On the eve of Zoholics Dubai, Zoho revealed its growing momentum in the region only five years after its operation began in UAE, the base of its efforts in the Middle East and Africa. In UAE alone, it has grown tenfold with a CAGR of 60% over the last five years.
In 2022 alone, it grew 45%, making it the second-highest growth country globally for Zoho. Importantly, future growth appears secured, with its partner network growing by 50%.
At the annual user conference Sridhar Vembu, CEO and Co-Founder of Zoho, will also announce an investment of AED 100 million (US $27.23 million) to expand operations in the country. This will include hiring local talent as part of its ‘transnational localism’ policy. In August, it partnered with
Vembu commented, “As part of our transnational localism strategy when we expand into a region, we want to give back to the local community and be rooted in the local culture as we grow. Over the past five years, we have invested in local hiring, growing our partner network, adding Arabic support in our products, and integrating with local payment gateways to adapt our solutions for the local market.
“We will continue to invest in growing our footprints in the country through hirings, upskilling programmes, localisation of products, integrating our solutions with local vendors, and partnering with organisations to help local businesses in their digitalisation efforts.”
Transnational Localism in UAE
Zoho has invested heavily in the region, initially through partnerships. This has helped power the growth it has experienced in the region.
Zoho partnered with the government agencies such as Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, aiming to support creative entrepreneurs across the country a year ago. It partnered with Dubai Economy in August 2021 to help firms on their digital transformation journey.
It also partnered with the Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) to offer free access to Zoho One for a year. More than 3,500 SMEs have taken advantage of these offers, with Zoho’s investment of AED20 million to give firms a step on the ladder to success.
Alongside these initiatives, it has worked with educational establishments such as the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) and Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM), offering training support to further upskill the local workforce. It has improved data literacy for over 200 students and 300 companies.
Vembu added, “Because of the global economic conditions, more and more companies are moving towards digitalisation and choosing unified platforms that help them break data silos, and bring forth contextual real-time insights that enable them to make quick decisions and be nimble to adapt to changing market conditions.
“Zoho has its own technology stack that has been built from ground up through relentless R&D over 26 years. We offer a unified platform for all business needs from customer experience and marketing to finance and enterprise collaboration, with our apps being customisable, integrable and extendible. This makes Zoho an ideal choice for businesses of all sizes.”
Zoho One powers growth
It is perhaps no surprise that Zoho One is the main source of growth for Zoho in UAE. The partnership with DET seems to have paid off. Other popular applications include:
- Zoho Books (FTA-approved VAT-compliant accounting software)
- Zoho CRM (customer experience platform)
- Zoho Workplace (enterprise collaboration platform)
- Zoho Creator (low-code development platform)
Zoho also continues to improve its applications by adding Zoho Trident, a comprehensive communications platform, to its Workplace offering. Zoho is gaining traction for its solutions across several industries. These include IT services, wellness/fitness, real estate, manufacturing and retail sectors.
Several well-known brands in the region, including Ateis ME and Papa Johns, use its HR and Payroll solutions. Papa Johns has used Zoho People Plus, Zoho Expense and Zoho Creator to streamline their HR (staff attendance), expense and payroll management across 70+ outlets in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East region.
Albrey James, Head of HR & Administration, Papa Johns, commented, “We finalised Zoho after evaluating several well-known platforms available in the market. It is user-friendly, easy to customise based on our unique needs and compatible with almost all the devices and other software. It also provides a robust security system.
“Its scalability is amazing as we can continue to expand and grow across the region, while using the same software. I must also say that the team is very supportive and always available when we need them.”
Enterprise Times: What does this mean?
Zoho is going from strength to strength in the Middle East. Its expansion approach has been cleverly combining partnerships with government and education to establish short- and long-term ties in the country. Its willingness to invest upfront in organisations aligns with the 2030 vision that UAE has to reduce to become a digital economy.
The Transnational Localism approach seems to be working. While Zoho is not revealing statistics about each initiative’s success, the growth it has achieved is significant. However, the next couple of years will show whether it retains those customers or whether they move to other applications.
The benefit Zoho has is the variety of applications that solve many business challenges. Its solutions are also localised for many countries in the region and beyond. That means as UAE firms expand outside their home country, they have solutions that are low-cost and can meet their growth challenges.