‘Loyalty a two-way street, firms must take care of staff holistically’: Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu | Mint
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Business News/ Companies / People/  ‘Loyalty a two-way street, firms must take care of staff holistically’: Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu

‘Loyalty a two-way street, firms must take care of staff holistically’: Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu

Zoho chief executive officer Sridhar Vembu in an interview with LiveMint talks about the firm's growth strategy — 'transnational localism' and the new technologies that the company is focusing on

Zoho chief executive officer Sridhar Vembu.Premium
Zoho chief executive officer Sridhar Vembu.

For Zoho Corporation, the Chennai-based global technology company, there has been no looking back. The company has been surging ahead since its inception in 1996 which now sees a revenue of more than $690 million and has 75 million users around the world. Its chief executive officer Sridhar Vembu talks to LiveMint on a barrage of topics including the company's growth strategy — transnational localism, new technologies that's in the firm's focus and the future of work.

Edited excerpts:

1) There’s a huge fear of recession looming in the West due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis. While India remains immune until now, what kind of impact do you see this could have on Indian IT services companies?

The war has created a talent shortage in the West, and companies are turning to India to meet the demand. Most organisations in India may not be able to match the same level of salaries that the MNCs can pay, and will have to endure the talent war. Forward-thinking companies will choose to invest in hiring and upskilling talent from rural and non-urban areas—a trend that we are already seeing.

2) Start-ups in India are facing massive headwinds lately. There have been a lot of layoffs and the firms have engaged in cost-cutting measures by doing away with joining bonuses and stock option offerings. Do you believe that the startup party in India is coming to an end?

When VC money was flowing in, uninhibited, startups were focussing on hyper growth at the cost of profitability by burning money on sales and marketing. This was not sustainable. Hopefully, now we will see a more sensible growth pattern as startups start focussing on building a durable and resilient business model. The startup ecosystem is maturing in India, and we see more startups that have scalable ideas, serving a global audience. Many people who had built successful startups are turning mentors and giving back to the system, nurturing newer players. I am long term very optimistic about the prospects of the Indian tech ecosystem, but we have to go through some short term pain.

3) You have been all for building deep tech solutions and we are aware of Zoho's investments in Genrobotics. Can you elaborate on why you think that deep tech solutions should be one of India's top priorities?

The only durable path to prosperity for any nation is the depth of its technological know-how. That is how the world operates today. For India to enjoy sustained and broad-based prosperity that includes all our citizens, we need to invest in deep technology know-how. This is becoming more widely appreciated and I am optimistic we will make rapid strides in the next decade.

4) What’s Zoho’s strategy when it comes to strengthening its presence outside India?

Our growth strategy is ‘transnational localism,' where our growth is rooted in the growth of the local economy. We are opening offices in the regions we are expanding to, and hiring locally. We are increasing our channel partner network, integrating our solutions with local payment gateways, offering solutions in local pricing, collaborating with organisations and government bodies that are working with local entrepreneurs, and introducing language localisation and support.

5)What are the new technologies Zoho is focusing on this fiscal year?

Over the past 25 years, we have steadily built our own technology stack—from apps, platform, network to even running our own data centers. We continue to invest in vertically integrating our tech stack. We are also investing in A/V technology, which has become critical during the pandemic, and also in new tech- AI, ML, blockchain, etc. We are working on core technologies like compilers, databases and operating systems.

6) The pandemic has brought a seismic shift in people's attitude towards work, having led many to switch their jobs and what we now call a ‘Great Resignation’. Workers look out for greater flexibility. What do you think is the right kind of policy intervention that companies should adopt?

The only way to earn the loyalty of our employees is to demonstrate loyalty towards them. Loyalty is a two-way street. Organizations have to provide a positive reason why someone should stay. With demographic pressures world-wide, talent shortages are going to be a permanent fixture of the landscape and organizations that adapt to this reality by taking care of their employees holistically will flourish.

7) Zoho seems quite futuristic with its idea of promoting transnational localism. Where do you see Zoho in 2047 as India will mark its 100th year of Independence. 

We have grown over the past 25 years and we hope to continue that record over the next 25 years and emerge as one of the largest technology companies in the world and help India emerge as a technologically strong nation. That would be our way of contributing to the task of nation-building.

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Published: 07 Sep 2022, 07:12 AM IST
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