Why I Am a Businessman and Why My Employees Are My Heroes

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(picture courtesy: The Hindu online)
That scene above is from the suburb of Chennai (Tambaram) where I grew up, where my parents still live, but in reality, it could be anywhere in India. We get monsoons this time of the year every year, yet, every year this is how it looks for a few weeks. 
I am in business because I believe there is really only one solution. We need 25x more businesses, 25x more jobs, 25x more infrastructure before India could be considered a livable country. I hope to live to see a day when one city, just one fucking city, in India will offer a world-class quality of life. Today, almost no city in India comes close to offering what would be considered an acceptable quality of life. That is why I wake up everyday and go to work, because my dream is to create sufficient profits to directly fund the infrastructure we need to live a decent life.
That crazy idea, directly funding infrastructure out of profit, would practically get me thrown out of my job in a nano-second if Zoho were a public company. That is why I don’t take venture capital and won’t ever take my company public. The good news is we have decent profit, and as we grow, my plan is increasingly becoming less and less crazy. 
But it is not really about me. I live the good life. It is my employees in Chennai that are the true heroes. Every single one of them go to work under these conditions – and I am going to be there tomorrow. Scenes like these are literally everywhere in Chennai. Our people write code,  support customers, teach and learn from each other, all under these conditions. The fact that our people ship the products they do under these conditions is a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. I grew up in exactly these circumstances, but I still think of it as nothing less than a miracle that we are able to do the work we do.
My employees are just like people in that picture. The are hard working good people, forced to live under a broken system. Governments in India are famous for a singular lack of vision and imagination. In that picture, for example, you would think the local municipal body would be responsible for the civic infrastructure. No, that would be too obvious and too sensible, and of course that is how any functioning system anywhere in the world would work. In India, financial responsibility for that road would be divided between the state government, which manages the affairs of only 70 million people and the central government (because there is a railway line in the picture, and railways are all run by the central government, including the local train network of Chennai). The local municipal entity is powerless and broke, and it exists to basically receive petitions and forward them to the state or central governments – well, when they get out of their wheeling and dealing to getting around to doing any work at all.
We have ministries and departments for everything under the sun, from condoms to condiments, from rain forests to railways, from fisheries to fertilizers, from information technology to imaging satellites. Except that we don’t focus on basics like roads, sanitation or drinking water, because, well, that would be too obvious and too sensible. Ronald Reagan’s dictum “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem” applies with astonishing force and clarity in India. That is why I am a businessman.
PS: You want to see more pictures like this, here is a slideshow from the Hindu.
 

Launching a Zoho Recruit Plug-in for Microsoft Outlook

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ms-outlook3
Many recruiters use both Applicant Tracking System and Microsoft Outlook for recruitment. Applicant Tracking System helps in tracking applicants and Outlook for emails, contacts and appointments. Using two different tools is tedious and time consuming. To ease the recruitment process, we decided to implement an integration to help you save time and be more productive. 
Today, we are very excited to announce the long awaited and much requested integration between Microsoft Outlook and Zoho Recruit, which will help you to complete your task faster and more efficiently.
Using the new Microsoft Outlook Plug-in you can:

 

  • Easily add multiple candidates and contacts from incoming emails directly to Zoho Recruit.  This eliminates the need to manually key-in the details
  • Associate candidate to job openings directly from Outlook to Zoho Recruit
  • Automatically saves a copy of the e-mail into the specific candidate’s or contact’s record
  • Parse attached resume from e-mails directly to the Zoho Recruit
  • Store and track all your e-mail conversations with candidates and contacts in their respective records using the “Add Email” option
  • Fetch all your events and appointments from Zoho Recruit and add them to your Outlook
Check out our online help pages for how to install and work with the plugin.

Try it, and do let us know what you think of this new feature. You can post a comment here or send us an e-mail at support@zohorecruit.com



 

Zoho Invoice Success Stories From Far East

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For Japanese, the quest for perfection is ingrained in all walks of life. Be it the high end technological creations or the simple art of skillfully wrapping a gift. Their motto is to achieve the highest quality possible. Even in the realms of business, they seek to constantly improve their processes for the better. Invoicing is an integral part of every business’ framework. We at Zoho Invoice are happy to see  our efforts being acknowledged even in the far east.




Our colleagues had interviewed two Japanese business partners who had tried, tested and found Zoho Invoice easy to use. Find below an excerpt from their interview:




Promission Ltd and Ishin Corporation provide services in the field of business consulting and IT support (implementation of iPhone and iPad for companies). Both companies are members of the Apple Consulting Network. Mr Nakamura who runs ‘Promission Ltd’ also provides consultation on business improvement planning. He found Zoho Invoice in the Google Marketplace. At first, he signed up for a free trial and it was an instant hit!



Mr. Nakamura says,

 I find the application to be ‘really cool’ and keep recommending it to my friends for their invoicing needs.




Zoho Invoice has reduced the manual work and increased productivity for his company. Ability to invoice anytime and anywhere has brought an edge to his style of work. He also says,”Creating estimates and invoices in excel was not easy. But I knew, to run the business, I needed to make it more efficient.”






 

Mr Toyoshige Oki, CEO of Ishin Corporation is a business partner and friend of Mr. Nakamura. They offer, consultation on effective ways to use  social media and help with implementing cloud computing applications. During one of their meetings, Mr Nakamura (now a self proclaimed Zoho Evangelist) recommended Zoho Invoice to Mr Oki. He says,”SMB companies like ours want to use software application as a service, as we don’t want to have any software asset.” Quite impressed by the features and cost effectiveness, both companies are now paid users of Zoho Invoice.





M

r. Oki says,


 

Zoho Invoice follows the standard operation flow and I didn’t have to do anything special. I just followed it and create estimates/invoices. No need for customization at all




Click here

to find



out how

Promission

and

Ishin

use Zoho Invoice for their invoicing.

New in Zoho Sheet: Repeat Action, Insert Cut Rows and Hyperlink

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We have been regularly adding new functionality to Zoho Sheet. Here are 3 more cool features that are now available:

F4 – Repeat Last Action:

Are you tired of doing the same action repeatedly on your spreadsheet – actions such as deleting the blank rows or applying the same style? If yes, then you will love this functionality. Using the keyboard shortcut F4, you can quickly repeat the last action performed, such as applying cell styles, formats, row/column operations, etc., on a different set of cells.

Insert Cut / Copied Rows and Columns:

Have you felt the need to move (or copy) your rows or columns around? You can now easily do it by doing a ‘Cut’ followed by ‘Insert Cut Rows Above’.

Hyperlink Enhancements:

Our ‘Insert Hyperlink’ functionality now lets you create a hyperlink to a cell / cell range / named range / worksheet. You can even create dynamic hyperlinks using the HYPERLINK() function.

To learn more about these new features, head to our discussion forum.

Here is a screen cast video highlighting the usage of these new features.

Save Paper With Online Document Management

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Here are some startling facts I came across online, about paper and its consumption in the US:

  • Every year the U.S. uses nearly 3.7 million tons of paper – that is more than 700 billion sheets
  • A Xerox survey reveals that U.S. office workers print more than 1,000 pages a
    month; the national annual average is 10,000 – 12,000 sheets per worker
  • Other studies by Xerox  reveal that office workers throw away 45 percent of their documents within 24 hours of printing them
  • With all the office paper businesses waste every year a 12-foot high wall of paper from New York to California could be built.
  • It takes one 15-year old tree to produce half a box of paper.
  • 10,000 sheets of paper per year are used by a single US office worker. If a box of paper contains 5,000 sheets and costs $32, that’s $64 and 4 trees per employee. For an office of 100 employees, that’s a whopping $6400 and 400 trees!


From the 
the facts mentioned above you can see that offices use vast quantities of paper, which mostly end up as waste. This is where online document management services such as Zoho Docs can help businesses reduce their usage of paper.

By using document management services such as Zoho Docs, you no longer have to create documents on paper. Instead, you can create, store and share your documents online. This not only leads to reduced paper consumption but increases the efficiency at work, saves time, money, and resources.

So, how would your business benefit going the paperless route, by using online document management ?

Save time: Reduce time spent on searching for a document from hours to minutes

Save Office Space: Reduce file cabinet and storage space in your office, making your work environment clutter-free.

Access anytime anywhere: 
Store all your files online and access them from anywhere

Get Quicker access to information: Get all your documents organized in one place and retrieve the required document with ease

Safety and Security: Set access privileges for documents so only the people you want to share the document with get to access it. You no longer have to worry about a document getting lost or misplaced. And lastly…

Go Green:  Reduce the amount of paper you use. The less paper we use, the less trees are cut down, which would be a step in saving our fast diminishing natural environment.

Zoho Docs is helping businesses save paper and go green by offering online document management. We would like to know if there is anything that you’ve done or you would suggest to “save paper”?

How a Cancelled Project at StorageTek Led to Zoho CRM

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I have never shared this story in public before, but I wanted to do this after reading Hank Williams’ post (via Hacker News) on race in Silicon Valley. My post is not about race, but it is somewhat related, as you will see below.

First a bit of history. In 2003, our company’s only business was network management software. Our main product at that time was Web NMS, which continues to be a successful and profitable division for us to this day, but at that time, it was the only product line we had. Zoho was not yet born, in fact, we had not even conceived of the name yet. Web NMS had many large equipment vendors as customers, and among them was StorageTek, a multi-billion dollar back-up & recovery products company, which was later acquired by Sun. After a comprehensive evaluation over several months, StorageTek chose our Web NMS product to build remote monitoring capability into their storage equipment, and they also wanted us to set up a team to customize the Web NMS so it could talk to their equipment and provide the specialized reports needed. This project began in 2003, and it was going smoothly. We had a team of about 10 engineers working on this project. We had reached a stage of trial deployment in a few customer sites.

That was when they had a big management change at StorageTek. The Vice President in charge of this project was replaced with a new person. One of the first things the new VP noted was that Web NMS came from an Indian company. Just on that basis, he instructed his purchasing people to terminate the contract immediately and award the contract to another company. The purchasing person, who shared the reason behind the termination with us, felt it was a massive waste of resources, but he was overruled. In fact, because the termination was for no fault on our side, they paid for all the deliverables, even though they were not going to use any of them.

It was sometime in August 2003 that we were notified of the contract termination. It was abrupt – as I remember it, it was on a Thursday we were notified, and they told us we should just stop the project right-away and yes, we could throw away the code. Our team, which was working hard on this project, was devastated. I assembled our team and told them to take the Friday off, and come back fresh Monday. I promised there would be an interesting new challenge awaiting them Monday.

During that year, two threads were running in my mind: how to diversify the company from its dependence on a few large customers like StorageTek, where sales cycles were very long, and decision making was often very political, something we got a perfect demonstration of. Second, I was also thinking about the emerging software-as-a-service market. We were customers of Salesforce, and while I liked their product delivery model, I felt the product itself was massively overpriced. As I analyzed Salesforce, I felt their high price was due to their business model bloat i.e overspending massively on sales and marketing. As a software engineer, I felt we could build a better product and as an entrepreneur, I felt we could cut the bloat in the business model and offer the product at a more affordable price. From my perspective, all this had the added merit that we would target small and mid-sized customers first, which would let us avoid the long sales cycles and the politics. That was just a thought, an idea, without yet a plan of action.

When StorageTek terminated our contract, that thought just crystallized. On Monday morning, I called a meeting and told our team “You are now our on-demand CRM team.” The engineers were incredulous. One of the lead engineers let out “Sridhar, we know nothing about software-as-a-service or about CRM” – I said “Well, you will know soon!”

Today, Zoho CRM is the fastest growing part of the Zoho suite, it is nicely profitable, and it is starting to give Salesforce a run for their money. Zoho CRM also paved the way to our emergence as one of the most comprehensive suite of business applications in the cloud. I guess we should thank StorageTek.

Back to StorageTek – the company they selected to replace us collected a few million dollars and never really delivered on that project. The ultimate irony was that they called us a couple of years later to help them with this project again; needless to add, we declined.