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Zoho is using Sanskrit to build machine translation software: CEO Sridhar Vembu

The Zoho co-founder is working with a small engineering team in Tamil Nadu's Tenkasi village to develop the technology

November 11, 2022 / 12:11 PM IST
Zoho co-founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu speaking at Zoholics India 2022

Zoho co-founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu speaking at Zoholics India 2022

Homegrown software-as-a-service major Zoho, which recently hit the $1-billion annual revenue milestone, is developing machine translation software using Sanskrit as an intermediary layer.

Machine translation is a computational mechanism to convert text or speech from one natural language into another.

“When you translate between any two languages, you have to first go to a common format. The whole point here is to be the most precise. And, it is a feature of the Sanskrit language that it is very precise and accurate,” Zoho co-founder and chief executive officer Sridhar Vembu said earlier this week at the company’s annual technology conference.

“This seems to have been known. It is not a new discovery, but no one seems to have used it well in software. And we are going to launch products using this technology… A lot of time in the technology industry, an idea that was promising was forgotten and abandoned.”

The Zoho co-founder is working with a small engineering team in a Tamil Nadu village called Tenkasi to develop the technology. Vembu has been working from Tenkasi since mid-2019 and has been vocal about the importance of building educational and technical employment opportunities in the rural areas of the country.

The Chennai-based software product company has business in over 150 countries and has built a user base of over 80 million in the last 25 years of operations.

Moneycontrol reported earlier that Zoho, which has a 11,000-strong workforce, could hire more than 1,000 employees over the next one year even as Indian unicorns like Byju's, Udaan, Unacademy and others have laid off scores of staff this year.

Global technology majors such as Stripe, Facebook and Lyft, too, have cut their workforce and frozen hiring amid fears of an economic slowdown.

"We have seen growth slow down. You can see across the board. We have a very diversified product suite and offer the most affordable solution but we are in a massive earthquake zone of the economy with tremors being already visible,” said Vembu.

The Zoho CEO said that the company's growth was driven by research and development and a lot of firms were shifting to Zoho applications, which was driving growth for the company.

As enterprises around the world cut back on their technology spends, the company sees the Indian market as a bright spot.

It said its domestic business has grown at a CAGR of 65 percent over the last five years and is already among its top three markets. With its research and development spending three times the marketing costs, the company seeks to double investment in technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence over the next decade.

"At Zoho, we have always believed that technologists should  practice more humility," said Vembu on the sidelines of the tech conference.  "After all, we cannot code more food,  nor compile new energy. Unfortunately, recent developments in our industry amidst a backdrop of rapidly deteriorating global economic outlook, are a rude reminder of our own limits as  technologists."

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Deepsekhar Choudhury
Deepsekhar Choudhury Deepsekhar covers tech and startups at Moneycontrol. Tweets at @deepsekharc
Tags: #Zoho
first published: Nov 11, 2022 11:28 am