridhar Vembu list was to decentralize the running of the company from him. Tired of city life, Vembu himself moved to a village in Tamil Nadu during 2020, teaching students Math & Science along with environmental moral. When the Covid19 pandemic forced India and the worlds to lock down their cities, Vembu encouraged its engineers and developer to work from home.
Vembu’s ideal is to revive communal village life, a blend of community and harmony with moderns conveniences & technology. The CEO plan to adopt similar model in Japan, Mexico & Texas. (Zoho Success Story)
The biggest lesson that Zoho Corp can give to anyone is its own existence. Time and time again, Zoho corp has gone against the grain and stood up for what it believed was best for itself, its worker, and the communities it serves. And time and time again, it has shown that it is possible to be a successful & profitable business while doing all of that.