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Vembu’s Zoho set to replicate Tenkasi model in Kerala

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KOCHI: Sridhar Vembu, the business magnate who built the multi-billion-dollar Zoho Corporation in Mathalamparai village of Tenkasi in Tamil Nadu, away from the metro city of Chennai, is set to replicate the model in rural Kerala.

If things go well, Vembu, a Padma Shri recipient, will establish Zoho Corp’s research and development (R&D) centre in Kottarakkara in Kollam, providing jobs for about 1,000 people. The move follows Vembu’s recent meeting with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Finance Minister K N Balagopal.

Anoop Ambika, CEO of Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM), told TNIE that talks with Zoho Corporation are in advanced stages. “Once the project takes off, it will not only bring technology and jobs to the local talent pool but also put Kerala in the spotlight. The centre will generate around 1,000 jobs,” reckoned Anoop.

In Tenkasi, Zoho put what was once a nondescript fruit pulp manufacturing building on the world technology map. Vembu wanted to debunk the idea that location plays an important part in the success of a company.

A team from Kerala comprising K N Balagopal, Anoop and others had visited Zoho’s Tenkasi centre sometime back. “The centre is amazing. Instead of the usual structure that has a reception at the entrance, the Tenkasi centre has its mess first. The founder believes that a well-fed person works better, and even the food, which is also excellent, is free,” said Anoop.

During their visit, the minister-led team proposed to Vembu the idea to establish its centre in Kerala. The only condition that Zoho set for the Kerala team was to find a person to lead the operations. Anoop said Zoho’s former principal researcher Dr Jayaraj Poroor, who currently serves as Dean & HoS, School of Artificial Intelligence, Amritapuri, has agreed to lead Zoho’s proposed R&D centre.

“When Dr Poroor came on board, we knew our job was done,” said Anoop. The proposed centre at Kottarakkara will be modelled on the one that Zoho has set up at Tenkasi.

Officials from Zoho to visit Kottarakkara this week’

According to Anoop, Vembu and cofounder, Tony Thomas, who is a Keralite, will be visiting Kottarakkara this week to review the site for the proposed centre. “We will be visiting the IHRD campus that has been identified as one of the spaces for setting up Zoho’s centre,” he said. However, according to Anoop, unlike the facility in Tenkasi where Zoho picks up students from the Plus-Two level and gives them three years of Zoho training, making them capable of earning `40,000 to `50,000 per month, Kottarakkara centre’s employee profile might be different.

Zoho founder Vembu, who was in Kochi for KMA Digital Summit on Friday, hinted about setting up its centre in rural Kerala. “Looking away from major cities and focussing on rural towns for setting up high-end technology companies is one way to stop the exodus of youngsters seeking overseas jobs,” he had said. Vembu also underlined the need to capitalise on the intellectual prowess of our youngsters in Kerala by having state-of-the-art research and development centres of IT built in rural areas so that native youth will not desert their motherland seeking better pastures.



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