Six years ago, a vice-president of Zoho, an office productivity software maker, struck out on his own to launch Freshdesk. Girish Mathrubootham challenged global customer support software makers like Zendesk to become a leader in this space and a SaaS hero from Chennai. Today, the wheel comes full circle.
Zoho launched Zoho Desk, which joins a long line of cloud-based software from the company. Zoho Writer was the first, followed by products for customer relationship management, accounting, HR, sales, reports for analytics, and so on. This range of 30-odd products in the Zoho suite immediately creates a differentiator for Zoho Desk.
For example, Freshdesk has been launching new products like Hotline and Freshsales, which can combine with its help desk software for a richer experience all round. “They have two or three products, we have 30,” quipped Sridhar Vembu, founder and CEO of Zoho, when I compared Zoho Desk with Freshdesk.
What he meant is that Zoho Desk can integrate with other Zoho products and tap into their past customer data. For example, if a customer has interacted with Zoho CRM or Zoho Projects, the context of that customer is immediately available to Zoho Desk. This allows Zoho Desk users to better understand their customers’ problems and deal with it more efficiently – such as prioritizing which tickets to handle first.
“When companies started providing online customer support, they did so through email. As a result, even today, most help desk products look like personal email inboxes,” said Sridhar. “Customers have evolved from just needing their problems resolved to expecting more transparency and quicker responses, but software hasn’t kept up.”
Made in Tenkasi
Zoho, which was the first company from India to produce cloud-based software back in 2005, has 150,000 organizations around the world as customers currently. Sridhar is hoping one-third of them will become Zoho Desk users – in which case, this new product in the customer engagement space immediately becomes a major player.
Apart from the context-richness of Zoho Desk, it’s also unique as the first software product built in an Indian village. Sridhar launched the product in Tenkasi in rural Tamil Nadu. The company has set up a software product development center in Tenkasi, employing 150 people. Zoho Desk was built here. Now another center three times its size is coming up next to it.
“We are now showcasing something that has never been done before […] In an industry where companies have come to believe that the only location that matters is a few square miles of downtown San Francisco, we are proving that a determined and sincere group of people can build path-breaking products anywhere,” Sridhar said.