The 2008 CRM Market Awards: Influential Leaders -- Sridhar Vembu
AdventNet, parent company of Zoho
Sridhar Vembu is frugal. Employing more than 600 employees in Chennai, India—plus fewer than 20 in Silicon Valley—cutting costs comes naturally to the chief executive officer of AdventNet, the parent company of on-demand office suite vendor Zoho. With its inexpensive office software, Zoho cuts corners in unconventional ways. For instance, Vembu recruits engineers from low-income areas in India. He spends time training young engineers, often fresh out of high school, to aid in Zoho innovation. In his blog—remarkably open and blunt, an unusual trait for a CEO blog—he writes, “Based on a few years of observation, [AdventNet] noticed that there was little or no correlation between academic performance, as measured by grades and the type of college a person attended, and their real on-the-job performance.”
Another revolutionary measure is that Zoho’s marketing efforts are slim to none. The organization relies mostly on word-of-mouth marketing and the “Try it free—buy it if you like it” approach. In his blog, Vembu points out that competitor Salesforce.com spends nearly eight times more on sales and marketing than Zoho does on development and research. (Did we mention he refused an acquisition offer from Salesforce.com cofounder, president, and CEO Marc Benioff?)
“It takes a lot of guts to break with the tried-and-true formulas of the past and [set] a different course,” says Laurie McCabe, vice president of SMB insights and business solutions at AMI-Partners. McCabe notes that Vembu’s refusal of Benioff’s overtures proves he’s focused on growing Zoho’s business, but not to a point where he wants to make it a “universal profit engine.” Zoho’s breadth is expanding—with 17 applications and four utility tools—yet the cost is still low.
In fact, “low” is an understatement: Zoho CRM is free for up to three users; a subscription to the professional edition costs just $12 per month. The privately held company is making money, but Vembu won’t say how much—perhaps because profit isn’t his driving force. “I think [Vembu] has a really different take [on] and approach to things,” McCabe says, noting that Zoho and other free models are putting pressure on the “big guys.” “I think he’ll shake things up,” she says. In many ways, he already has.
For the rest of our 2008 Influential Leaders, click here.
To view the rest of the 2008 CRM Market Awards, click here.
Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.
CRM on Twitter: June 2008
As Twitter, the microblogging site, explodes in popularity, CRM has become a common topic. To bring the Web 2.0 world full-circle, we'll be highlighting a few choice tweets.
CRM Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2008 CRM Market Awards
Companies, customers, and industry visionaries are honored for successes in the CRM marketplace over the previous 12 months.
New Markets and Leaders Emerge
SaaS revenue will likely remain the driving force behind the CRM industry's growth, but emerging niche markets will also play a role.
The 2008 CRM Market Awards: Influential Leaders -- Introduction
The visionaries shaping the CRM industry.
It's All Coming 2.0gether
As 2007 ends, and 2008 looms ahead of us, patterns are beginning to emerge: The future of business may not be in the hands of the executives, but those of the customer instead. And yet, hasn't it always been that way?
Zoho Brings Another Application to the Cloud
With yet another Web-based application -- Zoho Invoice -- the Zoho Suite extends its sweet offerings.
Arm Your Sales Teams
Technology can shorten the sales cycle, from prospecting to close.
Zoho CRM Goes Enterprise
Zoho moves up in functionality but continues to keep prices down.
Is Microsoft Winning the CRM Race?
The latest CRM products and partnerships from Redmond's software juggernaut have set industry tongues wagging about whether Microsoft has finally forced its way to the forefront -- or if it was ever destined to be a true leader in the first place. Plus, an exclusive interview with Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer.
Google Exec Talks Business in the Cloud
2008 Office 2.0 Conference: In just one year, the Internet has completely changed the way we do business.
AMI-Partners Susses Out the Hot SaaS Vendors
A new report looks at several on-demand application providers who are worth keeping an eye on.
Are You Ready to Zwitch to Zoho?
The productivity suite provider integrates email and CRM, beefs up its Projects application, and entices Salesforce.com users to switch over.
Zoho Now Offers Unified Search
Unified and actionable search is now possible across all of Zoho's 24 applications.