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Sun 23 Dec 2018 11:17 AM

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More tools for less cost

Brand View: US-based software specialists Zoho Corporation is looking at ways to solidify its presence in the Middle East

More tools for less cost
Ali Shabdar, Zoho’s MEA Business Development Director

California-headquartered Software development company Zoho Corporation has doubled its business in the Middle East over the past year – and is expecting to do the same in 2019 despite challenging market conditions.

Backed by more than 40 apps and supported by nearly 7,000 employees worldwide, Zoho, which started its operations in 1996, expanded globally with its customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise process management software and platform to serve some more than 40 million users across the US, Europe, India and South East Asia and the Middle East.

Traditionally, the cloud-based solutions provider has been primarily serving the SME sector, but with the demand and growth in enterprise over the past couple of years it now plans to focus more on providing business solutions for big enterprises that are currently catered to by its competitors like Oracle, SAP and Salesforce.

In the Middle East region, many big enterprises are already switching from competitors to Zoho.

“Out of every large account that I was personally involved in, eight out of 10 were switching (from competitors) – and these are bigger companies,” Ali Shabdar, Zoho’s Business Development Director for the Middle East and Africa region, tells Arabian Business.

This is mostly because Zoho offers more features at less cost, he says. The single online platform is capable of running an entire business with apps in nearly every major business category, including sales, marketing, customer support, accounting, back office operations and even VAT solutions, along with multiple productivity and collaboration tools.

Ironically, tough macroeconomic conditions and more consciousness around public sector spending have played a positive role in Zoho’s growth.

“It’s (sales) kind of independent from the economic climate and sometimes downturns create opportunities for newcomers and for new platforms and solutions to be adopted,” Shabdar explains.

Our understanding of data in the market is still rudimentary and there’s a huge opportunity for all companies to develop in this space

“So when we offer the same set of tools and probably even more than the competition at a more cost effective and competitive rate, many companies begin to review their unnecessary operating costs.”

One customer that switched over, for example, saved an average of almost AED450 per month per user, for its 35 users.

Sales of the company’s VAT solution grew 300 percent in the UAE in 2018 following the implementation of the new taxation regime in the country, Shabdar adds. This segment is expected to grow significantly in the region in 2019 too, he says, with the rollout of VAT in Bahrain next.

Meanwhile the privately-held company is strategically working with universities across both undergraduate and graduate programmes in the UAE to teach future business leaders how to use its Zoho Creator tool to build mobile applications.

“If you need a mobile app for your business, you have to go to a software company and it could take at least 10 days to a few months,” Shabdar says. “With Zoho Creator, you can do the same in a matter of days. The course curriculum teaches them Creator. But it’s not just about learning software. It’s about understanding business requirements, pain points, stakeholder needs and project dynamics. They need to learn how to run a successful digital transformation project.”

Building on that, earlier this month, Zoho released its most advanced self-service business intelligence and analytics platform yet, empowering organisations to leverage AI-powered technologies via Zoho Analytics, to correlate data that traditionally resided in departmental silos, into meaningful metrics that span across business functions. Zoho Analytics has been integrated with Zia, Zoho’s conversational AI assistant, which empowers users to quickly find information such as monthly sales figures using natural language queries, for instance.

While most companies in the region have collections of data they have yet to capitalise on it according to Shabdar. “We (as a community) are in the beginning stages (of capitalising on data),” he says. Our understanding of data in the market is still rudimentary and there’s a huge opportunity for all companies to develop in this space.”


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