Nowadays there are many startups not just hitting it big but changing the face of business in the process. However, the hard truth of startups is that nine out of 10 startups fail seldom mysteriously and often unseen! The remaining startup succeeds because of its innovation and creativity in their process. Zoho is one such firm which got auspicious starting from a small apartment located in the Chennai outskirts. Over the past two decades, Zoho has emerged as a leader in web-based business tools providing a single cloud platform with all important applications to run a business entirely from the cloud. At present Zoho has 4000 employees and its headquarter is in California. It has offices in Singapore, Japan, China and India.
Nestled within the Western Ghats in southern Tamil Nadu, is the newly formed district of Tenkasi, most famous on the tourism map for the Courtallam Five Falls. Among a collection of nine waterfalls, the Courtallam Five that waterfall from the river Chittar is compared to the mythological five-headed cobra, and its waters are said to have therapeutic effects. Lower down on the plains is agricultural terrain, with paddy occupying the largest area of cultivation.
The business of Zoho from started from day one with no external financing except for some investment from family and friends. Tony had taken a buyout from his job which was Lucent Technologies, the company that he was working for, gave a lot of money for people to leave. Initially Tony was the CEO and chairman of the company and Sridhar worked on marketing and promoting the technology company was selling ad began approaching the customers in the Bay area. They did so because a lot of networking companies were getting started in the bay area and in no time they started getting clients. Their first client was Cisco. Slowly their software started selling well. They sold their software to companies in Silicon Valley and also expanded their market in Japan. They had expanded to 115 engineers and 7 people in the US with the business of around 10 million dollars by 2000
“I always thought that people migrating from villages to cities is not a good idea,” Vembu told Forbes India in a relaxed conversation over Zoho Meeting on a mid-May morning from his Tenkasi home. “About a year or two ago, I decided that I want to do something new. I want to go to the smaller villages and set up what I call satellite connected office centres where 10 to 20 people will work.”
As of now, Zoho has two rural offices, one in Tenkasi and the other in Renigunta in Andhra Pradesh with 500 of its 9,300 employees globally working out of these; the plan is to have many more of its 8,800 India-based employees working out of non-urban India
“I feel more connected to my roots and enjoy this kind of life where you get rid of your comparisons. You don’t have to worry about things like: Does my neighbour have a Ferrari; or does my neighbour take a vacation? You kind of reduce it to a more simplicity in life. When any new phone is launched in the market, I won’t be the first in line to buy it; I may buy it after a couple of years after everybody has it,” he says with his trademark laugh.
“When we decided to launch this company, one thing that I noted was in India we have perfect talent but we produce almost zero software products. So that was clearly an opportunity, obviously it was going to come with a lot of problems but we were prepared to face them. I always felt that in order to advance economically, you needed to take up these complex tasks. I come from a rural background but I also knew that you ought to do complicated things,” he laughs.
Zoho has earned the fame of being the first software product unicorn, and Forbes valued Vembu’s 88 percent stake at $1.83 billion. In 2019, Zoho reported profits of ₹516 crore on total revenue of ₹3,410 crore. The company claims to have 50 million users globally for its apps, the latest of which was launched in the wake of the pandemic and is suitably called Zoho Remotely.
As India endures a reverse migration of millions, Vembu’s blueprint for a world in which folk get educated in the village and stay back to work there takes on huge meaning.
Janaspandana is presenting you series of motivational stories of successful Professionals, Entrepreneurs who have carved a niche in their own way and have become icons of entrepreneurial fraternity.
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