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Zoho Takes on the AI Challenge, Set to Develop Its Own Large Language Models

Founder Sridhar Vembu Leads the Way in Language Model Development

15 June 2023

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Kunal Tyagi

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  • Zoho, a leading Indian software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, is developing its own large language models (LLMs) to compete with OpenAI and Google.

  • The project is led by Zoho's CEO, Sridhar Vembu, and is being carried out by the company's research and development team in India.

  • Zoho aims to create proprietary LLMs capable of summarizing, paraphrasing, and adapting to new tasks, showcasing its long-standing commitment to artificial intelligence.

Indian software-as-a-service (SaaS) giant Zoho has made a significant announcement by revealing its plans to develop its own large language models (LLMs), similar to the groundbreaking models created by OpenAI and Google. The project is spearheaded by Zoho's founder and CEO, Sridhar Vembu, and is currently underway at the company's research and development facility in India. This move comes amidst a recent controversy surrounding comments made by OpenAI's CEO, Sam Altman, about the feasibility of Indian startups working on foundational LLMs. In response, Zoho has taken up the challenge, asserting its ambition to lead India's AI aspirations.


Zoho's Vice President of Marketing and Customer Experience, Praval Singh, recently disclosed the company's short-term focus on integrating ChatGPT into their applications. However, Zoho's ultimate goal is to create proprietary large language models capable of summarizing, paraphrasing, and adapting to new tasks. While no specific timeline has been set, Zoho's commitment to developing powerful language models reflects its long-standing dedication to artificial intelligence, with over a decade of experience in the field.


Zoho's decision to embark on the development of LLMs follows controversial statements made by OpenAI's CEO, Sam Altman. Altman initially claimed that it would be hopeless for an Indian startup with $10 million in funding to work on foundational LLMs. However, Altman later clarified his statement, suggesting it was taken out of context. Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar dismissed Altman's authority on India's AI aspirations, stating that there would be areas of disagreement with the founder of the popular ChatGPT chatbot.


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Despite the global macro headwinds, Zoho remains committed to its AI endeavors. The company has chosen to scale back its hiring plans for the year but continues to prioritize AI and related technologies. Zoho employs around 12,000 people worldwide, with a significant majority based in India. While AI integration is not intended to replace jobs, the company acknowledges that their engineers now rely on AI more extensively, resulting in a need for additional hiring based on specific requirements.


With a presence in 50 locations worldwide, including eight in India, and data centers spread across various regions, Zoho has positioned itself as a leading player in the SaaS market. The company has witnessed a remarkable three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 65% within the mid-market and enterprise segments globally. These sectors now constitute one-third of Zoho's entire business, serving over 90 million users across more than 600,000 businesses. Zoho's upmarket growth in India is primarily driven by industries such as banking, financial services and insurance, manufacturing, retail, FMCG, pharmaceuticals, and IT.


Despite economic shifts, Zoho remains optimistic about the future. The company believes that Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are actively seeking cost optimization and value, making Zoho's solutions even more relevant in the current landscape. Particularly in India, Zoho sees significant opportunities for growth and expansion, buoyed by its strong solution capabilities and an impressive roster of customers across various sectors. To further strengthen its offerings, Zoho plans to enhance its platform, develop industry-specific solutions, and foster best practices through an extended network of system integration partners.


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