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The week that was: From Zoho's 25-years of success to the rise of edu-fintech startup GyanDhan

This week, we bring you the secret behind Sridhar Vembu and Zoho’s success and why small retailers are keener on adopting digital tools.

The week that was: From Zoho's 25-years of success to the rise of edu-fintech startup GyanDhan

Saturday March 20, 2021 , 3 min Read

SaaS company Zohoturned 25 years this week. Not many companies survive that long. Here’s an interesting anecdote - the domain name Zoho originally belonged to a US-based hospitality startup that had raised $53 million in 1999 to scale up. 

Sridhar and his team, at AdventNet, loved the domain name and picked it up during the company’s liquidation process. By 2009, AdventNet became Zoho.

It's no great surprise that Sridhar Vembu — famously known as the man who turned down venture capital money — and who believes that Indian engineering talent from small towns can build world-class software products, has a huge fan following from inside the startup industry and beyond. 

GyanDhan Founders

GyanDhan founders Ankit Mehra (left) and Jainesh Sinha

Education may be priceless, but in India, it does come at a cost. Delhi-based startup GyanDhan— which launched operations in 2016 — was born after its founder Ankit Mehra witnessed the education financing problem from close quarters during his MBA degree at Spain’s IESE Business School.

“I was lucky enough to get a loan myself, but the bank IESE had tied up with was going back on its commitments to fund non-Europeans. And I saw a lot of students from India struggling to get a loan,” he tells YourStory.

GyanDhan has disbursed Rs 800 crore in study abroad loans to over 2,500 students in India. This is a small percentage of the six lakh-odd applicants on its platform. 

Appy Pie

Founder of Appy Pie

In recent years, the low-code, no-code business is making a place for itself in India, especially helping MSMEs. 

Launched in Noida at the end of 2015, Appy Pie is a no-code business solutions provider for businesses of all size, scale, and scope. The bootstrapped SaaS) startup democratises application development by empowering small businesses to build digital products that meet their needs without learning to code. 

“We started researching for a CMS like WordPress for mobile apps. However, we were unable to find anything. So, we decided to develop our own CMS,” says Abhinav.  His previous startup’s team transitioned completely to Appy Pie. At present, the startup has 220 people.

COVID-19 did the unthinkable. It accelerated digitisation across sectors and industries by more than a decade. Lockdowns and social distancing norms meant even small businesses and kiranas decided to take the digital path.  

A recent report by retail tech company SnapBizz stated that over a million kirana stores went digital in 2020. This included accepting online payments, ordering supplies online, managing inventory, and more. The report added that about 75 percent of kiranas are now keen to get online to thrive. 

Edited by Suman Singh