Technology

Small business customers of Zoho to enjoy waived fees

Digital technologies will help small business owners overcome the COVID-19 crisis and become more competitive, said Zoho Corporation VP and GM for Asia Pacific Gibu Mathew.
Digital technologies will help small business owners overcome the COVID-19 crisis and become more competitive, said Zoho Corporation VP and GM for Asia Pacific Gibu Mathew.

With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the global economy, small business owners are under even more pressure. Now, more than ever, they are struggling to keep their companies afloat. To help its small business customers, Zoho Corporation is introducing its Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program (ESAP).

Zoho, which has more than 50 million users in over 180 countries, offers a comprehensive suite of business software applications. How will ESAP work? This will be available for up to 20,000 qualified paying customers with 25 employees or less. Zoho will waive the cost of every single application they currently use, for up to three months.

Impact of COVID-19 crisis on SMBs

“SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) form a core part of the nation’s economy. Given their limited resources, SMBs are said to be the first ones to be affected by the current global crisis. This will be a test of resilience for most of the SMBs, particularly in Asia. The extent of the impact will largely depend on their flexibility and capacity to adapt to technological alternatives,” Zoho VP and GM for Asia Pacific Gibu Mathew told Digital Life Asia via email.

In the Philippines, SMBs (also known as SMEs) are a “ticking time bomb“.

“This is cause for alarm since 99.6 percent of all businesses operating in the country are SMEs and collectively, we employ 66 percent of the workforce. If the SME sector collapses, the entire economy will go down with it.”

In the US, three in four small business owners have expressed concern over the economic impact. A number of articles offer advice to small business owners, including this 10-point survival plan.

How SMBs can overcome this crisis

ESAP offers severely impacted small business customers access to Zoho software they currently use, free for three months, said Zoho Co-Founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu.

“Certain industries have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and we strongly encourage our customers in these industries to please apply for this Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program. While we want to provide relief for as many small business customers as possible, we will prioritize those who are most in need and hope that others who are adapting to market conditions will help us by allowing program availability to those struggling to stay afloat,” said Zoho Co-Founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu in a press statement.

Since its birth 24 years ago, Zoho has owed its existence to its small business customers. Zoho now has grown significantly upmarket, serving mid-market and enterprise customers in addition to small businesses. The company, however, believes that for the broader economy to stay healthy, SMBs must first stay healthy and viable.

For his part, Matthew said that he is optimistic that SMBs will overcome the challenges of the global crisis.

“SMBs actually have an advantage for not being ‘large’ corporations. It is their very nature as SMBs that gives them the versatility to make swift organizational changes. Given the right technological tools and capacities, many SMBs can completely turn their operations around and incorporate self-sustaining initiatives for their organization,” Mathew said.

Helping employees work from home

Apart from announcing ESAP, Zoho also launched Remotely in March. Remotely is a virtual productivity platform of 11 collaboration applications. Zoho has provided it to businesses of all sizes around the world for free. This will help companies effectively make the transition to remote work. Since its release, more than 5,000 new companies are now running on the platform.

Mathew stressed that remote work has been crucial to the survival of businesses in this crisis.

“We know that most companies have resorted to work-from-home arrangements with their employees in order to continue their operations. Those who started their digitalization early are better prepared, and they only have to implement minor adjustments to get their workforce and work processes running smoothly in a remote environment. Those who are only beginning to go digital will find it harder to adjust. The digital-first approach has become the common factor in the current narrative, but the first change must also happen at an individual level. While sophisticated state-of-the-art technology can be implemented, this will force a shift towards new behaviors such as how remote employees are adapting to software for collaborating seamlessly.” he said.

The future of remote work

Does Mathew see remote becoming part of the new normal after this global crisis?

“Given the obvious benefits from digitalizing work processes, it is possible that many companies will continue with their remote work arrangement.

“Environmentally, we have already seen how reduced carbon emissions from fewer people driving and commuting to work has given us cleaner air and bluer skies. Aside from the environmental benefits, remote work also provides the solution to the worsening traffic situation in crowded cities. Now that more companies have experienced the benefits of remote working, and also because they are now more technologically equipped by digitalizing their files and workflow, it is apparent how remote work can easily become the new norm,” Mathew said.

Indeed, companies must learn not only how to survive, but also how to thrive in a brave new world.