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Zoho Expands Its Rural Initiatives, Opens New Hub Offices, Schooling Centres

Zoho's investments in rural areas will focus on nurturing local talent, building deep-tech capabilities, promoting organic farming and powering overall community development

Zoho Expands Its Rural Initiatives, Opens New Hub Offices, Schooling Centres
Sridhar Vembu, founder and chief executive officer of Zoho Corporation

Outlook Start-Up Desk

POSTED ON April 03, 2023 11:17 AM

Zoho Corporation, the Chennai-headquartered global technology company, today shared updates regarding its ongoing rural revival efforts and reiterated its commitment to investing in research and development (R&D) and people. In the last six months, the company has opened two 'hub' offices in Tiruppur and Trichy and plans to open them in Tirunelveli and Madurai districts in Tamil Nadu as well as one in Uttar Pradesh, down the line. Zoho is also expanding its current facility of Kalaivani Kalvi Maiyam, a learning centre opened during the pandemic for educating young children from villages in and around Tenkasi.

"As much as we are technologists and have a robust SaaS portfolio, it remains that business growth is not ceiling-less especially given the current economic backdrop and the speed at which technologies like Al evolve," said Sridhar Vembu, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Zoho Corp. 

"This is why it's important to focus on basics and stay grounded while also innovating and reinventing continuously to serve our customers better. We are confident that should global economic conditions worsen, our model of long-term investment in people and R&D will become more relevant. We will sustain this course," he added.

In 2020, Zoho decided to follow a hub-and-spoke model of offices to cater to a distributed workforce and as part of its 'transnational localism` strategy of being locally rooted, while staying globally connected. The hub offices can accommodate 1000 or more employees, while the spoke offices are smaller offices of up to 100 employees. Eventually, each hub office will have a few spoke offices associated to it for infrastructure support and team collaboration.

The company currently has five hub offices, including ones in Chennai, Tenkasi and Renigunta and around 30 spoke offices presently in India. The company claims that nearly 2000 employees are working out of Zoho's hub and spoke offices in villages and Tier II or III towns, out of which about 1000 employees were hired locally. As part of their rural empowerment efforts, the spoke offices periodically conduct free career awareness sessions in surrounding colleges, as well as upskilling workshops and incubation programmes to identify and hire talented local youth.

"The distributed workforce model reflects the idea of distributing growth and income across Tier II or III communities instead of urban concentration. Many of our product development teams today sit out of these hubs and spoke offices, including some teams that are involved in deep-tech R&D. The long-term vision of these efforts is to create self-sufficient and prosperous rural communities," observed Vembu.

Kalaivani Kalvi Maiyam (KKM) currently has 130 students-across primary, middle, and high school from surrounding villages, 19 full-time and 5 part-time teachers. A 75,000 sq ft. facility is said to be under construction at the KKM centre in Tenkasi. This includes a building that can accommodate 750 students, with spacious classrooms dedicated to vocational studies and live workshop sessions around core engineering concepts such as two or four-wheeler assembly and electrical projects. Another branch of KKM will open in Cumbam, Theni, for which work has already started.

"The driving philosophy behind the rural initiatives is to preserve and revitalise small villages and towns before they decline due to severe urban migration and lack of resources. The future generation in the rural areas needs to be enabled with the necessary skills, capabilities, and tools to nurture grassroots innovation, solve local problems, locally manufacture high-value goods and drive community progress," said Vembu.

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