About Meera Sapra

Social media ambassador at Zoho. I live in New Delhi, India. When I'm not working, I spend my time reading, creating comics or art.

What I learned from working remotely with cross-cultural teams

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For about six years now, I’ve been working in a cross-cultural environment. Our teams are split across offices in India and the US, with the majority of our development efforts based out of India.

I work remotely out of New Delhi, whereas most of our India teams work from Chennai. To give you an idea of how far these two places are:

In this unique situation, I’ve had the opportunity to work with teams across different locations and time zones. These differences no longer come in the way of teamwork and collaboration. In fact, they ​help us evolve and adapt our own business apps to make this combination work – no matter where you are and what time zone you’re working in, you’re always connected and in sync with other people.

What could get in the way though, are cultural differences.

It’s usually good practice to mix people from different cultures. Everyone brings in their own cultural perspective to the table, and people get to learn from each other.

But it’s tricky for people from different cultures to work together, especially when they’re not all working at the same time, under the same roof.

Tricky, yes. Impossible, no.

Here are a few things that can make it possible: Read more

Social media for the small business: Start by listening

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When I meet small business owners and tell them about my work with social media, a lot of them ask me how they should be using social media to grow their business. Before I answer that question, I usually ask them about what they’re already doing. The responses are often along the lines of:

“We have a Twitter handle and a Facebook page”
“I setup a Google+ page for my business!”

At this point, I have to ask them: But did you start​ by listening?

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Listening is the most basic and ​the most underrated social media activity for any small ​business. And it’s important to start listening even before you decide which social networks to focus your business presence on.

Step 1: Know where your audience is.

​If you’re ready to build a community online, the first thing you should do is figure out where your audience is.

Spend time listening on a few networks. Listen to discussions around industry trends, look for relevant keywords and conversations around your business and your competitors.

For instance, if I ​were running a local pizzeria, I’d listen to conversations about good food in and around town. I’d figure out where these conversations happen ​most often. I’d also check out a few specific foodie networks (such as Epicurious, Foodily or Open Source Food) to see if they are more popular among foodies in my city.

Once I have some idea ​which networks my business can ​benefit from, I’d focus my efforts there. Read more

Subject line real estate is precious. Make the most of it in your email campaigns.

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Like most people​, I usually decide whether or not to open an email from a company depending on what the subject line says. I’d even go a step further and form an opinion about the company based on how they word their email subject lines and how consistent or unique they are with this as a branding activity.

Lately, I’ve noticed many companies trying to experiment with their subject lines. Here are a few important things I’ve learned from watching these experiments and trying out some of my own:

Short subject lines go a l​ong way

Depending on which email program your recipients use and their personalized display settings, they might not read a long subject. For example, my current display setting on Zoho Mail shows me the first 3-5 words of the subject.

The first few words are very relevant because those are the ones your recipient will almost always see. A recent study by Retention Science found that 6-10 word long subject lines tend to have the highest open rates. Keep your email subject lines short so they don’t get cut off.

Especially at an unintentionally awkward point:

“Summer’s here. Drown yourself in our soothing summer sorbet!”

“Summer’s here. Drown ​yourself…”

Oops! I’d just go with:

“Our soothing summer sorbet is here!” Read more

Meet our Busiest Customer this Holiday Season: Santa Claus

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He wears a red suit, sports a long white beard, lives (and works!) at the north pole with a bunch of elves and eight tiny reindeer. That’s right, our busiest customer this season, is none other than Mr. Santa Claus himself!

While the rest of us are happy holidaying, Mr Claus is busy trying to make sure that the holiday is just perfect for everyone.

With a long list of demanding customers to satisfy, very little time to deliver gifts and an office that’s not only remotely located, but also freezing cold all year around, running the holiday business just can’t be easy.

And yet, despite all these challenges, Santa manages to get everything right for the big day. We asked him to tell us how he does this, and here’s our exclusive story of what goes on ‘behind-the-scenes’ at the North Pole office, in his own words…

Read more

Happy Small Business Saturday : Cheers to the Contest Winners and all the Inspiring Stories!

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2 weeks ago, we announced the #MyBizStory contest to celebrate small businesses and the stories behind them. We received hundreds of stories that amazed and inspired us, from a variety of businesses from all across the continent!

We felt like we were a part of these stories and meeting people behind-the-scenes of each business. We knew it would be tough to pick the best entries among so many great stories. So, we tried to judge stories on the basis of what they were about and how they were told. And of course, bonus points for stories with pictures!

First off, here are the 3 stories that won the iPad Air prizes (and the ones that didn’t, don’t worry, you still won a place in our hearts!)

Alexandria’s story touched our hearts. The story combined with the lovely painting, sends out a great message about compassion for life, art and humanity.

Read more

Small Business and Thanksgiving: It’s time to be thankful for doing what you love!

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It’s Thanksgiving week, and you’re probably looking forward to spend the weekend feasting with family and friends!

But before we get to the weekend, let’s remember to spend some time saying ‘thank you’ to all those who’ve helped make your business what it is. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be so happy and successful doing what we love!

Say thanks to your team, all those people who work hard all year around to help you manage your business. You could hand out personalized thank-you notes to each team member appreciating his or her contribution to your business.  Read more

Bottom line is, I love the new UI and I don’t want to go back…

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With any software, even the smallest of changes can greatly improve the experience of users who have been using it regularly. And when there’s a whole bunch of such small, thoughtfully crafted changes packaged into a completely new interface, the result can be instant delight.

That’s exactly the kind of result we’d hoped to get, when we recently shared a sneak peek of our upcoming new UI for Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books. So, ever since the beta-release, we’ve been eagerly waiting to see reactions from customers who had early access to this new version. We had worked really hard on this new, re-imagined UI, and we wanted to see what difference it made to those for whom it mattered the most – our customers. This was quite a nail-biting period, especially for the teams who had worked for months to make the new UI a reality. They now waited patiently to see the results of their efforts.

Once the feedback started flowing in, we were really thrilled to see so much happy, positive receptivity for the new UI and the changes that came with it!

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