Can Zoho Fuel Enterprise Capabilities with Its New Privacy-first Browser and Generative AI Apps?
Yesterday, Zoho announced several critical additions to its suite of products that will help put it into a stronger position as it seeks to better serve the enterprise. The company announced a set of 14 new generative AI-based applications and extensions, a new privacy-centric browser, and a new brand identity.
The combination of these announcements signals an important step forward in the company’s march toward greater relevance in the enterprise market. I had the opportunity to interview Zoho executives about these announcements and will release the videos shortly.
In the meantime, I wanted to summarize the announcements and their importance to enterprise leaders.
Zoho’s New Brand Identity
One of the more significant changes was actually not announced at all. Without any fanfare, the company introduced a new brand identity.
Its new logo is the culmination of a series of branding updates that have occurred over the last couple of years, and which give the company a more streamlined and corporate look.
While the company did not officially tie this updated brand identity to its recent push to move up market, company executives did acknowledge the relationship.
The company’s previous logo, which was heavily linked to its roots in the small business (SMB) market, was seen by many of us in the enterprise tech space as a hindrance to its being taken seriously by enterprise buyers.
The updated branding is a clear signal of its continued intention to aggressively pursue the enterprise market.
Ulaa: Zoho’s New Internet Browser
The company’s most surprising announcement was the release of a new, privacy-focused Internet browser, Ulaa.
Based on the Chromium engine, the browser signals the company’s desire to compete as a major platform player, joining Google, Microsoft, and Apple as the only firms offering integrated business and productivity platforms anchored by bespoke browsers.
The company’s suite of 50+ applications are all browser-based. This fact led the company to believe there is an opportunity to simultaneously provide enhanced productivity and performance across its suite while delivering in-depth privacy features.
Raju Vegesna, the company’s chief evangelist, claimed that it is the only major browser player whose business model is not based on the monetization of user data, which is why it can take such a strong stance on privacy and not collecting user data.
The browser takes a unique approach to privacy through the use of modes to organize browser sessions based on the type of activity and the respective privacy concerns that might go with it. For instance, the initial version has pre-built modes for work, personal, software development, and kids.
The company is also making strides to leverage its browser to improve productivity in a couple of ways. First, the company is leveraging its broad suite of software to enable so-called single sign-on (SSO), simple multi-device syncing, and the integration of productivity apps like its notes and web annotation — with more built-in integrations promised soon.
Moreover, the company believes it can create a performance boost by optimizing its browser to run its applications. “With these other companies, their apps don’t run faster in their own browsers. Why?” asked Tejas Gadhia, Zoho’s Ulaa Evangelist. He explained that by embedding some of their computational engines within the browser itself, some of its apps can see as much as a 5x performance boost in the Ulaa browser.
Looking forward, the company is promising further enhancements around productivity, pre-built integrations, and enterprise-grade browser management.
Zoho Embraces Generative AI and Bets Long
The company’s final enterprise-focused announcement is the release of 14 generative AI-based applications and extensions. These new tools complement the company’s existing artificial intelligent (AI) investments in the form of its Zoho Intelligent Assistant (“Zia”).
The company has been slowly building its own AI infrastructure — including its own natural language processing (NLP) engine — over the last several years. Its stated goal, according to Ramprakash Ramamoorthy, Director of AI Research at Zoho, is to leverage the company’s broad dataset to deliver a positive customer experience, enhanced customer privacy, and, ultimately, customer value.
Like many tech companies, the company has realized the importance of incorporating generative AI into its offerings. As an initial step in this direction, the 14 new AI-powered apps all leverage an integration with OpenAI’s ChatGPT. This initial set of apps will infuse generative capabilities across several of the company’s applications.
Ramamoorthy explained that despite some of the questions around OpenAI’s privacy commitment, the combination of the opt-in nature of these new applications and extension, plus the way the company has implemented the integration will allow it to ensure its commitment to privacy.
Still, the company wants greater ability to control for privacy in the future, so its mid-term objective will be to implement a large language model (LLM) within its owned data centers and make these sorts of generative capabilities a default state.
Even further longer term, the company intends on building its own LLM and integrate it into its overall Zia and AI approach. Most importantly from an enterprise perspective, Ramamoorthy explained that the company is committed to ensuring that its application of AI is deeply integrated into its application use cases and remains highly contextual to the needs of its customers.
A Broader Enterprise Commitment
Beyond these announcements, the company reiterated its renewed commitment to the enterprise space through a series of internal initiatives.
The most significant of these is the creation of a professional services organization dedicated to serving enterprise customers, which it calls its Enterprise Business Solutions (EBS) team. The company created this team with the intention to work with enterprise customers throughout their full purchase-deployment-optimization lifecycle and provide continuity throughout the entire engagement with the company.
The company intends to target the small-to-medium sized enterprise (SME) market and believes that its combination of value pricing and high-touch service via its EBS team will be a competitive differentiator.
To this end, the company is also strengthening ties with strategic system integrators and is being selective with its go-to-market approach. Vijay Sundaram, the company’s Chief Strategy Officer, acknowledged that the company’s full suite of over 50 apps could be overwhelming for an enterprise buyer — and that some of its applications are not yet enterprise-ready. Therefore, the company will be focusing on a subset of its most mature offerings, including CRM, Analytics, Desk (customer support) and Creator (low-code/no-code platform), among others.
This combination of new apps, new branding, and a renewed commitment to serving enterprise customers is the clearest signal yet that the company is vying to be a serious contender in the enterprise platform sector and should now be on radar for every enterprise leader.