So how come you haven’t heard of Zoho (assuming that is the case for many readers)?
The main reason is that its core base is in India, where it has a massive developer team – the force behind its vast feature set. It has more than 8,000 employees, 50-million users, and is available in 190 countries. And it’s been around for more than 24 years.
“We’ve got offices all around the world,” says Andrew Bourne. “The main ones are in Austin, Texas, and in California. And then we have our international headquarters in Chennai, India. I’m under the Dubai office at the moment, but we’re building an office in Cape Town.
“Zoho consists of both the various applications that they have built to connect together to make an ecosystem; and they’ve built a foundation so that they can really scale it in many different directions. They just keep plugging in those extra apps that they build into this connected ecosystem.”
Zoho started marketing actively across Africa in 2019, and now has a strong presence in Nigeria and Kenya.
“They have improved the technology so much in the last three years, having started with their flagship app, which was CRM. They said we’re not going to build one app and try and be everything to everyone. We’re going to have separate product teams. And they are going to focus on making those apps really, really good. And then we’re going to have a team that connects each app to each other, so that it can form this really connected ecosystem.”
Bourne’s experience in moving his business onto Zoho One persuaded him to get more involved.
“When I moved on to Zoho one, it was really a relief, because we had an integration spaghetti, we had kind of plugged in all these different apps, we had some admin staff using Outlook, some using Gmail, whereas now everyone works on Zoho mail, which brings everything in the business together. Security is extremely good on the platform, and it’s easier to manage all your information.”
Privacy is a non-negotiable on the platform. Zoho recently blocked Google and Facebook from tracking people on its website: an issue that has become a flashpoint in the relationship between Apple, Google and the developers of apps for their platform.
“Once you become a customer and a user, even if you’re on a free version or trial version, we don’t sell your data user data, there’s no ad revenue. We’re compliant with GDPR (Europe’s privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation), which is great for POPI compliance in South Africa.”
Zoho owns a number of data centres arounds the world, where all its applications and user data are stored. This allows for disaster recovery, business continuity, and security audits, along with “threat modelling”. At present, these are located in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. But Dubai and South Africa are on the roadmap for further roll-out.
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee