Indian startups making a mark

Last week’s post on IndiaPost raised quite a storm of comments. Some of them were supportive of my central thesis that for Indian citizens to get better public services the issue of labour flexibility within public service organizations is the most important one to address. Many were not. Of these some thought that IndiaPost has actually done well, given the circumstances, and that I was looking at the glass half-empty.

So for a change, let’s look at the glass half-full. Let’s talk about some Indian startups that are being noticed.

Last week was Office 2.0, a conference that brings together people and companies that see office productivity tools like word-processing and spreadsheet software move from the desktop to the internet. Two companies announced their office suite launches the day before Office 2.0 – Google and a small company called Zoho that apparently is a subsidiary of AdventNet, a Chennai based company. I say ‘apparently because there is very little information about the antecedents of Zoho or the people involved in it.

Zoho’s products have been widely reviewed. Techcrunch, perhaps the most widely read web 2.0 blog, has reviewed it several times. Zoho Virtual Office, which is what was announced, is a bundle of existing Zoho products with a single sign-on. As you can see from the reviews, Zoho is generally considered one of the top contenders in the online office productivity race. The competition is tough and the market is crowded (at one time I counted 13 online spreadsheet offerings). And not just with startups. Zoho is challenging the hegemony of Microsoft Office that dominates this space. And let’s not forget Google which has perhaps the best tech talent in the world today and knows what is at stake here. So this is David versus two Goliaths. So far David’s holding his own.

I have tried a couple of Zoho products. The spreadsheet works well and will probably work for most people who don’t do complex things with Excel, like pivot tables. I also tried out their CRM product, and will be doing a more detailed evaluation of how it fits our needs at Gridstone. Currently we use SugarCRM. Zoho’s functionality seems richer at first glance. The one peeve I have with Zoho is that they give very little information, even where information can help them sell. You could argue that consumers and the home office crowd may not care much about the company behind their word processing software. But business buyers are going to want to know more – how many years has the software been in production, release history, case studies if not references and more about the company (will it be around?).

Another interesting product I checked out last week was Slideshare from Uzanto. Uzanto is an interesting company that seems like a consulting company that has a couple of products. Slideshare is a tool that allows you to embed a slide show of your Powerpoint presentation into a webpage. It has also been well reviewed.

While checking out Slideshare, I also came across Webyantra.net a blog maintained by Amit Ranjan of Uzanto. Webyantra covers Indian startups and I found the blog quite interesting. Which brings up the question – what is an Indian startup? Ah! but that question is worthy of another blogpost.

Good luck to both Zoho and Slideshare. I suspect that we are going to see many, many more tech startups out of India soon. Umm, I mean Indian startups. Or whatever.

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8 Responses to Indian startups making a mark

  1. Sadiq says:

    Thanks for your review and feedback on Zoho. We have taken note of all your comments, and we will to add the required infomation that help our users to know about Zoho better and use it effectively.

    Thanks,
    Sadiq
    http://blogs.zoho.com/

    Like

  2. Siddharth says:

    I want to attempt the question – “What is an Indian startup?”. It is easy to address this if we consider the country of registration alone. But in today’s world, with technology tools that cross timezones in realtime, geography alone cannot be the basis of classification. So, what could be the criterion that will clasiify a startup as ‘Indian’? Unfortunately, I cannot single any parameter that can answer this. I guess companies have no nationalities. Work is important. Label is not. So why waste the time? I give up.

    But it is easier for me to think – “What is a startup?” Any new small company in a garage is not a startup. Any funded by a VC is not a startup. It may be a “copy of”, or “split of”, or “compulsion of”. Only when you have a new variety of a seed, you “start up”. My impression of “indian startups” is that they behave like rabbits. they are in a hurry to catch up with “someone, somewhere”.

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  3. Viral says:

    Zoho had recently appeared in an article of Tech Entrepreneur in Business World.

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  4. Amit Ranjan says:

    Basab,

    Thanks for dropping by Webyantra.

    The term Indian startup or Indian product, (specially if it is web based)is quite hazy. I was confronted with this question when I started the blog. I chose to have a simple working definition and stay clear of the underlying nuances (http://www.webyantra.net/about/).

    Will look forward to your treatment of the subject.

    rgds

    Amit Ranjan

    Like

  5. Basab,
    Thanks for the kind words about Zoho. We will put up a history presentation about AdventNet/Zoho. We didn’t think anyone cared 🙂

    Thanks,
    Sridhar

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  6. Tanmoy says:

    A bit of digression from the topic…

    Cosmopod (www.cosmopod.com) is another interesting “Virtual Office” to check out. It provides a connection to a Linux Desktop. Its pretty interesting, but the only problem could be that you have to download a lightweight client to connect to it.

    Like

  7. Aarti says:

    Came upon this blog a week or so ago, and was delighted. Basab, in response to your post about feedback on the blog (by which time I was not onto it yet), here goes:

    1) If you have any views that you’d like to share on marginalised India catching up with mainstream (reservations or anything else) would be interested to read about them

    2) Your deconstruction of a non business issue/ phenomenon that catches your interest makes really good reading, keep it coming (worth of a job, spelling bee etc)

    3) Enjoyed reading the KANK post, admittedly mostly because I was curious about what someone like you thinks of it:-) But, if you’ve read Indian fiction (or any other actually) recently and liked it and have something to say about it, would like to know.

    Like

  8. hiten says:

    Basab,

    I am a regular reader of your blog. I quite enjoy all the thought provoking articles that you post.

    A couple of days after I read your article about indian startups, I came across this interesting company from India which is actually competing with global dot coms ! (Serendipity I guess 🙂

    It is Northgate Technologies, a Hyderabad company. It has two main products viz. Axill (something like Google Adsense) and Globe7 (something like YouTube + Skype combined).

    Thanks,
    Hiten

    Like

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