Indian ICT firm Zoho opens shop in SA

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Ali Shabdar, regional director for MEA at Zoho.
Ali Shabdar, regional director for MEA at Zoho.

Indian-based technology firm Zoho has opened its South African office in Cape Town and is hiring local employees.

Headquartered in Chennai, Zoho is an Indian multinational technology company that makes web-based business tools.

According to the firm, the Cape Town office is the company's flagship office in Africa. The announcement was made on the sidelines of its annual user conference, Zoholics: South Africa, last week.

Zoho is also conducting an upskilling programme with the University of Cape Town Developer Society, under which students can get certification for popular Zoho apps, such as Zoho Creator, a low-code development platform, and Zoho CRM, customer relationship management software.

The company’s new Cape Town office has a training facility that can cater for up to 40 students per course for this programme.

“Zoho strongly believes in its growth being closely tied with the growth and development of the broader community that it serves; a strategy that we refer to as ‘transnational localism’. As part of this vision, we’re focused on contributing to the creation of self-sufficient economic clusters across the world,” says Hyther Nizam, Zoho president for Middle East and Africa (MEA).

“Our new Cape Town office adds to this effort and will help us effectively scale our ongoing initiatives in South Africa, such as local hiring and upskilling, and also being closer to our customers. We build from experience, and having already conducted successful skill-building programmes in other countries like India and UAE, we're looking forward to growing these initiatives in South Africa, especially because there is tremendous youth potential here.”

Doubling the number

In an e-mail interview with ITWeb, Ali Shabdar, regional director for MEA at Zoho, says: “We went from one employee to 10 in a span of one-and-a-half years. We hope to double the number of employees over the next one year, based on the growth and demand that we are experiencing in the region.

“Currently, our Cape Town office can accommodate around 30 employees and has a training facility for up to 40 people. As we grow, we may expand to other parts of the country.

“We see a tremendous demand from the SME sector, where businesses don't have the baggage of legacy systems, are quick to adopt new technologies, and understand the importance of digital transformation.”

Shabdar notes the company sees demand from upmarket customers who are realising the need for cloud solutions that can give them a competitive advantage, and the ability and flexibility to capitalise on market trends quickly.

“Our hirings are focused on ensuring we can serve customers in both these sectors better. As Zoho solutions are gaining popularity, we are also seeing a demand among customers and partners for people skilled in using Zoho apps.”

He notes this has led to the company’s training and upskilling initiatives for creating opportunities for the local community.

“We will invest heavily in these initiatives. We are also exploring partnerships with public and private sectors, and also academia, in line with our goal to serve customers and local communities, and educating the market in order to help businesses in South Africa in their digital transformation journey.

Zoho, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has had a presence in SA since 2019, when it hosted its first Zoholics.

Hiring spree

In 2020, the company grew by more than 50% in the region in revenue, it says. As part of Zoho's commitment to the country and its transnational localism efforts, aside from the new office in Cape Town, Zoho says it will continue to hire more local talent, forge long-standing partnerships, invest in local business communities, adopt local culture in its business operations, and support regional economic development initiatives.

“Currently, we are focused on South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt. However, we are working on expanding to the rest of Africa by hiring locally and expanding our partner network, among other initiatives,” Shabdar says.

“We expect substantial growth across the continent as we see tremendous opportunities for digital transformation.

“We chose Cape Town as the first office in the country as it is becoming a tech hub. We hope to expand to other cities such as Johannesburg and Durban in the future, depending on the growth in these areas.”

“We are looking to work closely with more local technology solution providers in order to grow the number of resellers and implementation partners in the country, while also hiring for customer-facing roles in order to service the high demand for Zoho’s products in the country,” says Andrew Bourne, regional manager for Africa at Zoho.

“We are also looking out for partners for scaling our skill-building initiatives. South Africa is Zoho's key market in Africa, and we will continue to invest in the country.”

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