In November 2019, Zoho founder Sridhar Vembu moved from Silicon Valley to a village in Tenkasi district in Tamil Nadu, a move aimed at empowering rural communities.
The experiment seems to have worked from a socio-economic perspective, as it led to a rise in overall income, women empowerment, rise in education, and skill-building, according to a study commissioned by Zoho. The software product firm said the study has validated its approach, as it plans to intensify its rural revival initiatives.
"There is a lot of latent talent in the world that is waiting for an opportunity," said Sridhar Vembu, CEO and Co-founder, Zoho Corp.
"The concentration of jobs in urban cities has taken away talented youth from the villages where they are most needed. By bringing high-paying jobs to villages, Zoho is helping restore the talent where it belongs. Over a period, we can see it benefit the local community, and lead to the overall development and economic growth. On the other hand, it allows our employees to stay close to their families and enjoy a better standard of living. The study has helped us capture the long-term impact of rural offices, and validated our approach", he added.
Zoho commissioned Economix Consulting Group to study the socio-economic impact of its presence in Tenkasi. Its office here, which opened a decade ago in 2011, has improved employment opportunities and quality of life for the locals in the district, according to the report, which was done based on 7,300 minutes of interactions with nearly 300 stakeholders.
According to the report, Zoho, which currently employs 500 people in the office, was the first client for 31 percent of the vendors and suppliers in the district and this association helped 44 percent of them acquire more clients. Over 60 percent of the people were able to uplift the livelihood of relatives and friends since they were financially better-positioned to do so.
Since working in Zoho, 38 percent of the women are making their own lifestyle decisions and 22 percent indicated that they always make their financial decisions, and an equivalent 22 percent report making those decisions in conjunction with family, the report said.
Zoho Schools of Learning, a program that trains and hires students who have completed Class 12th or a diploma course, has helped enhance social skills and has given them the confidence to find a job outside of Zoho.
Over the past year, Zoho has intensified its rural revival initiatives. It has opened around 20 satellite offices in rural and non-urban areas around the world, mostly in India. The Indian offices started to cater to the employees who wanted to continue working from their hometowns during the pandemic and are located in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar.
Zoho plans to open 100 new offices around the world. The company has traditionally stayed away from urban centers, believing that software can be built from anywhere. Zoho, valued at over a billion dollar, is completely bootstrapped.