Sridhar Vembu: Creating Humane Tech For Humans, Is Zoho’s Mission

Vishnu Anand

Nov 10, 2022, 06:42 PM | Updated 06:42 PM IST

Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu cycles to work when at the company development centre in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu
Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu cycles to work when at the company development centre in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu
  • The company plans to leverage the power of Sanskrit in language translation.
  • Its latest foray towards rural skill creation has taken it into eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  • It’s not very often that we come across homegrown technology companies that are diligently rooted to a culture of humility and prudence, and yet have achieved global recognition by solving problems using futuristic technologies.

    Chennai-headquartered Zoho Corp is one of them, and at its recently concluded ‘Zoholics 2022’ event, CEO and co-founder Sridhar Vembu provided even more impetus for taking technology to global enterprises while leveraging the power of Indian innovation.

    Leveraging Sanskrit for language translation

    Responding to  questions from Swarajya, Sridhar explained how Zoho plans to use the Sanskrit language for better language translation: “The Sanskrit language comes with an innate ability of being the perfect base for us to take a machine translation approach that uses Sanskrit to toggle between Indian languages.”

    In other words, Zoho plans to use Sanskrit as an intermediary language that will use modern algorithms to translate content in any Indian language back and forth.

    The company also plans to  add  Indian language support for its  Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain technology.

    The role of human competency versus technology

    Sridhar also revealed that we often give too much importance to technology and forget the human aspect. Stressing on the urgent need for humility in tech, he said, “Technology is an enabler but you still need humans to solve human problems. For instance, you cannot code food.”

    Explaining where the role of technology ends, he said, “The role of IT ends when things transition from bits to atoms. Computing occurs in bits and bytes while human beings are made of atoms. At some point, the bits will give way to atoms, and it is at this point that humans take over.”

    Commitment to rural skill creation

    To this end, Zoho has remained committed to rural skill creation. After making early inroads into places like Tenkasi and Tirunelveli in interior Tamil Nadu, the company is now focussed on skill creation in the Eastern Uttar Pradesh region.

    It has also ensured that company-wide, the ratio of investments in R&D against marketing will be 3:1. In the last three years, Zoho has obtained 25 patents, mostly in the areas of software-driven word processing, compilers etc.

    Currently, more than 150 customers of Zoho serve around 80 million users, using more than 55 apps. With an employee strength in excess of 11,000, Zoho has experienced minimal attrition despite operating in a turbulent economic climate, with a 77% growth in India in 2021, while crossing $1 Billion in revenues.    Read related  Swarajya report here

    Supporting people-centric tech solutions

    Staying true to his farming roots, Sridhar is hugely committed to unlocking technologies for saving water for agriculture, and has invested in a variety of companies ranging from those that create medical instrumentation to robotics technologies to 5G chips.

    Zoho CEO  Sridhar Vembu addressing media in Delhi November 8 2022. (Photo Credit: Vishnu Anand)
    Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu addressing media in Delhi November 8 2022. (Photo Credit: Vishnu Anand)

    Machine Vision is one of the more interesting applications of new-age tech that uses advanced cameras to sort fruits like apples and oranges moving along a conveyor belt, based on quality in real-time. Zoho continues to invest in many such unique applications of people-centric technologies.

    On the recent controversies around moonlighting, he said, “When a company hires you, you are expected to bring with you one thing – it’s called common sense. If you upload cooking videos on Saturdays, is it moonlighting? Not for me since I’m not in the cooking business. You have brains, and you can decide what’s right and wrong.”

    Zoho is committed to making enterprise technologies affordable for the world, and while it zooms ahead in achieving this,  it is becoming an Indian tech giant that is giving global competitors a run for their money. 

    Vishnu Anand is a writer and journalist who dabbles in technology, sports and lifestyle. His columns have appeared in 'The Hindu', 'Deccan Chronicle' and 'Mid-day'. He is also a social worker and an evangelist of truth.

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