Raju Vegesna, Zoho Corp
Caption: Raju Vegesna, Zoho Evangelist, Zoho Corp
Raju is the evangelist for Zoho and is one of the foremost thought leaders in the SaaS revolution. Raju, who has been with Zoho for over 10 years, is one of the key people responsible for developing the strategic direction of the Zoho Suite, focusing on SMB market. Prior to joining Zoho Corp, Raju co-founded an web company serving the educational market. He holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science. The Economist says that Zoho is the most comprehensive suite of web-based programmes for small businesses.
"Businesses cannot exclusively run on social apps"
Younomy: If it is "search technology" for Google, what is it for Zoho?
Raju:Zoho is all about "Apps for your Business". We are trying to offer a broad set of integrated Apps for SMBs to run their businesses. In other words, Zoho can be the extended IT department of businesses.
Younomy: What are your views on external/social media-enabled co-creation in developing products? What strategies do you have?
Raju: Social tools enhance existing Apps. Businesses cannot exclusively run on social apps, but when you combine these capabilities into existing apps that businesses use, they can be very powerful. We are basically trying to do the same - add social media layer to our existing apps.
Younomy: Freemium (offering software-as-service for free so that customers can explore before upgrading to priced solutions) and cloud computing can be a big boost for small and medium enterprises. You adopt this Freemium-Cloud model. What, in your experience, inhibit increased IT adoption for your services? What is the missing link?
Raju: In our Freemium model, we don't just let our users 'try' our apps. We let them 'use' them. In other words, users can simply run their business on Zoho using the free versions of the app. As their business and business needs grow, they can upgrade to the priced versions.
Cloud Apps and SMBs are made for each other. Using cloud apps is like living in an apartment - there are other tenants, but you have your own private space. You get what you need at an affordable price.
The key challenge we currently have is educating the market. Google, Microsoft and other larger players entering the market is certainly going to help as they educate the market on the advantages of this model and smaller vendors like Zoho benefit. But we are still in very early stages of this model.
Imagine what it would have felt initially when bankers said 'Give us all your money and we will save it for you and you can take your money from us whenever you want'. Decades later, here we are relying on banks. With SaaS, we are in those early days where we are trying to convince users about using online apps and storing their data in the cloud and this is the right thing to do. We will get there, but it'll take some time.
Younomy: Your CEO has maintained in a recent WSJ interview that targeting gaps in the products of big companies and addressing them forms your business strategy. Currently what do you think are those gaps in social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Can we expect some sort of social media products from Zoho soon?
Raju: Currently, we are entirely focused on business apps and SMB market. We don't have any plans to enter the consumer market or offer any apps in the social media space. There are ton of things to offer in the current market we are addressing and we will stay focused on that. The apps we add may have some social aspects sprinkled on top of them, but we have no intent to offer social media apps for the consumer market.
Younomy: Apart from "gap filler" products, you also have very unique products like Zoho Creator. How has been the response? What are your users doing with Creator?
Raju: Creator is one of those apps we are very proud of. So far, we like the response and it has been one of the most successful apps in Zoho. We have several hundreds of thousands of apps created on top of Creator already. This is one of those apps that will be integrated into most of our other (business) apps. Users should be able to create custom workflows, for a business, between our apps using Zoho Creator. It will get there and this is a work in progress. Currently it is being used to create situational applications - both for small business and within departments in larger enterprises.
Younomy:Today, as we see, the successful IT companies in the online space are into two things: they help people find information (Google), and they help people find people (Facebook). What are Zoho's solutions here?
Raju: I think the IT market is broader than those two categories. There are content companies, App companies, integrators and many more. When a business helps solve user's problem, there is market. That is what we are trying to do. We are trying to offer tools for businesses to run their business efficiently and affordably.
Younomy: We don't see top executives at Zoho writing blogs!
Raju: Actually most of the top executives do blog in Zoho Blogs. We focus mostly on products in our blogs with occasional business focused posts from Sridhar, our CEO. In general, we connect with users through various social tools, but we prefer our products do the talking.