Thursday, January 13, 2011

sridhar vembu and cloud computing

sridhar vembu


sridhar vembu at zoho

the Zoho Office Suite is a Web- based online office suite containing word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, note-taking, wikis, CRM, project management, invoicing and other applications developed by ZOHO Corporation (formally AdventNet Inc.), a US-based company.It was launched in 2005 with a web-based word processor. Additional products, such as spreadsheets and presentations, were incorporated later into Zoho. Zoho applications are an example of Software As A Service (SaaS) or Cloud Computing applications, whereby software utilities are hosted on remote servers rather than on personal computers. The user accesses the utilities via a web browser.
Zoho applications are free to use at the entry-level and require a fee for more extensive or professional use.

It was October , 1995 . Sridhar Vembu had completed his PhD at Princeton University , US , a year ago and was involved in wireless research at Qualcomm in San Diego . His younger brother Kumar was also a software engineer at Qualcomm , a promising startup at the time . The youngest of the three brothers , Sekar , had just arrived in the US for a PhD at Rochester University in New York. 

It was then that Kumar suddenly decided to quit his job and head back to India to create a company. 

Sekar also quit his PhD and accompanied his brother back to India to help . "We used to have these startup discussions at the dinner table and one morning Kumar just took the decision to move to India ," says Sridhar . "He was also feeling very homesick . And they had no clear idea what they were going to do." 

The Vembu brothers had little idea then , but in these moves lay the beginnings of  ZOHO Corp , which today employs close to 1,300 people with offices in Chennai , US , Europe , Japan and China , and the main development centre in Chennai . Its online suite of productivity and collaboration tools called ZOHO.com competes with Microsoft's and Google's offerings in the space , including word processor , spreadsheet , presentation , as also customer relationship management (CRM) tools, where it competes with Salesforce .com . The suite has over 3 million users around the world . ZOHO also has a tool for IT administrators to manage networks , called ManageE ngine . This has over 40,000 customers , including 60 % of the Fortune 500 companies , and is the company's biggest revenue earner. 

Kumar and Sekar set up their first office in their father 's home in Chennai with two computers , and called it Vembu Systems . Sekar , a BTech from IIT Madras , got his IIT friend Shailesh Kumar to join the startup . In the US , Sridhar put all his belongings in a car and drove to Silicon Valley to drum up business for the startup. 

"After 3-4 months, I had nothing to show for my sales effort and I ran out of money," says Sridhar. 

But he quickly recovered from that to set up a network management product company that did very well till the tech bubble burst in 2001.Later, Sridhar, together with Shailesh ,reinvented that business, which became Zoho. 

"We have been really good at riding technology waves ," says Shailesh . "First was the Java wave and then we saw cloud computing coming . Combining that with our new strategy of getting close to end users , we ended up with ZOHO." The ZOHO Office suite was launched in 2006 , at a time when cloud computing was barely heard of. Cloud computing refers to the access of software applications over the internet , instead of from your PC's hard disk. 

Sridhar and Shailesh also started a unique initiative called ZOHO University that takes in 12th standard and polytechnic students , trains them for 18 months in English , mathematics and computer science , and depending on performance , absorbs them into the company . "It gives an opportunity to students living in interior parts of India who otherwise wouldn't have been able to pursue such education . It is also good for us as they are more dedicated and loyal ," says Shailesh . 120 students have so far passed out of it and comprise about 10% of ZOHO's workforce today . The goal is to take it to 30-40 %. 

The strategy is working well. ZOHO's clients include such names as Coca-Cola , Nortel , Motorola , Deutsche Bank and Cisco. But the focus is on smaller enterprises for whom cloud offerings are cheaper , since it obviates investment in hardware , software licenses and IT infrastructure management . 

ZOHO may not have the marketing budget of a Google , but it's hoping its products will continue speaking for themselves . 

"We have started moving some of the ManageEngine products to the cloud and are bringing in regular improvements in all our services . We intend to make the most of the cloud," says Shailesh. 
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