Zoho – what are you really?

Zoho has been getting a lot of attention lately – from the first reports of its CEO Sridhar Vembu turning down a buyout offer from Salesforce.com to being briefly mentioned in Business week magazine article on Inside Microsoft’s war against Google. In a recent interview with Fox Business, its CEO said that Microsoft is the one that has the most to lose because of Zoho. OK, but how?

Zoho has an impressive array of online applications such as Docs, spreadsheets, Mail, Zoho Creator (a database app), CRM, Wiki, Blogs, HR apps etc. The apps are very easy and user friendly with a very nice looking UI. There are many features that have been copied from other apps – for example, Zoho Notes has a lot of features that look and act like the same features in MS’s OneNote. They give it all of it for free to consumers and say that they are making more than a million per month from business customers. They are hiring mostly in India. They have some good things going for them, but then a lot of companies had this for them before they fizzled out.

But after looking at what they offer and trying some of their products, as a business customer, I have been grappling with what exactly Zoho’s focus is. It is one thing to come up with a wide array of cool looking apps, but it is another thing when it comes to focusing on one thing and getting it done right. Is Zoho a MS Office killer? Is it a Salesforce killer? Is it going after SQL/Oracle? Or after Inuit’s Quickbooks or Quickbase? Or is it just another cool looking Google Apps?

I don’t know. Startups during the early days typically tend to execute one thing like hell and when they become successful, they tend to diversify into related areas that leverage their core business. But what exactly is Zoho’s core business? What happens when push comes to shove – what will be left standing? Which apps will get the axe and which ones will be left standing? As a business user I want to know, before I jump into the bandwagon.

Zoho is owned by AdventNet which has its own share of developer and database products which adds even more to the product line.

It appears to me that they are using carpet bombing hoping that something sticks as opposed to using a laser like focus in getting 1-2 of these offerings become kick ass apps with a large base of paid users. You name it – Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.com, FaceBook, SolidWorks all did it this way in their startup days. Pick one thing and execute like hell as if your life depended on it.

I could be missing something completely and would love to be educated. Please let me know.

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