By Charndré Emma Kippie
Hyther Nizam has been with Zoho for the past 23 years. He joined the company in 1998, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering, from Madras University. When Hyther started with Zoho, it was a small startup with around 20 people. Today, the company has more than 10 000 employees. Hyther began his career as a Java programmer, and contributed to many products at Zoho.
In the early 2000s, as a technical architect, he contributed to Java specifications and standards (JSRs) representing Zoho. This hands-on experience from working in technology and product management has helped him truly understand the business needs of the Middle East and Africa market and cater to them with the right technology solutions.
What sparked your interest in the tech space?
Technology was a childhood fascination for me because I have always believed that technology continues to fundamentally change and define the way in which we build products. That’s why I started my career as a programmer and spent my time learning how an entire technology stack works from scratch. For instance, anyone who works at a car company should know about the workings of an engine. It’s important to understand the fundamentals first, that’s how I would put it. These years of learning and experience have helped me understand how to put forth great technological products that make our customers’ lives easier and help streamline their day-to-day business operations.
What does your role at Zoho entail?
In my current role, I spearhead Zoho’s Middle East & Africa operations that include managing our transnational growth efforts in the region such as opening of new offices, local hiring, upskilling initiatives, etc. On the product management side, I also head key products, including our low-code platform (Zoho Creator), e-commerce platform (Zoho Commerce), online spreadsheet (Zoho Sheet), website builder (Zoho Sites), private social network (Zoho Connect), survey builder (Zoho Survey), online forms (Zoho Forms), integration platform (Zoho Flow), website conversion tool (Zoho PageSense) and several other products. Additionally, I lead some of the technology initiatives in Zoho, such as heading development of Deluge, Zoho’s proprietary scripting language.
What is your vision for the future of Zoho?
Zoho is a privately held company that has been profitable and bootstrapped since its inception 25 years ago, and we hope to continue serving our customers for the next 25 years. To begin with, we plan to remain private, bootstrapped, and profitable.
In the coming decades, Zoho will focus on building competitive capabilities and resilience through deep, long-term R&D efforts. It will continue offering value for its customers through compelling products that are easy to use, priced reasonably, and accessible across ignored markets, geographies, and communities. All of Zoho’s products are, and will continue to be, built towards delivering unified solutions, and solving technical integration and implementation issues that businesses increasingly face today. For instance, when a business spends $1 on software procurement, it ends up spending another $10 on integrating it with their legacy systems and the final implementation. Zoho aims to reduce these unnecessary overhead costs, by providing businesses a unified digital platform that transcends disparate applications, integration hassles, and departmental silos. This is exactly why Zoho has built all its 50+ business applications on the same technology stack, with a common data model. We will continue to strengthen this vertically-integrated technology stack for our offerings to offer a unified experience. Apart from this, Zoho will also focus heavily on implementing transnational localism and supporting regional economies to become self-reliant.
Please tell us about Zoho’s ‘transnational localism’ strategy.
Transnational localism is about being locally rooted and globally connected. Zoho’s growth efforts for the next 5-10 years will be centered around this vision, i.e., closely working with and serving the local communities around the world, while staying globally connected through shared knowledge, capabilities, and culture. The company will support regional economies to become self-reliant through opening offices in rural or non-urban areas, local hiring, partnerships, investments in local business communities, and adopting the local culture. This includes supporting startup programmes, building community and developer ecosystems, and taking Zoho Schools of Learning to regional markets.
Zoho Schools of Learning is an initiative by Zoho wherein students who have completed school are trained for 18 months, and those who complete the training join Zoho as employees. ZSL was started as a social experiment in 2005 as a meaningful alternative to conventional colleges in order to help bridge the growing gap between industry expectations and the skills of college graduates. ZSL graduates make for 10% of Zoho’s total employee workforce today.
What valuable tips do you have for those working in your line of expertise?
- Constantly update your skill sets.
- You need to keep abreast with the latest technology trends.
- Know and maintain the fundamentals of your discipline like the back of your hand. It does not matter what role you are in, it’s important to learn the basics of what you or your employer organisation is selling.
- You will continue making a difference when you keep going deeper and building a strong expertise.
What trends are you seeing, in South Africa, regarding upskilling in tech?
We’re increasingly observing a lot of youth potential in South Africa and hope to develop more upskilling plans for the country. We believe that for upskilling to be successful in a certain region, it’s important to partner with the local, like-minded communities and people networks. For instance, in our partnership with UCT, the university brings in interested people whom we train in certification courses for popular Zoho applications like Zoho Creator and Zoho CRM. Similarly, Zoho is looking forward to joining hands with other local business communities and networks in the future.
What are some of your favourite inspirational reads?
Driving Honda: Inside the World’s Most Innovative Car Company by Jeffrey Rothfeder. The book showcases the humble beginnings of Honda and how it eventually grew to become an automotive giant. There are so many great life and business lessons to learn from in this particular read.
*Check out the latest edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication here.
For enquiries, regarding being profiled or showcased in the next edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication, please contact National Project Manager, Emlyn Dunn:
Telephone: 086 000 9590 | Mobile: 072 126 3962 | e-Mail: [email protected]