Continuing its emphasis on increasing talent in rural areas, software-as-a-service (SaaS) unicorn Zoho Corp. plans to hire up to 2,000 people for its rural offices by the end of this year.
Zoho currently has about 10,000 people globally. “About 85% of the new hires will be for India. We have a good pipeline of hiring and it will continue next year,” Sridhar Vembu, cofounder and chief executive officer, Zoho told Mint in an interview.
As it expands its presence in non-urban locations, the new roles will be spread across all functions including software development, support, marketing, sales, documentation, administration, Vembu said. “We need all roles because when we are setting up rural centres, we need people with local knowledge who can actually run these centres from an operations point of view.”
Zoho has been promoting the reverse migration of talent with the concept of rural or satellite offices for quite some time now. These offices are small set ups that can typically accommodate 20-60 people. It set up its first rural office back in 2011 in Tenkasi, a village in Tamil Nadu.
Zoho Desk, the company's customer support software, was developed and launched from the Tenkasi office in 2016 which currently has about 500 employees.
To meet its talent requirements locally, Zoho started a branch of Zoho Schools of Learning (previously called Zoho University) in Tenkasi as well. As part of this programme, local high school students are inducted and trained for 18 months, and then absorbed into the company. Currently about 10% of Zoho’s total workforce consists of students who came through this programme.
To further expand Zoho's rural presence, Vembu moved from Pleasanton in California to a village in Tenkasi in October 2019. Vembu said his vision of making engineers work in rural regions or closer to their homes was in the pipeline for years, but the coronavirus pandemic sped up his plans.
Zoho has set up around 20 such satellite or rural offices in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar. Similar rural centres are also being planned internationally in Texas and the European Union.
Rural centres have their own advantages during pandemics as they are less populated and do not have air conditioners. “Post pandemic, most rural centres have an occupancy of 40-50% while the main office in Chennai has a 10% occupancy,” Vembu said.
Industry observers feel expanding rural centres is a win-win strategy for both employees and employers. “The pandemic has significantly realigned how work is done. As operational and living costs can be extremely high in metro cities, such centres make perfect sense. Both employees and employers are confident of delivering work remotely so this is a smart decision,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, CEO and chief analyst, Greyhound Research.
At a time when tech startups across the world are raising billions in VC funding, Zoho remains bootstrapped till date. On a consolidated basis, Zoho ended FY20 with Rs 4,386 crore in revenue, up from Rs 3,411 crore it had reported in the previous year. Its profits rose 55% annually to Rs 801 crore for the fiscal year ended March 2020. Vembu has always maintained that frugality has been his mantra for success.
Zoho now has 10 data centres around the globe, which support more than 45 different applications that help businesses located in more than 180 countries. Two years ago, it crossed the 50 million business users’ mark.