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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Sridhar Vembu, CEO of Zoho (Part 3)

Posted on Friday, Aug 19th 2016

Sramana Mitra: How are you going to inform the market that such an option exists?

Sridhar Vembu: There are two things to it. One, of course, is a good deal of traffic. Zoho is almost at the rate of a million new users per month. It’s at an increasing pace. Our horizontal line of applications are growing very rapidly in terms of user base. That is what we are planning to use to funnel into. Some applications don’t change depending on what your vertical is. Email and a lot of those things don’t change. Something like CRM is very specific.

Sramana Mitra: You’re expecting to be able to identify in the Zoho customer base.

Sridhar Vembu: That is how we bring leads to partners. On the other side, we have partners who are experts in their local markets. We could get very specific. It could be somebody who specializes in East Bay car dealerships. You really know the East Bay dealership. You know what their needs are. You know how things are evolving. That is the type of partner we are seeking.

It’s not very likely that a car dealership will find its way to Zoho. Very often, they don’t have the people in site who are looking for such things. This is where I look for these types of business partners. What we are doing there is very interesting. We are actively incubating a services company in Chennai. These are small companies that help business partners. We become a matchmaker between them.

Sramana Mitra: Do an App Exchange kind of strategy.

Sridhar Vembu: Exactly. Our focus is on the $1 million partner rather than the $100 million kind of partner.

Sramana Mitra: That’s very good. It’s clearly an unserved niche.

Sridhar Vembu: I also believe in this because there are a lot of people with the business know-how. All this cloud technology may be mysterious. We are taking out a lot of their pain and they can still go with a very custom-made solution for their client base. This could be any service provider that is dealing with specific small to mid-sized customers.

Sramana Mitra: I’m going to switch here and ask you about something else that we talked about a while ago. It’s how you have hired for Zoho over the years. You were one of the first people to say that you don’t believe in hiring from the top schools in India. You were hiring from high schools and training within the whole programming talent. Can you talk a bit about how that has evolved?

As you’ve developed so many apps within Zoho and launched so many apps at scale, how has the hiring strategy panned out and what has happened to your workforce?

Sridhar Vembu: About 20% of our talent pool doesn’t have a college degree. On an annual basis, we are taking about 120 or so students from high schools and we train them ourselves. It’s a one-year program through which they get trained and then they get offered jobs at the end of their training. This has grown, in the last 10 years, from 10 students to over 120 now. That’s the expansion. Right now, 20% of our talent pool is coming from this program.

In addition, we actually continued the same strategy. We actually don’t go to any of the big name schools. We don’t go there to recruit ourselves. We find excellent talent as evidenced by the fact that we are able to develop all this software. We are not very large compared to other cloud companies. We’re substantial but not humongous. Still, we’re able to develop all these applications and build up all this reach.

Sramana Mitra: Is this development workforce mostly in Chennai?

Sridhar Vembu: Yes. Almost all of our development is in Chennai. We have a small office in a small town about 500 miles from Chennai.

Sramana Mitra: How is this split between the two?

Sridhar Vembu: 90% is in Chennai.

Sramana Mitra: It’s a small satellite.

Sridhar Vembu: We are planning to build that up partly for quality of life. We are trying to spread it out to rural areas. That’s part of our long-term thinking. I want our employees to have a good quality of life too.

Sramana Mitra: It’s becoming harder in the large cities.

Sridhar Vembu: Yes. Because of extreme migration, there’s a lot of overcrowding. We are going a little bit in the reverse direction.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Sridhar Vembu, CEO of Zoho
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