In June this year, we broke away from the mould to bring you companies, not just people, that are outliers with How AngelList works. If there’s one thing common in most of the companies that appear outliers, it’s their founders. From Steve Jobs to Elon Musk and even Jeff Bezos, the founder’s mentality continues to shape Apple, Tesla and Amazon. These founders are almost inseparable from their companies.
I first discovered Zoho, the cloud software company, in 2010 when I wrote this story about how it was hiring talent from unconventional places. Sridhar Vembu, the Zoho founder who we hosted for the 27th episode of Outliers podcast last July, is an outlier for many reasons. For instance, amid all the startup frenzy, he believes in “slow laddering” or building a company slowly, one step at a time. And to top that, he’s shunned venture capital and said “no” to an over $25 million acquisition offer from Salesforce during the early days of Zoho.
Zoho, the cloud software company with estimated revenues of over half a billion dollars, is an outlier for many reasons. For over a decade, Zoho has been hiring students from government schools and colleges and turning them into software programmers. Such students will constitute nearly half of the company’s over 5,000 workforce very soon.
And then, there’s a strong growing “Zoho mafia”, too, wherein former employees and leaders including Freshworks founder Girish Mathrubootham and Chargebee’s co-founders are building the next generation enterprise software companies.
Why Zoho exists: Sridhar Vembu
“Zoho exists because India exists. I always thought that if I were born in a different country, I may not have been an entrepreneur. I actually wanted to become a professor, to teach, publish papers. But growing up here...surrounded by what you see, at some point you ask, 'Why are we so poor?’” he tells me.
“I realised you have to be building a lot of things to skip poverty. And I am the kind of person who will say, 'What am I doing about it?’”
“So, in a sense Zoho exists because India exists and it continues to exist because some 27 million kids are born in India (every year), and in this state of Tamil Nadu the number is around 1 million. That’s actually the same number as all of Japan’s. And you see the number of companies, the brands from Japan….”
“South Korea has around 45 million population and Tamil Nadu has about 72 million people. Which brands are popular worldwide?”
“It’s not just about the brands. It all correspondingly translates into jobs, incomes, infrastructure, all of that.”
“If we are not able to create world class products and world class companies here, then we will never have world class incomes, or world class healthcare. In other worlds, we cannot consume if we cannot produce.”