Zoho Alliance Partner Program Grows as Channel Strategy Evolves

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From the start Zoho had the vision of creating a world class channel and
partner program to address the large SMB market that we are focused on. The
Zoho Alliance Partner Program or ZAPP, now about 18 months old has been quietly and
steadily growing, adding new resellers from around the world, adding capability
to the API program as well as working on some big partner deals which will be
announced over time. I am very pleased with the progress being made,
particularly because we are forging new ground in the SaaS arena, creating what
I believe to be a unique ecosystem with some advanced features that no one else
is offering. This post outlines some of the highlights about ZAPP and where we
are heading

ZAPP has 4 main components which I will address briefly:

1. Resellers

Our reseller partners are regionally-based, scattered across the globe and provide a range of services. Some
are focused on CRM, while others are building consulting practices and
providing expertise to help companies make the leap from purely desktop based
applications to a hybrid model or a purely Web-based approach. One example is Frank
Shines from Skill of Success, a US-based consultant who is focused on Lean Six
Sigma and how to incorporate best practices when implementing SaaS applications
like Zoho. Catherine Coolen, our French-based CRM guru (www.coolcrm.com) has a traditional VAR
approach when dealing with her target market (SMB’s from a range of
industries), but she is adeptly employing Google Adword campaigns to drive
traffic to her site, while organizing a flurry of seminars and road tours to
grow her business.

With nearly 200 resellers and counting, Zoho is building a solid Cloud Computing channel and will see steady growth this year.

2. API Integration Partners

ZAPP has made integration of various Zoho applications quite easy with a host
of free API’s that allow partners to integrate various Zoho services into existing
web portals or applications. These allow external parties to access Zoho’s
great functionality without having to develop similar functionality on their own while helping Zoho extend its distribution
channel. Users simply sign up from a partners’ site and have access to applications like Writer, Sheet and
Show; Examples include: Huddle.net, a file sharing, online collaboration site. National Paralegal Collge, a nationally acredited online paralegal college, RunMyProcess, an on-demand business integration site, and many, many others. The API program is expanding and will soon offer advanced multi-tiered functionality at extremely attractive price points.

Here is a list of our current API Integration Partners.

3. Stategic Alliances

This loosely defined and broad term refers to larger sized deals that have the
potential to rapidly increase Zoho’s revenue base and customer reach. While we
cannot reveal our current pipeline of deals that have closed, we are going to
be announcing some significant wins that span Service Providers, major ISV’s and
technology providers. Late last year we announced the Bahui deal in China along
with Swisscom and Entrepreneur.com. Stay tuned for even bigger deals in 2009.

4. Technology partners

ZAPP also incorporates partners who provide us with technology that we cannot
or do not wish to develop ourselves. Echosign is one example, providing secure digital signatures from inside Zoho Writer; we are also
working with a mobile partner as well as with an audio conferencing partner.

What’s Different about ZAPP?

We try to be as transparent and fluid as
possible, making it easy to do business with us while maintaining
professionalism and focus on revenues.
As a product-focused, passionately driven software engineering company
might also expect ZAPP to share some of these attributes. And it does.
We are making some innovations on the product front which enable our
partners to take our applications to their customers, blurring the line
between vendor and partner. You’ll hear some
interesting news about this moving forward. We have
also developed a few tools for our partners to easily manage their
interactions with Zoho as well as provide a level of automation that
helps them be more
self-sufficient and profitable. These include a secure Reseller Store,a
portal and the capability of allowing resellers to offer Zoho services
their websites.

As the world adjusts to an economic downturn and SaaS matures further, we will
continue to see a steady rise in new businesses wanting to jump into the cloud
computing space as well as take part in the newly emerging “Cloud
Channel” that Zoho and its partners are in the process of creating. While
Microsoft, IBM and other large ISV’s have mature, multi-level channel programs
in place, my guess is they are still working on models for their SaaS business.
I am not so sure they will get it right the first time or anytime soon. Our
competitors like Salesforce have done a poor job in creating a vibrant channel
mostly because their heart is in closing direct sales in large accounts. While
our program is far from perfect, we are committed to our partners and will be
focused on executing on our strategy of addressing a globally diverse customer
and partner base employing the latest technologies and business models.