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Zoho’s routes to market

One normally associates software as a service (SaaS) vendor with direct sales channels – either enterprise sales people or direct over the web.  Some pure play SaaS vendors are developing more traditional indirect routes as they realize that a Web 2.0 offering doesn’t mean that there exists a quick and effective Web 2.0 way to reach potential customers – especially business customers.

Zoho is one such company, a SaaS vendor with a wide portfolio of business productivity applications.  Their partner programme, Zoho Alliance Partner Progam (ZAPP) has been going for 18 months now. The company now claims 200 resellers and at least one ISaaS (independent SaaS partner) in Huddle.net.   They also team with service providers such as Swisscom.

Ian Wenig, Zoho’s senior director of strategic alliances writes

“We try to be as transparent and fluid as possible, making it easy to do business with us while maintaining professionalism and focus on revenues. As a product-focused, passionately driven software engineering company you might also expect ZAPP to share some of these attributes. And it does. We are making some innovations on the product front which enable our partners to take our applications to their customers, blurring the line between vendor and partner. You’ll hear some interesting news about this moving forward. We have also developed a few tools for our partners to easily manage their interactions with Zoho as well as provide a level of automation that helps them be more self-sufficient and profitable. These include a secure Reseller Store, a Partner portal and the capability of allowing resellers to offer Zoho services from their websites.

As the world adjusts to an economic downturn and SaaS matures further, we will continue to see a steady rise in new businesses wanting to jump into the cloud computing space as well as take part in the newly emerging “Cloud Channel” that Zoho and its partners are in the process of creating. While Microsoft, IBM and other large ISV’s have mature, multi-level channel programs in place, my guess is they are still working on models for their SaaS business. I am not so sure they will get it right the first time or anytime soon. Our competitors like Salesforce have done a poor job in creating a vibrant channel mostly because their heart is in closing direct sales in large accounts. While our program is far from perfect, we are committed to our partners and will be focused on executing on our strategy of addressing a globally diverse customer and partner base employing the latest technologies and business models.”

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