Raju Vegesna of Zoho: Integration Is The Future

Small business owners tend to wear many hats. One day it’s IT, the next day it’s sales, the next it’s accounting. Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to have all of your information and data in one place, at your fingertips, and on the go? Tune in as Raju Vegesna, Chief Evangelist at Zoho, joins Brent Leary to share an integration solution that will keep you and your small business nimble, mobile and efficiently standing on it’s feet.

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Raju Vegesna of ZohoSmall Business Trends: Can you tell  us a little bit about Zoho and what you do?

Raju Vegesna: We offer a broad set of applications for small businesses so that small businesses can focus on running their business and not on IT.  We take away the pain of managing and maintaining the fast track. We offer online tools that businesses need to run their business.

Small Business Trends: Can you talk about your approach to CRM for small business?

Raju Vegesna: We believe the small business market has been ignored for a long time.  We have been focusing on it for a while. In fact, when we got started, we just wanted to create a system that met our own needs.  We ended up creating that and after, we started sending it to customers.  Our customers started loving it because it was perfect for their size.

ZoHo was named after the target market, ZoHo the small office, home office market, and our products are also created for small businesses. Of course, customer needs are at the center of the business, so we started creating applications like CRM.  And then added complimentary applications for customer support.  We have more apps coming as well.

Small Business Trends: What are the differences regarding CRM from a small business perspective versus an enterprise perspective?

Raju Vegesna: Keeping things simple is extremely important.  You won’t find lots of deep features. If you need more details it is always there and we try to provide all of the key modules that the business needs.

Small businesses don’t want to deal with lots of pieces of software.  They don’t want to worry about integrating these pieces. We try to bring all of these pieces together.

For example, when you go to customer information in the CRM system, we automatically show all of the emails you have exchanged with the customer.  We automatically show all of the events and documents you have with the customer.

So we try to pull the information from other modules and display it, so that small business will not need to worry about integrating with systems when they can just use the CRM applications.  Then, all of the information is displayed contextually for the users.

Small Business Trends: How have small businesses needs for CRM changed from when you guys first got started?

Raju Vegesna: Customers first.  When we got started, many people were using the spreadsheet to manage all of the information.  We had occasionally seen that to.

I think there has been a lot of education where people realize the importance of having a system like CRM.  We have seen interest coming from the businesses. They now come to us and say, “We want to send out mass mails to our customers, wishing them well for the Holiday season.” Or they want to see about adding an offer for the Holiday season.  That is one of the common questions we get.

For such cases, they need an automated system, so they come to the CRM.  We also do things like import the customer data they have in their spreadsheet.  We can import them into the CRM system. But they can manage all of the information on the iPhone or tablet.

Small Business Trends: How has mobility impacted small business CRM?

Raju Vegesna: Mobility is extremely important.  We see some people maintain all of these invoices and customer information in Word documents or spreadsheets.

With the iPhone and iPad, now people are just using applications to manage customer information. In fact, we have several customers who live on our CRM iPad application.  They don’t even know a Web version exists behind the scenes.  They just sign up and just start using the iPad.

Imagine if you’re traveling and open up your CRM app on the iPad and it tells you where all of the prospects around you are. Things like that are powerful and mobility is going to be big when it comes to CRM.

Small Business Trends: How has integration with certain pieces like email and other apps driven CRM usage at the small business level?

Raju Vegesna: Integration actually is key. As you look at the current spend today, for every dollar small business will spend on obtaining software, they spend $7.80 on integration.  Which means they are spending more on integration than what they spend on software.

We believe in integrating software, it should just work. Especially with something like CRM where you have customer information.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you had additional details contextually visible?  Like if the customer made a payment recently or not?  Or maybe the support request from that particular customer?

All of these are extremely important when integration is done the right way.  The application can be really powerful.  We are seeing that from the small business customers by allowing these integrations.

Small Business Trends: What are some of the major changes you see for small businesses using CRM a year or two from now?

Raju Vegesna: I expect something like tablets to be the primary device.  Those are going to be used more than computers or laptops.

These mobile devices are going to be powered by cloud applications like ZoHo.  You will end up spending more time using applications like CRM on the mobile devices, on your phones, or your tablets, that are synchronized to the Cloud on the backend.

Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more?

Raju Vegesna: They can go to Zoho and sign up, it’s free.

This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.