Zoho is probably one of the most underrated companies in the tech world. They have amassed a broad portfolio of enterprise SaaS products for practically every business case out there. The tools have integrations between them, and almost all have APIs for third-party integrations. And even though they serve 50+ million users (according to their About us page), they somehow fly under the radar. That might have a lot do with the fact that they are bootstrapped without outside capital, so they have no story for tech media that loves to write about VC and funding rounds. Also, their main center of operations is in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, and not in a tech hub in the West.
The reason I’m writing about Zoho is that I’ve recently learned they have launched Zoho Catalyst, a serverless platform. At the time of writing, the product is in closed beta. It offers software developers BaaS (Backend-as-a-Service), FaaS (Function-as-a-Service), and even AI (artificial intelligence) APIs along with integration into the existing Zoho stack. But more important, it is, as they’ve put it nicely on the website, “powered by our life’s work”. That means that they have taken infrastructure and internal services that they have built for themselves and opened them up to the outside world.
It could be a smart move, considering that this is something Amazon has done quite successfully. They have turned a bookseller into one of the world’s most massive cloud hosting companies, all through an infamous decision by Jeff Bezos. And it’s another example of a backward vertical integration business strategy that involves moving down a layer in the “stack”. Although Zoho is much smaller, of course, they might benefit from economies of scale and their expertise. I’m looking forward to observing if and how Zoho Catalyst will succeed.