Home > companies > Challenging conventional wisdom with Zoho University

Mumbai: Unlike most companies, Zoho does not attach much importance to college degrees. The company believes that interviews measure a candidate’s interviewing skills and not work skills.

“We have a process of a rough cut-off interview, but we have a three-month period where we pay a stipend, evaluate and then pick candidates. For instance, a candidate may be shy. But that does not necessarily mean he or she is bad," says Vegesna.

Realizing there is no real correlation between a college degree and work skills, Zoho started its own internal Zoho University in 2005 with six students. Over the last nine years, it has trained about 300 students in the university, “and except for four who left us and have good jobs, all the others are Zoho employees—and none of them have college degrees", adds Vegesna.

The Zoho University typically trains undergraduates for 12-18 months, and pays them a stipend while they learn. The trainees, many of them college dropouts, are taught English, math and computer science.

There is no job that is off limits for those who graduate from it. “We have had engineers, senior engineers, product leaders, and even product managers from this university," says Vegesna.

For example, the second most popular Zoho product—Zoho Creator (which helps clients build their own apps without any programming expertise)—is headed by 26-year-old Saran Babu, a product of the first batch of the university.

“I studied in a Chennai corporation school and dreamt of becoming an electronics engineer. Physics was my favourite subject, but I was not good at computers because we did not have computers in our school. When I was in 12th class, Zoho representatives came to our school and told us to take an exam. I was not clear about what I would do, but I gave the exam, and did well, and was among those six that got selected," recalls Babu, who has been with the company for years. As product manager, Babu now leads a team of about 60 engineers.

There are, according to the Indian Software Product Industry Round Table, or iSPIRT, a software product lobby group.

The enterprise value of the top 30 business-to-business (B2B) software product companies (including Zoho) in India is $6.2 billion ( 37,500 crore), and these companies employ over 18,000 people, according to a 31 October report by iSPIRT.

Over 50% of the companies provide end-user business applications in segments such as customer relationship management (CRM), trading, collaboration, business intelligence and banking. About 20% are advertising technology firms and the rest are providing enabling technology in infrastructure and tools, including segments such as security, identity management, developer tools and analytics, the report said.

About 70% of the companies are domiciled in India. However, this masks a significant shift since 2009 when a majority of Indian B2B software companies started incorporating in the US and Singapore.

About 27% of the top 30 firms are headquartered in Bengaluru and 20% in the National Capital Region (NCR) which includes New Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida, with the remainder in other cities as well as in Singapore and Silicon Valley.

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