US-listed Zendesk is betting big on India in spite of competition from homegrown Zoho, Freshworks

Customers checking out Zendesk products
  • Zendesk has over 2,800 clients in India including Ola, Zomato, Shaadi.com, OLX, Vodafone, Airbnb and ITC Foods.
  • But the US-listed company will find big competition from the homegrown Zoho and Freshworks, both of which have also expanded to the US.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Zendesk’s senior management discusses the company’s plans for India.
The $9.6 billion Zendesk, the US-based customer service software company, is focussing on the India market now.

Zendesk, which has also partnered with WhatsApp for business, also launched two new products globally, including India. First product being Gather, which is a platform where customers can engage with each other and company experts. The second one Sunshine Conversations, an API-based platform through which companies can interact with consumers through social media channels.

Some of its clients include Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and also DBS Bank.

India’s new-age tech savvy companies and the thousands of small and medium enterprises also caught Zendesk’s fancy. But the US-listed company will find competition from the homegrown Zoho and Freshworks, both of which have also expanded to the US.

Big plans for India

The India market was initially clubbed with the overall APAC zone, until Zendesk saw an opportunity in India’s growing small businesses and established an India office in 2016.

Having been around in India for three years now, Zendesk has over 2800 clients including the likes of Ola, Zomato, Shaadi.com, OLX, Vodafone, Airbnb and ITC Foods..

“We follow a methodology in the emerging markets. In the beginning, an entire market is is grouped together and then we make small bets. So we have been investing in building a brand and momentum in India. We are very happy with India contribution so far but we have great expectations,” Tom Keiser, chief operating officer, Zendesk told Business Insider at the recently concluded Zendesk Showcase in Singapore.

When they started off, they had 1700 customers with just 5 people at work. Today, they have over 30 employees. Ola was one of their early clients. Today, they also have startups like Bounce, Drivezy subscribing to them.

And somewhere Reliance Jio which led the unprecedented data growth in India also helped, informs KT Prasad, India head, Zendesk.

Challenges and localization in India

But of course, India comes with its challenges.

“There is an extreme scale in India and almost every client you speak to, their aspiration is always to serve over a billion people. The challenge is always making sure that you give a cost effective solution for the whole market. But India is still so underserved, the middle class population is growing at such a fast rate and something that wasn’t a business a few years ago is a booming one today,” said Sandie Overtveld, VP Asia Pacific, Zendesk.

So, they had to turn to localization. Zendesk also offers customer service in Hindi and is looking to offer in other dialects in the future.

Social media is also driving change in India. “With the growth of social media, and the ease with which one can turn to one of the platforms and complaint about a product, makes customer service even more important,” said Overtveld.

Competing with Zoho, Freshdesk

Two Indian startups – Zoho and Freshdesk took over the CRM space and entered the US market. But in a fast evolving Indian market, local players have an advantage – they know the Indian consumer well.

However, Zendesk believes that it has a clear value proposition that differentiates it. “It’s a very competitive space and while the competitors have broadened their services – we are completely focussed on the customer and customer service,” said Keiser.

Zendesk is also innovating fast to stay in the game. “We are bringing the right value to the consumer. Four years ago, we had 2-3 products, today, we have over 8 products,” said Prasad.

It is also deep into machine learning, big data with a team that is based out of Melbourne, Australia. “We are building a more robust set of capabilities for self service. Solutions can be served with commitment and an omni channel approach where everything comes together - voice, text, e-mail etc,” said Keiser.
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