Although Zoho doesn't get as much attention as Google or Microsoft when it comes to applications in the cloud, the company has been steadily building a following among small to midsize businesses.
Most of that effort has been focused on productivity applications that compete with Microsoft Office, but the company has extended its portfolio of business applications. Most recently, the company added a customer relationship management (CRM) offering aimed squarely at Salesforce.com.
According to Zoho evangelist Raju Vegesna, the Zoho strategy is pretty straightforward. Salesforce.com charges customers a significant premium to use its applications. Zoho has free editions for up to three users, a professional edition that costs $12 a month, and an enterprise version that costs $25 a month.
Vegesna contends that most Salesforce.com customers are SMBs, companies can't really afford Salesforce.com's rates. That means SMBs pay for an expensive Salesforce.com sales team that spends most of its time trying to woo enterprise customers, he said.
Zoho, meanwhile, can charge so little for its applications because it has no sales force to support. Zoho, says Vegesna, then passes those savings on to customers that tend to "virally" discover it.
Zoho's business-applications ambitions don't stop with CRM. The company has e-mail, project management, human resources and other collaboration applications alongside a full suite of productivity applications all sold under a low-cost software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. One of things that differentiates Zoho from Microsoft and Google, says Vegesna, is that customers can find all the business applications they need from a single service.
Obviously, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce.com intend to outspend Zoho on marketing. But Vegesna says Zoho is confident that with more than 3 million worldwide users, Zoho will be a major force in the cloud.