Stories of broken relationships often end with bitterness and reprisals. Zoho, which offers a wide range of software-as-a-service applications, said it had been wooed by Salesforce.com, but rejected its advances. With that relationship dead, Zoho is now taking on the CRM giant mano a mano.
Over the past few months, Zoho has aggressively been rolling out new pieces of its business applications set, such as invoicing, project management and HR functions. Its release of the Zoho CRM Enterprise Edition is designed to make it "easier for medium to large organizations to implement Zoho CRM."
The company isn't shy about its goal: to steal away customers from Salesforce.com, which Zoho says it is doing successfully, with one or two customers leaving Salesforce.com for Zoho daily.
Raju Veges, Zoho's evangelist, told us that he's seeing firsthand evidence of the migration away from Salesforce.com. "Regarding the migrations from Salesforce, these are the requests coming to us from their users, and in some instances, they are taking help from our support team to migrate their data from Salesforce to Zoho CRM."
Apparently, those customers like what they're finding. "Many users who migrated from Salesforce are happy to find similar, functionally rich applications at one-fifth the price. That's the common reaction we are getting," Veges said. Zoho claims to have more than 800,000 users.
Zoho was invited several months ago by Salesforce.com to participate in AppExchange, which would allow Zoho applications to run on the Force.com platform. "We integrated into AppExchange. We were about a week from the release, and [Salesforce.com] asked us not to integrate into their platform, as we compete with them with Zoho CRM," Veges told us. According to Zoho, Salesforce.com knew about Zoho CRM before the company was asked to participate in AppExchange.
Salesforce.com then offered to purchase Zoho outright. According to a blog posting from Zoho executives, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff "offered repeatedly to acquire Zoho outright." Veges told us that Zoho continually demurred.
"Regarding the acquisition, our preference is to stay as an independent company. Apart from that, there is a cultural misfit between the companies as well," Veges told us. Benioff then offered to let the AppExchange integration move forward "provided we pull the plug on Zoho CRM," according to a blog posting from Sridhar Vembu, Zoho's CEO. Zoho said the company rejected this idea as well.
Salesforce.com did not respond to inquiries for comment on this story.
While Salesforce.com went ahead with its well-publicized venture with Google, Zoho went ahead with its own release. The new edition is a step beyond its earlier focus on the low end of the market.
"The previous architecture of Zoho CRM was really geared toward the 'S' in SMBs," Veges told us. "With this model, we include control based on organizational structure. It goes beyond small business and toward medium businesses (and even small enterprises). This is our first step in the enterprise market, and it'll evolve over a period of time."
Critical to the new release is easily configurable role-based security, so administrators can quickly manage users' access. A roles tab allows the administrator to control permissions for the company's CRM data based on the role of each employee. So a salesperson would not be able to share data with others on the sales team (unless given permission by the administrator), for example, while the sales manager would be able to access data from all sales reps, the vice president of sales would have access to all sales managers' data, and so on.
After creating profiles of the organization's hierarchies (such as VP, director, sales executive), permissions for each group can be set. There are various modules (for example, contacts or leads) and submodules in each group (such as importing or exporting data). Access to submodules can be restricted here for groups, and further "fine-grain controls" are available as well.
The first three users of the enterprise edition of Zoho CRM are free; from the fourth user the cost is $25 per user each month. There are extra fees for storage beyond 500 MB.
Going back to Salesforce:
Posted: 2011-09-21 @ 5:20pm PT
I have used Salesforce.com in the past, and recently started using ZOHO. I was on the paid version, and there are still a LOT of bugs in their system AND their customer service is HORRIBLE. I actually can't even get through to someone to make my payment, because there are so many bugs in their system that I can't even process my credit card. The first month I got free, and now I still can't get it working and they cut my service and I lost my data...and I still can't get to a person to put my credit card on record! I'm headed back to Salesforce.com!!!!!