Sridhar Iyengar, MD, Zoho Europe

With the Covid-19 pandemic causing major challenges for businesses around the world, how important is access to effective IT?

Efficient IT is now critical for companies to survive against the backdrop of a worsening global pandemic that is costing lives and livelihoods at an alarming rate.

Throughout the pandemic, public cloud-enabled infrastructure and software has helped businesses of all shapes and sizes to facilitate the swift transition to a 100% remote working environment. This has enabled seamless collaboration and communication between employees, which has been paramount to maintaining productivity, keeping staff motivated, and preserving an all important ‘company culture’ whilst remote working.

Access to effective IT has also become fundamental to serving customers well. This can have a huge impact on how competitive a business is able to be, whether online, bricks and mortar, or a hybrid of both.

Covid-19 has irreparably changed the way businesses operate, and even once the pandemic no longer poses a threat, it’s likely that remote working is here to stay in a ‘hybrid’ capacity, whereby workers will be based both from home and from an office-space. This new hybrid way of working is likely to become the new norm as it balances the cost effective and work efficient benefits enabled by remote work, with the employee wellbeing and company culture benefits provided by office-working.

Therefore, access to effective IT will continue to be of paramount importance for businesses moving forward. It’s just more likely that said IT will adapt and change to new trends in remote, hybrid and on-site working.

What steps has Zoho taken to provide support customers during this time?

Zoho has provided a number of assistance programmes which have gone above and beyond to help both customers and non-customers alike.

Some key highlights include our Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Programme (ESAP), which allowed small business customers who have been badly impacted by the virus to have free access to the software they currently use, for three months.

We also offered some of our software applications for free to both customers and non-customers to assist with home working. This included Zoho Remotely, which comprised a suite of 11 applications including a messaging platform (Zoho Cliq), meeting / video conferencing software (Zoho Meeting), an online training and presentation medium (Zoho Showtime) and file storage software (Zoho WorkDrive). The free period for Remotely has now ended, but we are continuing to offer a new Remotely package at a low price point.

Also worth noting is our ‘Vertical Relief Plan’ launched in April 2020, which comprised of programmes and tools to assist businesses and organisations in need across three verticals most severely impacted by the crisis: education, non-profit & government, and retail.

Finally, when office spaces can reopen, business leaders looking to safely return their workforce to the office could benefit from our Zoho BackToWork solution. BackToWork provides managers and employees with a platform to track and log health statuses, to report symptoms or concerns, or to enable organisation-wide contact tracing. This is currently being offered for free until March 31st.

Can you give examples of how companies might benefit from using Zoho technology?

Our extensive suite of applications and services can provide businesses with everything they need to facilitate remote working. Including round-the-clock support, webinar solutions, messaging and video conference services and file management software. Combined, these services will improve productivity and efficiency across distributed workforces.

What’s more, we also provide an end-to-end fully customisable CRM solution for businesses and enterprises. These services can provide companies with full customer view across the entire organisation, alongside real-time reporting and insights.

For those interested in either using multiple Zoho applications to run different aspects of their business, or those wanting to run their entire business on one platform, we offer our all-in-one suite Zoho One, which gives access to over 45 applications and offers the best value on the market today.

Our high performance products are continually updated, partly as we keep our marketing costs low in order to prioritise and invest more heavily in research and development. Our clients can also be comforted in the fact that all their data will be kept private, as we do not monetise or utilise data for marketing purposes. We are able to guarantee this as our products are privately owned and developed and hosted on our own platform which we built and continue to manage. We also run our own data centres, so we cover the entire stack.

How can businesses optimise their performance with remote working in place?

Businesses can, and are, optimising their performance by utilising the right communication and collaboration tools – ensuring a seamless line of communication between employees and customers or external stakeholders.

Tech that provides real-time data insight can also help companies adjust to developments in consumer behaviour and market trends, and adjust business strategies accordingly.

What are your predictions for how businesses will operate once the pandemic in back under control?

As previously alluded to, I predict a hybrid working model to quite quickly become the new working normal once the immediate threat of the pandemic is over. After a very long period working exclusively from home, the value we place on personal interaction is stronger then ever and something which cannot be replaced. As human beings, we are not built to work in isolation so this factor will be a key driver for the hybrid model. It also enables both employers and employees to benefit from both more flexibility and lower costs seen with remote working, while maintaining staff culture and motivation, which have a positive impact on wellbeing.

We are also likely see the continued popularity of ‘hub-and-spoke’ offices, whereby organisations will have their central headquarters for periodic team gatherings and strategy discussions, and a network of small satellite offices spread across various small towns or rural villages in a country, allowing them to substantially reduce operational costs whilst also allowing employees to work in an office that’s closer to their home-towns.

We also predict that remote hiring will also continue, as businesses become even more distributed, and hiring extends to all parts of a country, not just in built-up areas close to an office headquarters, for example.