09 May, 2007

Taking on Google! -The Hindu

It's the classic David versus Goliath battle being played out in the 21st century. We are talking of the great race between Web behemoth Google and Zoho, the Chennai-based underdog, to launch a suite of online office applications.

However, Sridhar Vembu, CEO of AdventNet, the company behind Zoho services, doesn't see it as an all-out battle. ``That would imply that there can be only one winner, which I don't agree with. Business is not like sports in that respect. It is perfectly possible to have a profitable, growing business without `winning' the market in the sense of being number one.''

While Google has been going about its mission with a mix of buyouts and internally developed products, Zoho has a team of several hundred engineers focused on churning out one product after the other, sometimes within a span of a few weeks!

On how a company very focused on the telecom market forayed into Web services, Vembu says: "When the telecom bubble burst, the company found itself with a lot of talented engineers. That's when Zoho was born. We decided to diversify out of telecom and it was obvious that Web-based applications was a key area of growth."

Which is why Vembu and company decided to make the pragmatic choice of building a company without venture capital. Does he have anything against taking VC money? "I don't have anything philosophical or religious against it. It's just a strong personal preference for the operating freedom that comes from not having to answer to financial-minded investors, while being subject to the discipline of living within our own means."

With independence being at the core of its culture, Zoho is unlikely to be gobbled up by an MNC with deep pockets. "We have a track record of patient engineering execution. Based on that history, I would say we will be around as an independent player, though in business one learns to never say never."

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