October 27, 2023
By Fabrice Vanegas, MEd.

---“ZOHOLICS”: Zoho's biggest event of the year, where different people from our ecosystem go for the following reasons:

  • Zoho employees ("Zohomies"): to “evangelize” the general public on Zoho products.
  • Zoho users: to learn more about Zoho’s apps and what you can do with them.
  • Zoho Partners: to nurture and build relationships within Zoho, and other attendees.
  • Industry Analysts: will tell you later - keep reading!


My first Zoholics - Austin 2016:

Took place at Zoho’s Pleasanton offices (beautifully designed by  Raju Vegesna).  I was a wide-eyed Zoho fanboy that was only beginning to get a grasp on what Zoho was all about. 

A marking moment:

Zoho Showtime (Google Slides equivalent) was being presented - the Q&A feature had just been launched.  Following Sridhar’s presentation - while people were awkwardly shuffling towards the microphone stand - I was the first to launch a question in the Q&A, which the CEO was kind enough to answer:


Me: “What advice would you have for someone who is just getting started as a Zoho Partner?”

Sridhar: “Use all the apps.”

This seemed like a daunting task - but I was determined to, as they say, “do the needful”.

With time, Zoho’s technology became more and more sophisticated - so did their events. Each Zoholics brought more and more people together, weaving together: multiple product learning tracks (sales, marketing, HR, finance, technical), community building, networking, and of course a generous serving of PR and Marketing.

As years passed, Zoho opened offices in 17 countries around the world - hiring professionals who spoke the local language.  


This resulted in Zoholics of more diversified flavors:  

  • Zoholics Mexico is more festive and social - a shout-out to Fernando Sotelo and his team.
  • Zoholics Europe are shorter and more to-the-point (1 day instead of 2) shout out to Sridhar Iyengar, who was cool enough to play chess with the Cloud Lion cub, despite being the busiest man in the room.
  • Zoholics EMEA are very business-focused (big government business deals have been signed) - mr. Vembu goes to those.



The biggest Zoholics ever:  

Zoholics Austin 2019 launched Product Certifications/training, as well as Sponsorship and Partner Booths. Getting exact numbers of Zoholics attendees is not always that straightforward.  The estimate ranges from 2000-4000 people, depending who you ask.  



The Cloud Lion delegates had a blast, and came back smiling proudly with their respective Certifications (shout out to Manoj and Sandeep).


----- Then came COVID.

After 3-4 years of “swallowing saliva” (3 in Canada, 4 in the US), our hunger for Zoholics was finally satisfied!



2022 was the first Zoholics since the Pandemic in Canada.  There was a lot of built-up demand for this event, which was visible in a larger-than-normal influx of our Southern neighbors.  Americans had to wait an extra year for a Zoholics of their own - and came back to a very different version of it (read on).


Our favorite Zoholics so far:

For too long I had yearned to attend a Zoholics in “The Motherland” (India, of course). My wish came true in October 2022. 

The level of vibrancy,  the warm welcome… the FOOD!  The event took place in a palatial five-star hotel (context: five-star hotels in Asia can be considered six-star hotels in the West).



I loved seeing the “Zoho Experience Center” - booths built by Zoho, to showcase each of their different products and features.  Sponsor booths were also available.  Some were logically occupied by Zoho reseller Partners, but other more “diagonal” Partners were there too. Thanks to this, we got to meet the good people of HSBC India, whom we've been banking with ever since.


As a plus - this event took place during Halloween.


Our hotel had interesting amenities (a proper club), I got to take my guys clubbing at a full-on party with DJs from Goa. Time well spent - team-building at its finest.


Fast forward a few months:

Zoholics USA 2023 was now back in the form of three smaller “more user-focused” events. The number of Partners was capped (not something I had ever seen before) - glad we made the cut. The smaller group sizes allowed for closer connections - conversation circles broke out, felt very “Kumbaya". 

I found myself reflecting on how much had changed at both Zoho and Cloud Lion since my previous visit to the Pleasanton campus - when Sridar Vembu took time to answer my question. 



Shortly after, I returned to the Austin Zoholics 23 event  with three other Lions.  



One thing that really struck me about the Austin event was seeing how many industry analysts there were! The Blue-Lanyard crew is very special indeed.  There was a  whole throng of them!  To put it into perspective, I think I spotted two at last year’s Zoholics Canada.



Not everything at Zoholics is for the general public:

During Zoholics, customers and the general public get to catch a one-mile glimpse of what’s ahead in the Zoho roll-out horizon.

Partners have their own mini event called “Inspire” the day before - where we get to see 5 miles ahead into the horizon on what Zoho is planning to roll-out (under NDA). 

The Analysts, however - get to ask very deep questions to Zoho’s top brass - and get detailed answers.  This elite group gets visibility of 20 miles into the future.  They get to attend fancy receptions and live a very different Zoholics than the rest of us simple mortals.

To me, it seems that Zoho’s engagement with Industry Analysts has drastically increased since the arrival of Zoho’s Global Corporate Communications Head: the incredible Sandra Lo. Her laser-focused PR approach helps the right people learn the right things about Zoho - which brings benefits that trickle to the rest of our growing ecosystem. I only recently became hyper-aware of Industry Analysts and the role they play at Zoholics.


Funny story on that:

During day one of Zoholics Austin, a dear client of ours in the fast-fashion industry needed to have a meeting with us. Zoholics is not an ideal environment for a video-call with clients.  I scavenged around the AT&T Conference Center to find a quiet corner to hold this important conversation.  After trying several doords, I found a large conference room, with neat rows of seats, a stage with a Zoho “step and repeat” backdrop, a podium - even fresh flowers to both sides of the stage! The place was completely empty.

I thought to myself - how silly. What a waste of space and resources. We quickly took possession of the space and conducted our business, to then go out and enjoy the town thoroughly.  

Before getting started on my Day 2 of Zoholics, I just needed a quiet place to have my first coffee and gather my thoughts peacefully.  I went to my secret conference room and - BOOM!  The place was PACKED with blue lanyards and Zoho’s highest dignitaries.



Our Zoho friends were nice enough to let me stay.  I won't share any of the mind-blowing information I was exposed to, but I will say it changed my perspective.


And finally -  Zoholics Canada 2023!

Sponsorship (and booths) were finally possible in Canada. 

An Experience Center was also announced.  We honestly thought this event would rival the mythical Zoholics Austin 2019.

We immediately went for the Gold Sponsorship, which got us 10ft*20ft space - we decided to make the most of it - avoiding the whole “Middle School Science Fair at the School Gym” booth look:  



What Cloud Lion did for Zoholics Canada 2023 as a Gold Sponsor:

Zoholics Canada came and went in a blink.  All that preparation and energy - consumed like a display of fireworks during two crazy days. Sure, sponsoring Zoholics changed the flavor - adding additional pressure to squeeze the ROI. Conversations were less casual, we remained anchored to our booth - which captured the business we aimed for. 



Zoho likes organizing Zoholics Canada during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) - which makes logistics were fun.  A week earlier, our supplier for sofas told us he no longer had inventory.  This meant we now had a large expensive empty space…We had to think fast.

A dear client of ours was very satisfied and wanted to support us with the event.  One of their 11 luxury car dealerships (Maserati of Oakville) lent us what is probably the sexiest thing one can place in a 10*20ft space - a beautiful work of art on wheels - an Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. 

Limited edition, hand-made in Italy out of carbon fibre - we felt this dream machine would elevate not only our booth, but the event as a whole.



Few cars in the world measure 4 meters of length - excluding some goofy Mr.Bean-esque cars.

The 4C turned adults into kids, stopping people in their tracks. 

Yet, not everyone felt our approach was appropriate.  Of this small subset of people, only a couple voiced it:

“Why a car in a SaaS event?”


“This goes against the spirit of Zoho and comes across as too flashy”.  



Zoho’s culture is a down-to-earth one, which pays attention to society and spirituality - frowning upon materialism. 

I'd say they focus on things that really matter - which is one of the factors that draw me to India.

Yet, North American culture is individualistic, hedonistic, materialistic.  How to strike a balance?


Adapting ourselves to our settings and context is something that is vital for us to succeed at anything we do - particularly tech deployments and digital transformation initiatives.

Fact: Zoholics Canada takes place in “The Beanfield Centre”- which opened its doors in 1929 as “THE AUTOMOTIVE BUILDING” - a name the building bears on its facade to this day.



We decided to pay homage to the historical roots of the building that housed Zoholics. 

The car itself is something that Cloud Lion identifies with. The 4C has a tiny engine of 1.7 litres, yet performs like a supercar - resonating with our ethos: “It’s about resourcefulness, not resources”.

With a team of less than 40 engineers, we too have a fairly small engine - yet we perform as if we were much bigger than that - punching above our weight class is something we're proud of.

The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is vastly different from all the generic cars you see out on the streets. 

In a beige landscape of Zoho partners that name themselves after one acronym or another - Cloud Lion is fiercely unique.  Attendees realized the same with just one glimpse of our booth.

Driving the Alfa into the building, on the carpets, weaving through a tradeshow was a crazy experience. Easily the most stressful parking job in my life.



But the car was just 60% of our booth. 

The "reel magic" happened in what was left of the space. 

We worked with Origin Films to actually build out a booth (unlike any of the other sponsors who were content with the black curtain dividers) - our main objective was to have a recording studio to conduct professional-grade content.

We conducted a series of 11 super-interesting conversations which we called “Fast-Lane Fireside Chats”.  The car was in the backdrop, hence the “fire” - get it?



We will be releasing this content in the next few weeks/months - stay tuned.

Some people may say that once you’ve been to a Zoholics, you’ve been to all of them.  But I would beg to differ.  Each has its unique flavor - yielding valuable interactions with incredible people.

Zoholics is our way to reconnect with our dear partners (Zoho), the way our team-building trips are a way for the members of our team to nurture and grow their relationships to one annother.


On a closing note:

The Canada Team did not get to have all the fun.  During Zoholics Canada something special happened  on the other side of the planet - 23 members of our team attended the first teambuilding event that I was not physically present for - they went to Zoho’s “Heartquarters” in Tenkasi (on my bucket list)!  


  • They received training on Zoho Desk, SalesIQ and Cliq
  • Visited the school where Sridhar Vembu teaches children 
  • Ate lunch with Zoho engineers 
  • Enjoyed the waterfalls, temples and other sights Tenkasi has to offer  


While the answer to my 2016 Pleasanton question intimidated me at the time, it feels great for Cloud Lion to finally be able to follow Sridhar Vembu’s advice - and “learn all the apps”.

We now have over 40 Zoho product certifications under our belt - which would likely place us among the most highly-certified Zoho Partners on the planet. 


Partnerships (like marriages) are not always easy.  We can always accomplish much more working with each other than against each other.  We take this moment to thank all at Zoho who have become like an extended family for us. 


We are grateful for all the amazing people we have met at all these Zoholics we’ve been to - regardless of what color lanyard they had at the time.  Last but not least, thank you for reading this perhaps-too-long article.

We look forward to the next seven years of Zoholics - the best is yet to come!

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Immortalized in a textbook. But not just any textbook.


In a world with too many Zoholics articles

Fabrice Vanegas, MEd.

Founder and CEO


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