Startup Image credit Pixabay/GeraltAfter a successful five years in India, Zoho announced the global launch of its Zoho for Startups programme. According to the press release, the first region it will launch in is the Middle East and Africa. However, the Zoho for Start-ups website implies that it is also available in Europe now, though not in the US yet. Africa and the Middle East are key growth areas for Zoho. The company recently announced an expansion in Nigeria and has already formed partnerships with government organisations to promote its solutions in the Middle East, in Dubai, for example.

The launch comes off the back of 9,000 start-ups taking advantage of the program in India. The company has also worked with 150 collaborators, including more than 70 incubators, start-up accelerators, government bodies and co-working spaces across 19 states.

Kuppulakshmi Krishnamoorthy, Global Head of Zoho for Start-ups
Kuppulakshmi Krishnamoorthy, Global Head of Zoho for Start-ups

Kuppulakshmi Krishnamoorthy, Global Head of Zoho for Start-ups, commented: “Since the time we launched the Zoho for Startups programme, India has seen a 12 to 15% growth YoY in number of startups, making it the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world. Government initiatives like Digital India and Startup India have been critical in creating a conducive environment for entrepreneurs, and we are happy to have been one of the first to have partnered with them. In its fifth year, we are taking the programme global, starting with the MEA region. We will be partnering with collaborators in countries where we have presence to help develop the startup ecosystem in those economies.”

Pricing confusion

The start-up program is only open to early-stage start-ups not already paying for Zoho solutions. They receive up to €1500 worth of Zoho Wallet credits to use across over 55 applications in the Zoho platform for 360 days. There is an extra €1000 available for those taking up Zoho Mail. It includes Zoho One, the unified suite of 55 applications, available at £100 pupm or £960 per user annually (£80 pupm). The actual amount available is unclear though with another Zoho page noting that €1800 is available, with no caveats. Hopefully Zoho will quickly bring some consistency. The press release itself does not offer a figure.

Clarification from Zoho

“This is an old page and we have now removed it. Apologies for this confusion. The €1500 credit information is correct.”

Kuppulakshmi commented:
“Our pricing and currency values for all apps are optimised for various regions across the globe. The offering we have via the Zoho for Startups programme has also been optimised thus. We do not believe in ‘a format-painter of an offering’ that, at the end of the day, startups don’t derive value out of.”

As well as the credits, the start-ups have access to the Zoho community, free technical support by email and access to Zoho Concierge. This consultancy service helps start-ups determine what solutions are best suited for them.

Zoho now has data centres in the US, Europe, India, Australia and Japan. It is unclear when they will open one in the Middle East or Africa, both of which are serviced from the US. As data sovereignty concerns increase, will Zoho open more data centres to support the compliance needs of local start-ups?

Building on success in India

Which apps are popular?

Indian start-ups are assured their data stays in the country with its own data centre. Zoho has identified common trends in India. It will be interesting to see if they are replicated worldwide. For the early-stage startups adopting “Zoho for startups”, the most common applications are:

It infers that accounting software is the first basic requirement that start-ups need. As they grow, they need to track customer engagements and, especially with lockdowns, work effectively remotely. It would have been interesting to see whether these have changed over the last three years. Was Cliq as common a requirement pre-covid? Was Zoho Projects, perhaps, more prevalent?

Which sectors are most attracted to Zoho for Start-ups?

In India, Zoho also identified the sectors that typically took up Zoho for Start-ups. The top four sectors were:

  • Education
  • IT Services
  • eCommerce
  • IT Hardware

Education start-ups took advantage of digital communication tools such as the collaboration platform (Zoho Cliq), web conferencing and webinar solution (Zoho Meeting), and office suite (Zoho Office Suite). This demand was partly due to the government initiatives promoting access to education during the pandemic.

It will be interesting to see which sectors take up applications across MEA and Europe.

Krishnamoorthy added: “One of the most common mistakes that founders make is not investing time in researching SaaS tools. They need to look at it as a long-term investment. Decision needs to be made based on whether they can scale using the tools, and how these apps would work with each other. They also need to carefully evaluate which function needs to be handled through a SaaS tool at what time, and keep in mind that buying software applications and implementing them are two separate processes. Through Zoho for Startups, we help the founders plan their SaaS journey, ensuring they have a holistic view of their SaaS architecture.”

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

Zoho continues to drive its growth in innovative ways. Zoho for Start-ups is one way that it appeals to many new organisations. The advantage it gives over other three-month trials is that it enables start-ups to embed software within their organisation with potentially up to a year of use. However, the offer does not necessarily stretch out that far for those organisations with multiple employees. It is a clever ploy, and the variety of available applications makes it very attractive as firms look to add solutions to their tech stack.


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