Setting up an office in a rural place not only helps the company but also the entire community, as has been witnessed due to the presence of Zoho’s Tenkasi office in southern Tamil Nadu.

Its long-term impact include rise in overall income, employment and education, and community develooment. The company’s rural revival initiatives have also led to women empowerment, skill building, and indirect job and wealth creation, says a study.

The Economix Consulting Group (ECG), a Chennai-based consulting firm, conducted the study with around 7,300 minutes of interactions with nearly 300 stakeholders.

"There is a lot of latent talent in the world that is waiting for an opportunity," said Sridhar Vembu, CEO and Co-founder, Zoho Corp, in a release. "The concentration of jobs in urban cities has taken away talented youth from the villages where they are most needed. By bringing high-paying jobs to villages, Zoho is helping restore the talent where it belongs, he added.

“Over a period, we can see it benefit the local community, and lead to overall development and economic growth. On the other hand, it allows our employees to stay close to their families and enjoy a better standard of living. The study has helped Zoho capture the long-term impact of rural offices, and validated our approach,” he said.

In the last one year, Zoho opened around 20 satellite offices in rural and non-urban areas around the world, mostly in India. Those in India were started to cater to the employees who wanted to continue working from their hometowns during the pandemic and are located in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

Zoho plans to open 100 new offices around the world. The company has traditionally stayed away from urban centres, believing that software can be built from anywhere, says a release.

Zoho in Tenkasi

Zoho, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, opened its first rural office in Mathlamparai, Tenkasi in 2011 with six employees, and now has around 500 employees. It also has a division of Zoho Schools of Learning (ZSL), a programme through which students who have completed Class 12 or a diploma course are trained and hired as employees.

Community impact

Zoho has helped revamp infrastructure of local schools, improve sanitation and hygiene through waste clearance, pond desilting and undertaking other development initiatives. It has also been running an agricultural farm from Tenkasi, providing livelihood for field workers.

Indirect job/wealth creation

Zoho has had a significantly positive impact on suppliers and vendors it works with. For example, Zoho is the first client for 31 per cent of the vendors and suppliers and about 44 per cent report that they have been able to acquire more clients due to their association with Zoho, the report said.

Impact on employees

Nearly 58 per cent of Zoho employees report that they support the education expenses of one or more immediate or extended family members and 67 per cent of employees provide some form of support (monetary or otherwise) to family or friends since their employment with Zoho.

Empowerment of women

Female literacy in Tenkasi was 45 per cent and women’s participation in the workforce was around 35 per cent (agricultural) and 58 per cent (non-agricultural). The nature of work largely remains in low-paying jobs. Zoho affords a way out of this, the study said.

"The Socio-Economic Impact Measurement model curated for Zoho is a judicious mix of quantitative and qualitative factors, with significant emphasis on qualitative assessment using ECG's '360° Eye' Stakeholder Consultation Process," said Latha Ramanathan, Founder and CEO, ECG.

K Rakeeb Mohamed Mubeen, Product Manager, Zoho Desk, says, “at Tenkasi, I enjoy a better work-life balance, and have a peaceful and enjoyable atmosphere to work in. We realised early that rural areas have an immense talent pool.”

Anusuya Devi from Tirunelveli, currently interning with Zoho Mail as part of the ZSL course, says, "I attended the Zoho Schools of Learning interview when I was doing my final year of diploma course two years ago. My family was very happy to hear that I was selected, and I'm glad that I didn’t miss this wonderful opportunity. One of the best things about ZSL was that prior knowledge in programming was not required for being selected.”