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Zoho expands SA presence 

As it opens a Johannesburg office, the business software maker also unveils new digital signature capabilities, writes SHERYL GOLDSTUCK.

Zoho, the Indian-based global software maker, is opening a Johannesburg office to accommodate its growing customer and employee base in South Africa. It revealed this week that, outside its home market, South Africa is its second biggest market in the world, after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ahead of Israel in third place. However, it does not yet have a data center in SA, nor an office in Israel.

The company says it saw new customer growth of 75% in South Africa in 2021 and doubled its employee base since opening its first office in Cape Town. 

Zoho has also entered a strategic partnership with the Institute of African Royalty (IAR), a startup and SME incubator, to remove access barriers to enterprise technology for small and medium businesses. Qualified SMEs that are part of the IAR will receive Zoho Wallet Credit of R27,000 that can be used for any of Zoho’s 55-plus products, including Zoho One, the operating system for business. Zoho will also provide its expertise to help businesses optimally leverage cloud technology.

The company this week launched Advanced Electronic Signature (AES) in its digital signature application, Zoho Sign, by integrating it with TrustFactory, a South African identity verification provider. It also announced integration with payment gateways Yoco and PayGate, which will allow its customers to accept online payments.

These announcements were made on the sidelines of Zoho’s annual user conference, Zoholics South Africa.

“Zoho believes that its growth should be globally connected, but locally rooted — an approach it calls transnational localism,” said Ali Shabdar, regional director of Zoho Middle East and Africa. “We have followed this approach with our growth and expansion in South Africa.

“We have increased our employee strength, introduced local pricing, grown our partner network, invested in upskilling initiatives and partnered with local business communities. In continuation of our commitment to the country, we have partnered with IAR to help local businesses access enterprise technology, introduced AES in Zoho Sign to help businesses leverage the power and ease of digital signatures, and integrated local payment gateways that will make it easier for our customers to receive payments online.”

South African businesses, especially in the regulated industries like banking, finance and healthcare, are legally mandated to use AES to sign documents digitally. Zoho Sign, a digital signature application, offers AES through its partnership with TrustFactory. Zoho users can complete the face-to-face identity verification process and get their digital signature certificate from TrustFactory to sign documents with an AES directly from Zoho Sign’s interface ina few clicks.

Digital signatures significantly speed up day-to-day operations for businesses. Zoho Sign integrates with all popular Zoho apps, such as Zoho CRM, Zoho People and Zoho Books, and is also a part of Zoho One, the operating system for business that offers a unified platform of over 45 applications. Zoho users can utilise Zoho Sign for signing sales agreements, and HR and finance documents.

Zoho Sign also offers Qualified Electronic Signature in the European Union, Aadhaar-based eSign for India, Sign with Singpass for Singapore, and Seiko time-stamping for Japan. South African businesses can also use Zoho Sign for international operations.

Payment gateway integration

Zoho is integrated with PayGate and Yoco to provide a secure and efficient way for South African businesses to accept online payments. This enables businesses to provide flexible payment options for their customers, which results in faster payments, thereby improving their cash flow. This integration is available in Zoho Invoice, Zoho Books, Zoho Inventory and Zoho Commerce. Once the payments are received, the corresponding invoices is marked as paid, and payment acknowledgement can be sent automatically.

Zoho Invoice is a free online invoicing solution that smaller businesses can use to manage their accounts receivable. Zoho Books is online accounting software that helps businesses manage their day-to-day accounting, invoicing, and financial reporting, while helping them stay tax compliant.

Zoho Inventory is an end-to-end multi-channel sales and inventory management solution that enables order management, warehouse management, shipping and inventory tracking. Zoho Commerce is an e-commerce platform that helps businesses create, run, and market their online stores from one place, setting it up in an hour by using a drag-and-drop website builder without writing a single piece of code.

Andrew Bourne, regional manager of Zoho Africa, says: “Zoho has built its entire technology stack — from apps and platform down to network and data centres — with consistent R&D efforts over two decades and today has a broad portfolio of products covering every major as well as minor business needs.

“This allows us to offer a unified platform for various operations like customer experience, employee experience, and enterprise collaboration. Increasingly, we are seeing businesses of all sizes choose unified offerings over single vendor products to avoid information silos that form and in turn reduce efficiency, especially in a hybrid work environment.

“Zoho is witnessing rapid growth in South Africa owing to its deep R&D capabilities and wide product range, not to mention businesses realising the importance of digital transformation.”

This year, Zoho has opened an office in Nigeria and plans to open another in Kenya, and three other countries in the coming year, with Dubai serving as regional headquarters. The company also plans to continue hiring locally in other countries to serve its customers, as it expands its footprints across the region. Zoho recently launched the Kenya edition of Zoho Books, VAT and TIMS-compliant online accounting software.  

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