Zoho Is Building A Campus In Tirunelveli In Small-Town Tamil Nadu

Most Indian startups and companies gravitate towards the big metros to set up their offices, but an Indian company is trying out a different tack.

Zoho is building a campus in Tirunelveli in southern Tamil Nadu. Tirunelveli is located 623 kilometers from Zoho’s headquarters in Chennai, and has a population of just 35 lakh. But Zoho, which one of India’s most profitable tech companies and has customers from all over the world, is building a new office there.

And this office isn’t a glass-paneled skyscraper like most tech offices in cities. Zoho’s Tirunelveli office is built in the traditional south Indian style, with sloping roofs and single-story separate units which are spread over a large area.

Source: https://x.com/UpdatesChennai/status/1750499986624901526?s=20

The office is far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and has plenty of green spaces around it.

On the inside, Zoho’s Tirunelveli office looks more like a traditional workspace. There are comfortable tables and reclining chairs, as well as an inviting wood-paneled interior.

The common areas in the office maintain the south-Indian house theme with wooden pillars, and a prominent sloping roof.

This office will house coders and engineering managers who will work on a data analytics product which will be used by companies around the world. And Zoho’s Tirunelveli office isn’t the only office that the company has set up outside of a large city — Zoho has said it will open at least ten offices that can accommodate 500-1,000 people in tier-2 or tier-3 cities and towns. These offices will be ‘hubs’, and will be surrounded by smaller ‘spoke’ units even further away, extending the hub-spoke model to managing talent geographically. Zoho already runs offices in Chennai and Tenkasi in Tamil Nadu, and Renigunta in Andhra Pradesh. It’s also working on setting up an office in Madurai for 1,300 employees, and is in the process of setting up an office in Uttar Pradesh.

Zoho founder Sridhar Vembu says contrary to popular belief, it’s been easy to find employees in small-town India. “It is very easy to find talent in the hinterlands. In Bengaluru, companies complain about not having talent. But if I go to Tirunelveli and put out a requisition, around 1,000 people will show up,” he said.

And Vembu has himself led from the front with this small-town initiative. Since the pandemic, he himself has moved to a village in Tenkasi, and has been running his software company while living there. He says he walks in the fields every morning and evening, visits the local creeks and ponds, and rides an electric rickshaw. “Going for a walk in a village is a divine experience. After tasting this life in a village, it would be very hard for me to move to any major city anywhere now. That is the truth. I can almost say that I am addicted to this rural life,” he says

And this might be a good time for a software company to look towards small-town India to set up offices — the coronavirus pandemic has meant that large numbers of Indian tech workers are now working from their hometowns, and Zoho would find it easier to tap into their services. And spreading India’s tech talent across the country could be a win-win for everyone — having fewer people in large metros could help decongest these cities, while these tech workers could help spread prosperity in rural areas. Over the last few decades, India’s IT sector has changed the faces of cities including Bangalore and Gurgaon — its startups, through remote work, could end up changing the faces of hundreds of rural districts in the coming years.