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India’s SaaS industry bets on rural talent for further scale-up

Sridhar Vembu, CEO and co-founder of the Indian SaaS heavyweight Zoho Corp had addressed a bunch of business reporters at the Oberoi hotel in New Delhi in November last year on the sidelines of the firm’s annual user conference. While talking about the company’s plan to enhance its product portfolios for the future, Sridhar also expressed his interest in expanding to rural India.

“There is a lot of talent here still untapped and we have plans,” he said referring to the rural areas in Uttar Pradesh. Sridhar said he had met interesting youth while he was on a trip to Sonbhadra a day before the Zoho conference to attend the company’s rural event.

That was quite astonishing to think of SaaS hubs away from the big cities which have solid infrastructure to function seamlessly. But this has been the new trend not just at Zoho but across many SaaS firms. Mint spoke to C-suite executives from different SaaS firms in India to understand more on this.

Sparsh Gupta, co-founder and CEO of New Delhi based Wingify said the company had decided to continue with the idea of remote working environment adopted during the pandemic which had helped the firm in expanding its recruitment pool and provided access to talent something which many other onsite firms find it difficult to attract.

“Currently, we are a team of 400 people operating from 65+ cities in India. Our team size has grown by 60% last year and as much as 62% of our employees hail from tier 2 and tier 3 cities, including Buldhana, Tiruvallur, Korba, Seoni, Latur, etc. Interestingly, more than 50% of women who work with us are from non-metros,” Sparsh Gupta said.

Sparsh points at India’s diversity as an advantage making it a hotbed of cutting-edge tech talent. “Given the competitiveness around attracting talent, organizations must be more creative in hiring, shed preconceived notions and take top jobs to talented professionals in small towns,” he adds.

Saravana Kumar, founder and CEO of Kovai.co, another SaaS player based out of Coimbatore said that there has been an expansion in their office spaces recently keeping in mind the demand to accommodate their growing workforce.

“We truly believe that employees need not travel far and beyond in search of opportunities and we strive to create it particularly in tier 2 cities,” he adds.

While talking about the advantages of functioning from Coimbatore, Kumar says “the employee loyalty is far better in tier-2 cities when compared to metros. At least 6 out of 10 graduates who joined us as interns in 2014 are still with us by growing from interns to product leads.”


Also read: SaaS: The bright spot for India’s tech business amid market downturn


“While we do see services firms in tier-2 cities, product companies are still at a nascent stage and we want to build it for our people. We have employees working out of Coimbatore making products and dealings across the world, that’s what we need,” says Ganesh Shankar, CEO of RFPIO based out of Coimbatore.

The company has another office in Portland, Oregon. Shankar says that RFPIO has around 500 employees and their workforce is almost equally distributed between both offices. 

Praval Singh, VP – Marketing & Customer Experience at the Chennai based Zoho Corp while talking of the rural hiring trends says “the problem of skills shortage in the tech industry continues to grow because the need for technology is increasing manifold while the talent required to build the necessary tools is missing. This is pushing companies to consider alternative sources of talent pools, in turn bringing rural talent into focus.”

Praval confirmed Zoho’s plans to open a hub office in northern India. “Presently, we have spoke offices in Delhi, Kolkata, Nagpur and Patna, where they hire locally as and when necessary,” he adds.

According to a report by Bain & Company, Indian SaaS industry is projected to grow at 20% to 25% per annum over the next five years to reach close to $35 billion in ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue) by 2027, with a nearly 8% share of the global SaaS market.

Therefore, building winning talent models is critical to maintain growth and a competitive edge. 77% of SaaS leaders in India say their biggest challenge is ramping up critical talent, according to the SaaSBOOMi report and here’s where the rural talent pool could offer them an advantage in scaling further with diversification of skills across product management, R&D, sales, marketing and services.

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