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.