Zoho’s Sridhar Vembu on marrying long-term patience with short-term tactics


Vidhya Sivaramakrishnan

18 reads

Vidhya Sivaramakrishnan

18 reads

In the latest edition of ‘CapTable Conversations’, we hear from Sridhar Vembu, the founder of India’s only bootstrapped software-as-a-service company with a billion-dollar top line. He talks about why he’s cautious about the global economic climate, his focus on R&D, fostering a culture of patience

October 10, 2023


Key Takeaways

  • The global economic uncertainty is a cause for concern for Sridhar Vembu, and Zoho is monitoring the situation on a weekly and monthly basis
  • With more focus on increasing software productivity by increased investments in technologies such as large language models, more Zoho employees will get into customer-facing roles
  • The company is looking to invest in more deeptech startups, including in cell/battery technologies, but is looking only for patient R&D people and not for flashy exits
  • Zoho wants to use its core R&D research and prowess to attract talent rather than taking the traditional headhunter approach

If Zoho co-founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu had a dime for each time he uttered the phrase R&D (research and development), he would deploy most of it in… well, R&D. And that's saying something—R&D is the biggest line item for Vembu’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) company.

Zoho, as we wrote about in detail recently, is on the cusp of transitioning from being a pure-play software company to a tech giant with global aspirations. It is building its own data centres, investing in deeptech startups, and expects these synergies to play out in the next 5-10 years. It’s an exciting time for the bootstrapped Chennai-headquartered firm.

In a one-on-one conversation with The CapTable on the sidelines of a media event where Zoho displayed the new, enhanced capabilities of Cliq, its Teams and Slack challenger, Vembu touched on a number of topics. From global macroeconomic conditions, to structural changes at Zoho, his long-term vision for the company, his views on the venture capital-private equity world, talent and retention strategies, and how he builds up the conviction to make big decisions, there’s little Vembu didn’t cover.

These are edited excerpts of the conversation:

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