Sridhar Vembu and Zoho Corporation
This is the story of Sridhar Vembu, a man who is conducting a transformative experiment to address India's unemployment problem by transforming the country's most remote villages into global tech hubs. Mr. Sridhar Vembu is the CEO of Zoho Corporation.
Mr. Sridhar is a Princeton graduate who landed the dream job at Qualcomm in Silicon Valley, where he discovered that there are so many Indian engineers operating in key roles at several billion-dollar firms around the world, but only a few Indian tech companies were strong contenders.
As a result, he decided to build a tech company that would motivate India's youth, which is how AdventNet was born, which was then transformed into ZOHO Corporation.
In the last 22 years, ZOHO has grown from a small startup to a multibillion-dollar corporation with a market capitalization of $5 billion.
What's more impressive than ZOHO's success is what Sridhar Vembu is doing with his company's huge clout.
He made the decision to embark on a revolutionary experiment to alleviate India's unemployment problem.
In India, Millions of engineering students lack the necessary skills to work in the industry, even after years of rigorous learning and training in the country’s numerous engineering colleges. So in 2004, Mr. Sridhar Vembu decided to start the ZOHO University as a constructive step towards addressing the problem of giving more practical training to students that could make them employable by global corporations.
ZOHO University began on boarding and training students with specific skill sets and abilities right from a young age and instead of collecting fees from the students, ZOHO paid a handsome stipend of Rs.10,000 per month to the students for the entire duration of the two-year course. Students were taught the subjects necessary to transform an average kid into an employable candidate through this intensive preparation. After the course, they are recruited in ZOHO with a package regardless of their degree, because ZOHO believes more in skill sets and abilities than paper credentials.
These schools were created specifically to inspire young people from India's villages, where schooling itself, let alone jobs, is considered to be a privilege.
Today, a good percentage of ZOHO's entire workforce is made up of youth who hailed from the most isolated villages in the country and rose through the ranks to become competent engineers. ZOHO is testing these models in ten villages around Tamil Nadu, with 200 of its developers working together to create applications to benefit the entire world. ZOHO is now working hard to expand its empowerment models to villages in the neighboring states of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh as well.
Village offices being the future or work spaces.
While the majority of people in IT industry dream about getting corner offices in Bangalore or Silicon Valley, Mr. Vembu believes that village offices will be the future employment spaces in the world which in turn will aid in the rural economies to develop. Even after having offices in 21 nations, including the United States, China, and Australia, Mr.
Sridhar still lives in Mathalamparai, a remote village in Tamil Nadu about 650 kilometers south of Chennai and he runs his $5 billion business from the village. Mr. Sridhar is a role model and legend since the model he is creating is scalable and can be repeated by other multibillion-dollar corporations all around the world
Bridging the gaps
Instead of handing out donations with a short-term benefit, businesses should use this model to make a long-term impact on society without compromising on the economic viability and profitability of the organizations. This way the businesses will be able to hire qualified employees and the employees will in turn be able to work in the right workplaces that train and nurture them to rise to global standards.
If the billion-dollar businesses of the nations today started establishing institutions like ZOHO it can definitely help to bridge the gap between academics and jobs as well as that of Urban and rural employment opportunities. The villages in developing nations like India can be transformed into global training centers from where technology disruptions of the future will happen. It is people like Mr. Sridhar that make India a truly incredible country and the computing powerhouse of the world tomorrow.