The ‘smartest unknown entrepreneur'

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Mr Sridhar Vembu, CEO, Zoho, at a press conference, in
Chennai on Wednesday. - Bijoy Ghosh
Mr Sridhar Vembu, CEO, Zoho, at a press conference, in Chennai on Wednesday. - Bijoy Ghosh

Forbes describes Mr Sridhar Vembu as the ‘Smartest Unknown Indian Entrepreneur.' But little is known in India about this founder and CEO of Zoho Corporation, which is India's Google. It offers most of the products that Google offers, including email application.

It is a story of ‘rags to riches' for the soft spoken, middle class Chennai lad who has created a $150-million company based out of Chennai.

The IIT Madras alumnus formed AdventNet in 1996 along with two of his brothers and three friends. AdventNet is today better known as Zoho, which boasts of nearly 60,000 clients, including NASA, GE, Sony, Lufthansa, and AOL.

Zoho today employs 1,600 at the DLF IT Park. “We are one of the largest product development companies in India. We compete and complement Google. However, the biggest competitor is Salesforce,” he said.

Mr Vembu is credited with creating one of the first online (cloud computing) office suites as a company. While the base is in Chennai, the company is well known outside India. It has 6.5 million users for its 25-plus products such as an email application. It is adding nearly 150,000 new users every month, he said.

On any plans to raise funds for expansion, Mr Vembu said, “No need for it. We are profitable and can invest from internal accruals.” The privately-held, ‘bootstrapped' company, in fact, invested $15 million last year in its Chennai facility.

Being a product company, the revenue per employee was nearly $100,000, which is double that of a software service company, he said.

(This article was published on June 6, 2012)
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