Mobility, BYOD, and Collaboration will Drive SaaS Adoption in India: Zoho

Shrinking project timelines, mobility, and budgetary constraints are all going to fuel the growth of the SaaS market, and Zoho is not doubtful of having its share of the pie. The Chennai-based company offers a host of online business, productivity and collaboration applications ranging from CRM, mail, and office suite to project management, invoicing, and Web conferencing among others to help organizations run their business processes, manage their information, and be more productive while at the office or on the go. Raju Vegesna, chief evangelist for Zoho, speaks about the SaaS market in India, the factors contributing to the increase in SaaS adoption, and how mobility and BYOD are changing the game.

How do you see the SaaS market developing in India?

We have around 6 million customers worldwide, but we were only focusing on the US and European markets till recently. However, we have forayed into the SaaS market in India this year. The country is quickly gearing up to trends like mobility, BYOD and cloud, and is certainly going to get a great deal of attention. A couple of months ago, India touched the point where the Internet usage from mobile exceeded Internet usage from laptops/desktops (that is just with 4 percent penetration of smartphones). Organizations are seeing a huge opportunity in trapping unexplored markets, and mobile and cloud are going to help them immensely in reaching that goal.

Are Indian enterprises ready to adopt SaaS despite security concerns? What are the applications that CIOs are putting on the cloud?

Five years ago, net-banking was tainted as completely unreliable. Today, it has become a norm. Cloud technologies will go through a similar evolution and gain acceptance as well.

Companies with global operations, meanwhile, are increasingly viewing SaaS applications as a cost-effective option for branch sites and other facilities with limited IT staff. Large enterprises which don't want to take chances with data security and have the required infrastructure/resources can choose to host such services behind their own firewall. I suspect that we will be seeing many SaaS vendors doing on-site installations. That has legal and compliance advantages and works equally well for large enterprises. We have done such deployments in larger companies, primarily for our office suite, and we see that increasing.

For applications, in most cases, we are seeing department level implementations: Most of them are around collaboration, project management, and productivity suites. I don't expect any mission-critical apps coming in any time soon. Smaller businesses are doing it, but it will take time before enterprises trust the technology to that extent.

Then what does SaaS have in store for the larger enterprises?

In today's context, larger enterprises have a lot to gain from SaaS adoption. Conventionally, it is thought that SaaS only makes sense for SMBs that don't have the monetary or manpower resources to build an entire infrastructure and sustain it. But look at the markets today. Even larger enterprises need to roll out projects within shrinking time frames and limited budgets to keep at bay with the ever-changing market dynamics and remain competitive. With SaaS, no hardware to install means faster and easier rollouts.

Also, SaaS fits extremely well with technologies like mobility, BYOD and collaboration, which are on every CIO's hit-list today.

Another reason larger enterprises would be looking at SaaS is that integrating Web-based, cloud, and mobile-friendly applications is easier. Steve Ballmer recently mentioned that for every dollar that companies spend on a software, they also spend about 7 dollars and 82 cents on integration, customization and the likes. Opening Web-based open API applications in SaaS is easier than integrating traditional licensed applications.

How does mobility fit into this scenario?

Over the next two or three years, we expect that it will gradually become a "mobile first, Web next" world where people will develop mobile applications first and then build Web applications to compliment the mobile app.

Using SaaS solutions in a BYOD scenario means organizations need not worry much about the data stored on an individual's personal mobile device, as very little is actually kept there. The time and capital costs of maintaining hardware, developing apps, and keeping them updated with every new OS version upgrade do not exist for organizations that allow BYOD and combine it with SaaS.

Worldwide, cloud is boosting office productivity, enhancing customer relationship management, and improving collaboration between remote workers. The growth of SaaS is immensely helping businesses cope with the prevalence of BYOD in the UK and around the world. Mobility also increases the need to have an active collaboration platform and anytime, anywhere available information.

What are the few things CIOs should keep in mind while embarking on a collaboration / productivity suite journey?

We are gradually moving to a world where users define the norm and the overall software ecosystem is more and more user-dependent. Companies like Apple and Facebook have raised the bar on user-friendly experiences and infuse constant changes in the look and feel of how people collaborate or communicate, personally and professionally.

So CIOs developing these productivity or collaboration suites in-house must remember that these platforms need constant upgrades to reach the next level of convenience and user-friendliness. We have seen that people are willing to spend more on apps that have more intuitive interfaces or are more stylishly designed to grab attention. Therefore, convenience and user-friendliness are no longer luxuries, but are becoming the norm, and people would be expecting that from enterprise apps as well.

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