Indian cloud software giant Zoho is taking on Salesforce and Microsoft with a set of free tools to help companies safely reopen their offices

  • Indian cloud software giant Zoho is releasing six new tools to help businesses bring employees back to their offices safely, competing with existing tools from Salesforce and Microsoft.
  • Zoho's tools are unique because of the company's international perspective, a company executive said — not to mention that they're free, unlike the tools from Salesforce and Microsoft.
  • The product includes tools for employee wellness, contactless check-in, safety training, asset management, and more. 
  • Click here to read more BI Prime stories.

As some parts of the world start to get the coronavirus pandemic under control, businesses are looking to reopen their offices safely, increasing the need for software tools that can track employee health and train workers on new safety protocols.

Salesforce and Microsoft have both released tools to help companies reopen, and now a smaller competitor —Indian software company Zoho — is releasing its own products to help businesses bring employees back to the office safely. 

Zoho's tools are unique for a few reasons, said Raju Vegesna, Zoho's chief evangelist. For one, he says that because Zoho is headquartered in India it has a better perspective on what different regions need. Also, unlike Microsoft and Salesforce's products, Zoho's tools are completely free — at least until the end of the year. They also integrate with Zoho's wide breadth of products, from productivity to CRM, Vegesna said. 

The tools are a continuation of the steps Zoho has already taken to help its customers through the pandemic. In March, the company released a suite of 11 free productivity tools to help companies transition to remote work. The company also put a call to businesses, schools, and public agencies to let them know that if they needed specific tools, Zoho would try to build them for free. Over the last month, many requests were around office safety. 

"We said, why not generalize it and put together a lot of tools that businesses need to get back to work?" Vegesna said.

The products include: tools for employee wellness, contactless check in, safety training, surveys and communication, volunteer program management, and asset management to maintain office supplies and maintenance requests. 

What makes Zoho's tools unique

Vegesna says that Zoho's tools are more robust than those from Microsoft or Salesforce because of how well they integrate with the rest of its products. Zoho makes email and chat tools, CRM software for sales and marketing, and human resources tools. While using the new work tools along with Zoho's other tools can make them more useful, they're still free to companies that don't use any of the its other products — users don't need any other licenses to start using them. That's in contrast to Salesforce, which has its tools priced as add-on to existing products, and Microsoft, which requires users to have an existing Power Platform license in order to use them. 

Here's what Zoho's tools might look like in action:

FoIf an employee has a meeting with a client, and then returns to the office, the person's calendar logs that information and sends it to the back to work tools and HR system. Then if that employee is exposed to COVID-19, the company will be able to identify who they may have come in contact with.

Or, if an employee is scheduled for a business trip, the HR system can trigger an email to the employee asking them to stay home for 14 days after returning and complete safety training before they return to office. In places like the Middle East, Vegesna said business travel is slowly returning with new safety measures. 

Zoho also has a low-code development platform called Zoho Creator so customers can customize apps. Since the back to work tools are built on this platform, they are easily customizable. This is similar to Microsoft, which built its tools on its Power Platform. 

"If they want an additional module, they can request [it] and we can quickly build it in day or two and then pass it on," Vegesna said, "Or if they want to build it themselves, they can," 

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