Zoho to base Aussie HQ in Byron Bay, builds local cloud

Unconventional software firm shuns state capitals for local base

Timothy Kasbe, Zoho's managing director for A/NZ and global large enterprise.

Timothy Kasbe, Zoho's managing director for A/NZ and global large enterprise.

While most international tech firms choose Sydney or Melbourne for their Australian offices, US-headquartered software firm Zoho has bucked the trend instead opting for Byron Bay to house its local outpost.

The company today announced the launch of its Australian HQ in the northern NSW town, as well revealing it was investing what Zoho’s A/NZ managing director, Timothy Kasbe, said was “tens of millions of dollars” in building out local cloud infrastructure.

Zoho plans to launch cloud data centres in Sydney and Melbourne, which Kasbe said would help tackle any data sovereignty concerns of local customers and also help minimise latency. The company expects to go live at the end of April, though the timeframe is subject to change.

Zoho was founded in 1996 in California. Its initial focus was supporting the telco market — heritage that is still apparent in its software and network engineering muscle, according to Kasbe. With the bursting of the dotcom bubble, the company pivoted and these days combines three distinct software businesses.

One is a collection of more than 40 cloud-based applications sold under the Zoho One and Zoho CRM umbrellas. The second is the ManageEngine collection of IT management applications. The third is webNMS, which grew out of the company’s early focus on the telco market and has now expanded into an IoT software platform.

The business apps account for around 40-45 per cent of the Zoho’s global business, Kasbe said, with webNMS and ManageEngine making up the rest.

The Zoho A/NZ head said the components of the Zoho One suite were based on what was necessary to digitise a business.

“We came up with this product set, which is over 40 products, that is a dollar a day per person to use,” he told Computerworld. “One of the things that we wanted to do was really democratise technology so that it’s affordable to anyone at any scale and size — be it the biggest of the big mining companies or a small street vendor in India.”

Zoho One includes productivity and communications software, as well as CRM, marketing automation and backoffice applications.

Australia is already a top 4 market for Zoho, Kasbe said.

“We have over 19,000 paying customers in the country and we are setting up shop here now to really bring our support and service to them to a whole new level,” he said.

However, a second reason is that Zoho wants to recruit local talent to aid its product innovation, he added.

While the choice of Byron Bay may seem an odd one for a sizeable tech firm — the company globally has some 300,000 business customers, 45 million users and 8000 employees — it's consistent with Zoho’s approach elsewhere, Kasbe said.

In the US the company is based in Pleasanton, California, rather than Silicon Valley, the A/NZ MD said. In India, it has offices in Vallancherry and Tenkasi. Its Japanese office is located in a village outside Yokohama.

“That’s how we work,” Kasbe said. “We have the highest retention rate for talent in this industry globally.”

Zoho’s Australian customers cover a wide range of sizes from startups to SMBs — a large portion of its local customer base — through to large enterprises. “Almost ever financial company uses us, the airline industry uses us, the mining and exploration industry uses us,” Kasbe said.

Around the world customers include well-known brands such as Tesla, Amazon, BBC, Disney and Nike.

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