This week, while at Zoho's first Zoholics event in North America since the Pandemic, LinkedIn surprised me with a question:
I am humbled by the "Zoho Expert" designation, Ming - but you cannot seriously be asking me for "THE most surprising benefit?!" there are too many.
"Not another LinkedIn listicle!" you may think. I can empathize, and will do my best to make it worth your 8 minutes. At least you will get to read something authentic and heartfelt from a Zoho community insider - and not another Business Insider article being re-shared as "insightful". If you want the 20 second version - scroll to the conclusion.
Let's jump right into it.
Zoho allows you to unify your IT stack under one roof. I am lucky to work closely with hundreds of companies, and get to see how they operate internally.
Too often, their IT stack is fragmented all over the place, which could look something like:
The list could be much longer - but for the sake of brevity I will cut it there. Using so many tools results not only in an eye-wateringly expensive IT overhead, but more importantly it robs companies of their most valuable asset: time.
The amount of busy-work endured by the average worker is a sad affair. People copy+pasting things from one platform to another, or having to repeatedly do menial grunt work in order to enter data into their system. This is working for technology - in a world where technology should be working for you.
We have succeeded at recuperating the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 workdays a week of productive time for some of our customers' employees. Think of how liberating this is from a purely human perspective! Being able to tackle interesting projects, and using one's capacity, education and inspiration towards something other than redundant soul-destroying pencil-pushing or data entry...
In a world with ferocious competition, logistical, HR and economic constraints, and macro-trends beyond anyone's control - the importance of enjoying an integrated stack of technology built around your company's exact needs and processes cannot be overstated.
A simple analogy: the fact that the members of a team can communicate allows them to achieve that cliché term we all love: synergy - where the work they can achieve as a team is greater than the sum of what each of them could achieve in isolation.
Same thing for technology.
When the different technological components of your IT stack speak to each other, they are able to achieve much more - resulting in greater efficiencies - and happier humans.
Truly ridiculous how low the cost is. So much in fact, that one could argue that it is more expensive not to buy Zoho, than to buy Zoho (pardon the tautology).
There's a popular belief that Zoho is a CRM - but there's a lot more to it than that.
Zoho's suite comprises of 50+ full-fledged business apps - their most popular being Zoho CRM.
It is possible for businesses to start using one app, and then add another, to eventually choose the "salad bar" approach to getting the apps (adding more and more onto that oval-shaped plate). While possible, this strategy is not advisable - since after piling a few apps you would be left with a Salesforce-size invoice (see what I did there?).
Having to choose from more than 50 apps can be a dizzying and mentally exhausting endeavor, after a while of scrolling through these minimalist wireframe icons you may find yourself feeling like a "Zohombie"!
This is why bundles exist:
These app bundles allow you to make a more pocket-friendly choice while encouraging adoption of the tools as a means to satisfy a whole functional department of your business.
In 2017 (the year Cloud Lion was born) Zoho launched the One bundle to rule them all:
Zoho One is more than a bundle. Zoho calls it "The Operating System for Business". We call it, the best choice possible for almost any business under the sun.
Zoho One gives you access to over 50 business apps - all the power you will ever need. This allows you to run every process of your entire business on Zoho - your entire tech stack can live under that one umbrella. Clean, safe, powerful and deeply customizable. Having access to all these apps "removes the ceiling" for your system's future growth and innovation - without increasing your license costs.
Zoho One got its name from its price:
When launched it cost $30/month - which translates into ONE dollar a day. Due to inflationary pressures, the price has been nudged upward, slightly in the US, less so in Canada - but it is still a steal:
*Caveat: In order to benefit from this too-good-to-be-true pricing, every employee with email has to sign up for a Zoho One license, or the price more than doubles into the "flexible user pricing" (still good value).
First month is free - click here to start your 30 day trial of Zoho One!
Zoho is the antithesis of all other Silicone Valley tech giants. I speak about their values. While other tech billionaires are busy rocketing off into space in their private spacecraft, Zoho's Sridhar Vembu chooses to live in a small rural town in Tamilnadu, enjoys rice farming, practices yoga, teaches children in school, wears sandals, and chooses unassuming vehicles for daily transportation. He is on the Indian government's board of advisors, and has received the highest honor an Indian citizen can receive: the Padma Shri award.
Zoho's actions stem from their values and their culture.
Click here to read a detailed article I wrote about Zoho's culture. The article received wide readership and was apparently even enjoyed by Mr. Vembu himself. Here's a photo that shows said article being used as an example at the Zoho Inspire Partner event in 2019 (hopefully this convinces you to read it).
People who do not know Zoho often don't understand it. Zoho's obligations are not to shareholders. Their raison d'être is not profit maximization. Their business is not for sale, and neither are their principles.
The "why" behind Zoho can be better understood once you read Zoho Perspectives - a small collection of short but poignant articles which explain the values that drive Zoho (really, do give these a read).
I love that this 100% bootstrapped business - run by amazing human beings - is quietly taking over the world. They challenge conventions, rattle cages, and do so much more for their employees and the communities they operate in than any other tech business I know.
I used to be a teacher. This felt like a spiritually/morally rewarding path. Now as a digital transformation consultant, I still feel like I make a difference - more so to the bottom line of companies, than to the future of youngsters.
Today I feel using Zoho allows me to get the best of both worlds:
(What? is that even a thing?!)
Zoho's ecosystem is a special one. Zoho's staff are like one big 13,000 people family. My first encouter with Zoho's people and culture happened when I was in Zoholics Pleasanton 2016. During the 3 day event, I quickly realized this company was different. The vibe is unique at Zoholics events.
Ever been to one? You should.
For a closer look, here's a writeup I did on Zoholics Austin 2018.
Still curious? Here's one on Zoholics Mexico 2019.
In 2019 we went to Zoholics Austin, Toronto and Montreal. But then the Pandemic happened. Being a safety-conscious company, Zoho quickly put precautionary measures in place before other tech giants did. All of Zoho's in-person events were put on ice.
Which is why after 3 long cold years, this week's Zoholics Canada felt so refreshing:
In this picture: Ian Bruce, Vijay Sundaram, Raju Vegesna, Chandrashekar LSP, Tejas Gadhia, Surya Sadhasivan, Karthick (Kevin), Christopher Bertrand, Shubhit Brahmwar, Sailas S, Enzo At Muhend, Peter Fuller, Luis Rivas, Krishna Venkatasubramanian, MBA, Sébastien Meghezi, Ph.D.
There are other Zoho events too - in person training events - Zoho Creator Roadshow (highly recommended) - Zoho User Groups (or ZUGs - a fun acronym). Zoho is vast, and the best way to take it all in quickly is via immersion in these events; where you will see passionate and zealous Zoho Partners (green lanyards), curious and satisfied Zoho customers (yellow lanyards), and highly professional and approachable Zoho employees (red lanyards).
Working at LinkedIn would get you a fancy blue lanyard, which gets you extra Zohospitality - like Raymond Ray enjoyed this week! ;-)
To me, the most surprising benefit of using Zoho is the satisfaction of having a technologically superior and highly integrated toolset, at an unbeatable price, while making the world a better place by supporting a tech giant with a soul. Working with Zoho has changed my life, and has allowed me to transform the businesses of my customers - building positive and enduring relationships along the way.
I will now continue to pack my bags and prepare for Zoholics Spain (September 20th) and Zoholics Italy (September 22nd). After that, Zoholics India (October 31st).