Success with startups comes with creativity, effective marketing strategies and managerial skills, but without funding you stand no chance, or so we thought.
Meet Mr Sridhar Vembu, Founder & CEO of Zoho corp. who proves you wrong. A smart, confident, successful, IT veteran, Sridhar believes that startups in B2B business should not worry too much about funding but rather focus on the deliverables. He feels that the customers should be made to pay for the services that are provided to them. Sounds crazy…but not to Zoho which is advancing rapidly to reach $500 million in revenues. With over 1 lakh paying businesses and 18 million individual users, Zoho is comfortably placed and targets to sign up one million enterprises in 3 years.
What is special about Zoho?
Zoho is popular in the startup space as being a company that has started from a scratch sans external funding. What’s more remarkable is Zoho nurtures talent from rural India to build products for the global market, competing with giants like Google, Oracle and Salesforce. A graduate from IIT-Chennai and Princeton University, Sridhar founded Zoho Corp. in 1996 which is chiefly representative of 3 brands—Zoho, ManageEngine and WebNMS. Headquartered in California with branches in India, China, Singapore and Japan, they collectively offer SaaS (Software as a Service) products to companies all over the world.
What makes Zoho special is an in-house University that selects and trains talented students from government schools in Chennai and its neighboring cities. Training involves six month internship and the curriculum is updated on a regular basis to keep up with the latest technological developments. Most of them are then employed by Zoho. The idea is to create coders and engineers rather than hunt for them.
Sridhar’s journey from the beginning to where he stands now is dotted with tough times, particularly the 2001 financial meltdown. But rather than getting jolted, Sridhar used it to his advantage to reorganize his strategies and move the company in the right direction. At that time, they assisted companies with their sales and marketing, HR, finance, mails, IT and helpdesk with their products, concentrating on mid-level markets.
The financial meltdown saw many startups close down and this allowed Zoho to transition the core of their business to well established companies. In 2008, a lot of businesses preferred to move into the cost-saving phase and experimented with Zoho products because they were able to deliver quality even at a lower cost. By 2009, the parent company (AdventNet) was renamed Zoho Corp. and things started looking up. Their numbers gradually started growing at an amazing speed with users spread across US, Europe, West Asia and Japan.
Sridhar proudly declares in his interviews that his company is a happy one where attrition is low. The office has a relaxed ambiance where everyone understands their responsibility and works towards it. Leaders sit with their team members and not in isolated cabins so that when everyone works together, there is a sense of purpose.
Sridhar also shuns the idea of over-marketing his products. Rather than that, many products in their suite offerings are given away free and this has generated more revenues for advanced versions. When you offer free software, people are tempted to discover your product more, Sridhar believes. Before introducing a product they discuss it several times over and go back to the drawing board to make alterations, if necessary. All this has attributed to the tremendous success of Zoho Corp. today. It boasts of handling 50 million tickets for about 20 million users across the globe. And Vembu is confident that a third of his customers will switch over to Zoho Desk, taking its success to an altogether new level.
Sridhar’s story is a reminder that success comes to those who are willing to try and take risks without getting bogged down by circumstances. He has also made it evident that if you keep your employees happy, they put in their soul to create world class products. His thoughts are reflected on their blog page which declares that when you choose Zoho, you don’t just get the product, but their efforts towards constant and relentless customer satisfaction. For them software is not just a tool, but a craft and passion.
Rather than hurrying to launch a product, it is better to test and try to make sure there are no glitches. It is this persistence and endurance that makes Sridhar and Zoho stand out in a crowd. And Sridhar is confident that if all of these are in place, your product will speak for itself and you can soar high even without venture capital.