Nand Kishor is the Product Manager of House of Bots. After finishing his studies in computer science, he ideated & re-launched Real Estate Business Intelligence Tool, where he created one of the leading Business Intelligence Tool for property price analysis in 2012. He also writes, research and sharing knowledge about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Science, Big Data, Python Language etc... ...Full Bio
Nand Kishor is the Product Manager of House of Bots. After finishing his studies in computer science, he ideated & re-launched Real Estate Business Intelligence Tool, where he created one of the leading Business Intelligence Tool for property price analysis in 2012. He also writes, research and sharing knowledge about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Science, Big Data, Python Language etc...
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The Founder Of Zoho Has A New Strategy To Hire Tech Talent
Sridhar Vembu went into business with a friend and his brothers during the first dotcom boom and carved out a niche selling software to telecom companies such as Lucent and Nortel. After the crash nearly wiped out that business, Vembu regrouped and refocused his efforts on cloud-based enterprise software. Today, rebranded as Zoho, the company competes with Microsoft and Salesforce in offering businesses everything from customer relationship management (CRM) tools to accounting software at a lower cost. Forbes estimates that the privately held company will book $400 million in revenue in 2017. One competitive advantage for the company is a program that takes high-school age Indian students and teaches them to code. In an interview that has been edited and condensed, Vembu spoke about how the program, Zoho University, is helping him solve the problem of finding affordable tech talent.
Mannepalli: What does Zoho do?
Vembu: We call our cloud suite the operating system for business. We provide the entire suite, everything from your productivity, collaboration, sales, and marketing, to back office accounting. We started out with small to midsize companies and we also sell to large enterprises now. It's an ambitious vision in terms of the breadth and depth of services and a bet that everything is moving to the cloud. It's a cloud-based operating system for business.
Mannepalli: Why would a company hire Zoho instead of Salesforce or Microsoft?
Vembu: People say Zoho is a lot easier to use compared to Salesforce or even Microsoft. You can get on to Zoho in about 10 seconds, sign up and go in. Also, customers can start with a highly tactical $5- or $10-a-month engagement and then scale up. We don't even require annual contracts, let alone 3- to 5-year deals these companies often impose.
Mannepalli: What's wrong with the way most tech companies hire developers?
Vembu: The tech industry goes after a narrow pool of "proven" talent. If a person worked for Microsoft, Amazon or Google, he is considered highly capable. As a result, you have a system that competes over the same few candidates and they jump around a lot. This leads to the supposed shortage in tech talent. There's a much larger pool of people who are being overlooked by traditional recruiting methods
Mannepalli: Where exactly is this pool?
Vembu: Many underprivileged students in India, for example, don't have college degrees and are just as capable as more "proven" talent.
Mannepalli: What is Zoho University?
Vembu: We started Zoho University in India from an observation that people come with a college degree, but they end up learning on the job. We started a small experiment in 2004 with one professor and six kids. Of course, we had to go to the poorer schools, because middle class kids wanted to go to college. We currently have about 120 students enter every year.
Mannepalli: How did you convince these kids to choose your experiment over trying to go to college?
Vembu: That was the tough part initially. Kids chose us primarily because they could not afford to go to college, and that was fine by us. We were happy to be their second choice.
Mannepalli: Did you have any doubters when you first started?
Vembu: This was a small internal project in our company so people in the Valley didn't pay much attention. The hardest part when we first started was convincing parents that this was viable. We pay students a stipend, rather than charging them any fees, and still we had to work hard to persuade people to join in the early days. Today, we find it far easier to recruit students.
Mannepalli: How do you screen your applicants?
Vembu: We ignore their school grades and don't even formally require a high school diploma though our students tend to graduate high school. We test a little bit of math, their aptitude and conduct a few interviews. We also have a three-week training program to see how they perform in real world situations. I believe that tests measure test-taking skills and interviews measure interviewing skills so we look for how students handle themselves in the real world.
Mannepalli: Do your students perform as well as college graduates?
Vembu: Despite coming from modest backgrounds--most students have no computer or software experience before--it takes them about a year to pick up enough skills to join a team. They function on par with any college grad within about a couple of years. That was really an eye-opener. Fifteen percent of our employees now come from Zoho University.
Mannepalli: Are Zoho graduates less likely to jump ship?
Vembu: For Zoho University students, the attrition is low in part because there is a sense of attachment to a company that chose to invest in them. That sense of loyalty and belonging helps us build teams that endure.
Mannepalli: How does your overall employee-turnover rate compare to other Silicon Valley companies?
Vembu: Even though Zoho workers are generally sought after in the industry, our attrition is low. I'm a believer in keeping good people. In other words, I don't believe in this rapid turnover that's very characteristic of a lot of hiring models these days. If you want to build key technologies, people should be proud to call your company their home.
Mannepalli: Now that you have had some success, are other kinds of students are signing up?
Vembu: Recently an employee's daughter joined Zoho University even though she went to a good school and has the grades to go to a good college. My own sister's son has joined Zoho University this year. He could go to college, but he chose to go to Zoho instead.
Mannepalli: Are you at all concerned that they are missing something by not going to college?
Vembu: People always ask me this question. We have about a hundred students now, and we have a similar college culture. This includes the social life, the friendships and even the pranks.
Mannepalli: Do Zoho University students and college graduates make the same money?
Vembu: We start students with a stipend for the first year. Then once they're ready, they join our company as trainees â?? they also get a pay bump. Usually after one or two years in a team, they finish their training and become regular employees and are paid the same as any college graduate doing the same job. Students who demonstrate that capability faster get confirmed as regular employees sooner, but in almost all cases it happens by the time their classmates graduate college.
Mannepalli: Is Zoho University meeting all of your talent needs?
Vembu: This year we will hire about 700 or 800 new people, but Zoho University could only contribute about 120. There is a scaling problem since we still need to recruit students and instructors.
Mannepalli: Do Zoho grads stay in India, or do they come to the U.S.?
Vembu: Most of our employees are based in India and graduates usually join teams in our offices there. We had four Japanese students who were college graduates but didn't have a technical background. They went back to our Japanese offices after graduating from Zoho University.
Mannepalli: Can you put a number on what this does for your recruiting costs?
Vembu: It's a very hard thing to quantify. But we think of it as a long-term investment in our people and that's why our turnover rates are so low.
Mannepalli: Do you think other companies could do this?
Vembu: Anybody could copy it and implement it themselves. It takes only about a year's lead time, right? If they go to school today, the graduates could be entering their companies in a year. This is a very good thing for any company to do, really. Continue Reading>>