Zoho : Important Biz Tech Product & Best LittleCo

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The year-end has brought a couple of awards our way. Jason Hiner of TechRepublic includes Zoho as one of “The 10 most important business technology products of 2008“. From his post,

While Google occasionally adds new features to its online productivity applications and Microsoft is rumored to be preparing an online version of Microsoft Office that it can release as soon as its market share comes under serious fire from online competitors, Zoho has quietly been building an impressive fleet of Web-based productivity and business applications that are far more numerous and sophisticated than what Google offers and truly take advantage of the Web rather than just bringing offline apps into the browser. Especially for small businesses, Zoho is a viable alternative to Microsoft Office, and it not only saves money but also provides productivity benefits with online collaboration.

Richard MacManus at ReadWriteWeb awarded us with the “Best LittleCo of 2008“. Excerpts from his post :

We felt that Web Office vendor Zoho best represented the ‘LittleCo’ ethos this year, due to its David vs Goliath effort in competing head on with products from several very large companies: Microsoft Office, Google Apps, Salesforce.com’s core CRM platform.

Zoho made two of our year-end Top 10 Products list – in the International category and in the Enterprise catagory. It is an Indian startup that offers a number of office tools, project management software and CRM solutions. It made serious advances with its office productivity suite during 2008, reaching a milestone of 1 million users in August this year.

Some of the specific highlights this year include: updating Writer at the beginning of 2008 to include support for the DocX file format, along with several other features; adding support for Visual Basic compatible macros to Zoho Sheet in April, then macro record and playback four months later; releasing a marketplace in September; Zoho Mail emerging from private beta in October, while offering offline support via Google Gears.

Thanks to Jason & Richard. And most importantly, thanks to all you users out there for your continued patronage & support.

Happy Holidays from Zoho!

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Here’s wishing you all Happy Holidays and A Prosperous New Year!

Celebrate your holidays with some wallpapers from our UI designer, Kabilan. Clicking on the images (dimensions 600×375) below will open wallpapers of dimension 1280×800

With love,
The Zoho Team

Zoho Creator : ‘Situated Apps’ within Zoho/AdventNet – Part II

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We showcased a few examples of Zoho Creator apps being used within Zoho/AdventNet in a previous post. A few more examples here.

Sales Call History : An app maintained by the Sales team about the status of toll free calls received for taking further action.

Call History

Facilities Desk Team : Seeing the first post made last week, got a mail from the builders of integrated facilities management software about how they are using Zoho Creator. A couple of their apps below, for tracking feature requests and demo schedules.

New Feature Request

Demo List

Administration Team : The folks manning the smooth operations within Zoho/AdventNet have many apps built for their specific needs, travel booking being one of them.

Travel Booking

Webmaster Team : Here’s a list of Zoho Creator apps that are embedded on our website pages and used for various purposes – schedule a demo, file a feature request or feedback, get a quote, submit a testimonial etc.

Personal Apps : A birthday app is being maintained by Chandra of Zoho People. Being a guy involved in development of a HR solution, Chandra knows the value of remembering birthdays of team mates, close friends & family members!

Remember Birthdays

Sripathy Ramesh of Zoho Sheet plays the keyboard in our music group (called ‘Sangeetha Megam’) and he has an app made for collecting info on those interested in corporate music jamming.

Music Jamming List

Hope the above list (and the former one) shows how easy, useful, diverse the apps created using Zoho Creator are and how these apps are put to good use by a company of around 1000 employees. Tell us how you are using Zoho Creator.

Kamla Bhatt in conversation with Sridhar Vembu

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Sridhar got interviewed by Kamla Bhatt of LiveMint Radio. You can listen to the interview or read the transcripts here – Part I and Part II. Excerpts from the interview :

Kamla: Describe to us the different products that you have. What are the new products that you are going to be introducing by the end of the year?

Sridhar: We have just this year, for example, we completed the office suite with a really good e-mail solution and we have a CRM, and project management. And one of our most interesting products is called Zoho Creator that allows anyone to develop applications on it. Alongside we launched Zoho marketplace. So that is really what we have done this year. Our next year’s priority is going to be around integrating all of these applications. That is the top request for our users is to integrate seamlessly. Mostly for example CRM with e-mail and office documents with CRM and those kinds of integration. We still have new products but those will all be for example CRM adding support modules those are the new things that are coming up. Really a lot of the focus is going to be on integrating these applications and to make a coherent integrated suite. So that is the part of the vision.

Kamla: You described Zoho as an Indian company with a skeletal staff here in the US. What were some of the early pitfalls and problems that you encountered working on Zoho because we know about the success but what about the pitfalls?

Sridhar: Sometimes in anything new you do, you simply have to figure out a lot of things like how to write software efficiently to run as a web service on the internet. All of these we have to figure out and those are the engineering challenges, then the market challenges so figure out what for example in CRM market is. But I didn’t come from a CRM background, we came from a different background so figuring that out. So those are the challenges but we have smart people that we have developed internally a cadre of managers and engineers who are come up in the system and they are really smart and they observe a lot of companies. Basically we are also a business school and so they learn and they put their lessons to work, the next generation. So that is how we are. It’s very much an organic process its not like day one when we think of doing something and we get that right. Its like we launched something and then we learned a lesson, sometimes it’s a failure and then we analyse why we failed, go back do it again. We have done that with even our CRM for example; our first ten ships were in 2004 as a product we didn’t ship it as a web service. The whole CRM was a product. And then we decided no that is not the right way to talk in this market so we actually reloaded as a web service. So that is the ability to learn from your mistakes and adapt. That is what I think is the key to success.

Kamla: Here is a question that I often encounter from start up folks in India. They say that there is no big exit of an Indian start up in India so they are looking for role models and stories-successful stories. You have been very vehement against an exit strategy. You want to keep your company private. How would you answer this question if an entrepreneur from India came and asked you we don’t have good role models so we don’t have companies that have exited? How would you answer that question?

Sridhar: Well I don’t, each person has to decide for themselves what they want in this life and I am not interested in exit because I like working in this company and I like coming to work everyday why would I want to exit or would I want to sell and get out? I am not interested in it. So that is the reason it is not because I am philosophical opposed to it but I just personally don’t like to do it. Exit is something which is not in your control. Whether Google is going to acquire or yahoo is going to acquire or some Indian company is going to acquire that is not in the control of a person starting the company. So my advice would be to forget that as a plan, focus on serving the customer and making money. Then may be exit will happen or may not happen. In our case we are not interested in an exit so it is not part of our strategy at all. But even if you want an exit may be it is a better idea to just forget about it and build a real company, serving real customer and making money. In that case then the exit is a bonus if it happens and if its not its not. So that is what my advice would be.

Thanks Kamla, for the excellent & elaborate interview!

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Zoho Creator Deploys to Google App Engine

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Zoho Creator got an update today with a new feature that lets you deploy your Zoho Creator applications to Google App Engine.

Zoho Creator has been one of our applications with a good set of passionate users. The apps created in Zoho Creator have been on the rise (more than 130,000 applications created so far), which I’d like to attribute to the power, flexibility and uniqueness of the application. Today, Zoho Creator takes it one step further adding a new deployment option for the applications created in Zoho Creator.

After Google App Engine’s launch, we noted that the Cloud Infrastructure Services market is getting interesting with multiple infrastructure offerings from vendors with different layers of abstraction. We also noted…

…in principle, it would be possible to layer Zoho Creator on top of Google App Engine on top of Amazon EC2.

This is basically what we have done today with this new functionality. We have layered Zoho Creator on top of Google App Engine.

App Engine Deployment

When you open an application in Zoho Creator in edit mode, you’ll see a new option ‘Deploy in App Engine’ under ‘More Actions’ menu (on the top). This option will let you generate and download the Python code (App Engine supports deployment of Python only apps) of your Zoho Creator application which you can then deploy to Google App Engine. The following video explains this process in detail.

 

The current deployment process is a bit geeky at this time, but we are working to make this more seamless. When applications are deployed on App Engine, entire application and the data exists with Google App Engine.

The process of deploying a Zoho Creator application on to App Engine doesn’t require knowledge of Python. You don’t even have to write a single line of code to create and deploy an application either on Zoho or Google App Engine.

Zoho Creator essentially acts as an IDE  for Google App Engine.

The flexibility of generating Python code actually comes form the way Zoho Creator is designed. To be precise, it is the way Zoho Creator and Deluge are modeled in a database. This makes it easy to generate any kind of code. Currently it is Python and we can extend this to other languages in the future, if needed.

Limitations

The current version has some limitations. Applications with these features cannot be deployed on to App Engine currently.

  • File Upload & Notes field
  • Criteria based Views
  • Group by Operator
  • HTML, Summary & Calendar Views
  • Themes support as in Zoho Creator
  • Limited Deluge Scripting support (only email notifications are supported)

Examples

Here are couple of applications created in Zoho Creator and deployed in both Zoho & App Engine.

Contact Organizer:

Issue Manager:

With our CloudSQL release last month, we let the data free, giving you the control of your data. With this release, we are letting your applications free, offering you alternative deployment options. Welcome to the new ‘open’ model.

Zoho Wiki : Option to let search engine bots crawl your wiki

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We brought in more control over whether you want your wiki pages to be crawled by search engines. Click on Settings -> Robots and you can specify your robots.txt configuration options here.

By default, your public wiki pages will *not* be crawled by search engines. You will have to change the Disallow: /* to Allow: /* for making search engine bots visit your Zoho Wiki. You can become a little more imaginative here and specify which pages need to be crawled and which ones not to be crawled. Refer to this help page for more info about the robots file configuration.

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Zoho Creator : ‘Situated Apps’ within Zoho/AdventNet – Part I

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Eating one’s own dog food is part of Zoho/AdventNet’s culture and we take much pride in that. And Rodrigo wrote about how Zoho Creator addresses the situated software niche. Here we feature some of the Zoho Creator situated apps created within Zoho / AdventNet for internal use.

Sports Teams : AdventNet has a good number of sports enthusiasts & we win quite a few tourneys! Calls for sporting teams to participate in internal tournaments are typically made using Zoho Creator.

adventnet tournament

indoor tourney

Cab Booking : AdventNet employees avail the cab facilities provided by the company for going home after 9:30 pm. And this is managed using a Zoho Creator app.

booking a cab

Children’s Day : Zoho Creator plays an important role in all events organized here. In India, we celebrate Children’s Day every year on Nov 14. The below screenshot shows the app built for collecting the details of children attending the event.

event organizer

Tour Organizing : It is a yearly ritual in AdventNet for each team to go on a 3 to 5 day trip. This acts as a good refresher and helps improve team bonding. The below forms show the details that are typically asked for as part of tours being planned.

tour org

trip org

The above apps should give you some ideas of how to use Zoho Creator, the friendly tool that lets you create apps within minutes, within your organization. We will see more example apps in another post.

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