“How old are you?” Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoho, asked Zia keeping his phone on loudspeaker mode.
“I was born on Feb 28th 2017 and now, exactly in one year, I have got my voice," came the answer from Zia.
At a media briefing in Bengaluru, Vijay gave a live demo of the capabilities of Zia Voice, a conversational AI for sales teams that adds speech and chat capabilities to Zia, Zoho's AI-powered sales assistant.
Zia can now also predict deal closures and analyse email sentiment. The company believes that Zia is the world's first conversational AI for sales teams that adds speech and chat capabilities and can now also predict deal closures and analyse email sentiment.
"We are delivering the first conversational AI for customer relationship management (CRM), with Zia Voice," said Mani Vembu, COO, Zoho Corp in a statement. "Zia's enhanced AI capabilities will now help salespeople sell smarter, with contextual assistance and access customer information through a powerful voice and chat interface."
Zoho (known as AdventNet Inc, till 2009) was founded in 1996 by Sridhar Vembu and Tony Thomas. Headquartered in Pleasanton, California, with international headquarters in Chennai, India, Zoho has offices in seven countries including Singapore and China.
The company has apps in different business categories, including sales, marketing, customer support, finance, human resources, and an array of productivity and collaboration tools. Zoho is also well known for being a bootstrapped company that hasn't raised external capital.
Vijay noted that Zoho has an estimated 33 milion users around the world, across hundreds of thousands of companies, who leverage their suite of around 40 apps. He also mentioned that Zoho has 5,000 employees around the world and is profitable with a CAGR of 38 percent over the last five years.
While AI powered smart speakers like Amazon Echo are now common on the consumer side, Vijay spoke about the need for AI in business cases and shared the main features of Zia.
Zoho also introduced Catalyst — a set of capabilities that allow larger and complex businesses to build their own mobile and web apps and additions to Zoho CRM, on existing Zoho infrastructure, to serve their own businesses uniquely. In addition, new features in Zoho CRM such as Translations and Portals add to deepening their enterprise focus. The features under Catalyst include the following:
Mobile software development kit (SDK): Zoho CRM's mobile SDK helps companies design and build custom mobile apps based on their own work roles or needs.
Mobile device manager (MDM): Companies can distribute their custom apps built through mobile and web SDK internally through the MDM network, on iOS or Android platforms.
Serverless computing: Enterprises can use Zoho's infrastructure to run code without having to worry about physical hardware or servers. Zoho CRM users can also integrate their account with third party services using serverless components and save up on managing web servers.
Widgets: Businesses can build custom UI components to provide contextual information from external sources and work in real time with Zoho CRM's data.
Zoho also noted that it is helping create job opportunities for Indian developers through Catalyst, which works on Deluge, Zoho’s own programing language. There are 40,000 deluge developers, of which around 10 percent are from India, who use it to create applications on Zoho’s platform.
“The developers eloquent in Delgue are becoming a valuable resource for our rich global partner network. In fact, our partners have started hiring developers in India,” said Mani Vembu, COO, Zoho. “As Zoho’s ecosystem expands further with Catalyst, there will be an increase in demand for Deluge developers, creating job opportunities. Our goal is to have 1,00,000 developers in India on Zoho’s platform over the next three years."
Zoho CRM is available in the Standard, Professional, and Enterprise Edition ranging from Rs 900-Rs 2,700/user/month, and the Ultimate Edition, catering specifically to large businesses, at Rs 6,000/user/month. Zoho also noted that it doesn't have an ad-revenue model in any part of its business, including its free products.
Most features are available immediately on the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Zoho CRM. Some features are being rolled out to customers in a phased manner.
"Customer relationship platforms are transitioning into the next phase. The advancements in AI mean that SaaS vendors can now power their applications with invisible interfaces and make them easier, more natural to use - and available without having to look at a screen," said Sheryl Kingstone of 451 Research, in a statement.
Salesforce and Freshworks are some of the other popular players in the CRM space. While it doesn't have a voice integration yet, Salesforce has Einstein, which leverages AI to give customers predictions and recommendations. Freshworks too has shown interest in the AI space, having acquired Joe Hukum in 2017 to build bots on top of existing Freshworks products
Talking about usage trends, Sheryl Kingstone also noted,"We see these advancements in AI and voice recognition leading the way into the next transformation of business applications. Our recent research shows that 45 percent of the surveyed digital leaders are looking forward to use voice interface in the next 24 months."