TechFirst >> Zoho Remotely is a free virtual collaboration and productivity suite in response to Coronavirus


Coronavirus is changing how we work … most tech companies are now telling their employees to work from home.

Well, if you work from home, you need tools to do that.

One company says it’s going to offer a free productivity suite to everyone. Zoho created a product literally in a week called Remotely, which it is offering for free for all. Zoho created Zoho Remotely in basically about a week … remotely!

In this episode of TechFirst with John Koetsier, we’re chatting with Raju Vegesna, the Chief Evangelist at Zoho.

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(There’s an audio glitch about 10 seconds in … sorry! It’s brief!)

Full transcript: Zoho Remotely

John Koetsier: Welcome to TechFirst with John Koetsier. My name is John Koetsier. My guest is going to be Raju Vegesna from Zoho.

Coronavirus is changing a lot about the world that we’re in right now, including work.  Well, guess what? If you’re working from home you need tools for that. One company says it’s going to offer a free productivity suite, Zoho Remotely, to everyone. That’s Zoho. We’re chatting with them right now. So I’m going to bring in Raju … Raju, welcome!

Raju Vegesna: Hey John. Thank you for having me on. 

John Koetsier: Thank you so much for coming. Tell me about the news. Let’s dive right in. 

Raju Vegesna: Yeah, Zoho, as many companies are doing, we decided to go remote a few days back, around 8,000 employees, around 12 plus offices. We are now working remote and Zoho runs on Zoho, so we use our own tool set. And earlier this week we said as we went remote and we are benefiting from our tools, said, ‘Why don’t we offer these tools for existing users and also some new users who need these remote tools for free during this period.’ So we packaged together about 11 different applications.

We’re calling it Zoho Remotely and we are offering it for free for the next couple of months, two, three months. And hopefully the coronavirus scare will slow down, die down by them. If not, we’ll keep extending it, but the point really is we said, ‘Why can’t we take these tools and offer it to teams, businesses, individuals who are now starting to work remotely and offer it to them for free.’

John Koetsier: Very, very cool. So, just to be 100% clear, Zoho Remotely is something that you’re just releasing right now. You hadn’t had plans to release it, you weren’t working on a product per se around that … you’re bundling a few things together, is that correct? 

Raju Vegesna: The product didn’t exist or the thought about the product didn’t exist as of Monday.

John Koetsier: Wow. 

Raju Vegesna: We scrambled. We put together, interesting thing is, the entire Remotely product was put together remotely. 

John Koetsier: Yes, yes, that makes sense. 

Raju Vegesna: And we pulled together various teams, packaged it, and we are rolling it out as we speak. 

John Koetsier: Amazing. So it’s interesting when I look at Zoho and you’ve been around for quite some time. I’ve seen you around the tech industry for years, in fact, used some of your services in the past as well. It’s hard to say what Zoho does because you do so many different things. Obviously there’s a CRM, there’s a productivity suite, there’s a lot of other components and pieces. Can you talk about the pieces that are all included in Remotely?

Raju Vegesna: There are about 11 different pieces. The way you can break them down into is maybe three or four categories. Number one is communication, because when you’re working remote communication plays a key role. Whether you’re chatting with someone, calling someone, or doing a video call, or whether you’re getting on a meeting like this, or whether you’re doing remote training … it requires communication tools. So we have included three different communication tools including Cliq, Zoho Meeting, as well as ShowTime. So that’s one element of it. 

But then there’s also collaboration that is part of the offering. Collaboration, meaning you could be working on a project so you require a project management system, but then there are a couple of ways people work on a project. Some people prefer the waterfall method and then there are other people who prefer the agile based approach. So we are including two different project management systems on top of a collaboration storage, online storage for free in there. That’s the collaboration segment. 

And we are also offering remote assistance tools. We have a tool called Assist and another tool called Lens. Think of Assist like your remote hands, while Lens is remote eyes. 

John Koetsier: Okay. 

Raju Vegesna: And we are pulling them together. And of course there is an office with word process, spreadsheet, presentation. So all of these tools are packaged together and they need to work with each other and we are offering it. But there is a remote component to a lot of these, they are designed to help teams be productive when they are not sitting in the same room. 

John Koetsier: So you mentioned that Remotely was put together entirely remotely. Talk to me about that a little bit, personally where you are, where you work from, as well as the team that put together Remotely. Where are they all around the world?

Raju Vegesna: Sure. We have a team in Chennai, India. We have about 8,000 employees there. And everyone is basically working from home at this point, from development teams, each of the developers working from home, the product management team working from their home. And of course we’re putting together the marketing team which is working from home. And of course, I’m sitting in Austin, Texas. We have our European teams sitting in Europe, and we have a team sitting in Pleasanton, California. And other teams in APAC because we are deploying this across multiple data centers, we are 10 different data centers. So pretty much every team is remote, from development, deployment, marketing, content publishing, to every single aspect of it is done remotely essentially. 

John Koetsier: Interesting. So you’re in Austin and SXSW hasn’t been canceled yet. It’s the one big conference that hasn’t been canceled yet. 

Raju Vegesna: I’m tense at this point, and as of early this week we decided to cancel Zoholics which is supposed to be in Austin as well, so they called it off and we called off all trade shows and all other events in other regions as well.

John Koetsier: Talk to me a little bit about coronavirus in India. I haven’t heard much from there. We’ve heard obviously China, obviously South Korea, there’s a lot going on in North America right now. We’re hearing about cases and deaths and other things like that. I’ve seen information from Italy and other European nations, but I haven’t seen much from  India. What do you know about coronavirus and its spread in India so far? 

Raju Vegesna: I mean, there are some cases, for now it’s single digit thankfully, but I suspect it is gonna pick up. I’m afraid that it is gonna get worse and we are trying to be proactive. That is a reason we asked all our employees to work from home. But you know, part of the reason I believe it wasn’t detected is because it wasn’t even tested. I don’t believe there are enough test kits distributed yet, but over the next few days we might see a lot more cases. I’m frankly afraid of how widespread it could get in India. And I really hope India gets on top of it because if, given the density of the population and given the communal aspect of, culturally the communal aspect in general, it will be disastrous. I really hope it really is contained. And businesses are trying to act and educate everyone on that front. 

John Koetsier: I certainly hope so as well. There are certainly not enough test kits here in North America. I’m in Vancouver, Canada, you’re obviously in the States, and we know that there are just not enough test kits. And there’s people going to the hospital with symptoms and they’re wondering, ‘can I get tested?’ and they’re not able to. And I assume similar challenges exist in India and other nations around the world as well. So anyways, great initiative. You said it’s free for a couple of months. Talk to me about that timeframe. 

Raju Vegesna: It’s free for July 1st and if the coronavirus and this scare persists we’ll keep extending it. 

John Koetsier: Excellent, wonderful. Well, thanks so much Raju for being with us on TechFirst. Really appreciate your time and really appreciate your comments. 

Raju Vegesna: Thank you, John. Thank you for having me. 

John Koetsier: Thank you. Excellent. Well, thank you for joining us on TechFirst. My name is John Koetsier.  Thanks for joining the show. Please rate it, review it, like it, share it, whatever you do, whatever platform that you’re on, if you’re listening to the podcast afterwards would love that as well. Thanks! And until next time, have a great day.