Being the Change Maker

I have always seen people working for someone else.

My father was a Central Govt employee and so were his friends and his friends’ friends and so on. All were happy to be part of an established, bureaucratic, rickety system. In those days, jobs were limited. The spectrum of possibilities was limited to four — Engineering, Medical, Commerce or Unemployed. Life was good in whatever somnific way it was — spectrum or not.

And then arrived the Internet or the Online age.

The first time I ‘saw’ the Internet was when I was in my Engineering school. Too late one might say but that is okay. One needs to roll with the punches anyway. The career spectrum had a new component added to the mix — Online.

Since the last 5 years though, there is yet another change happening; a much more profound change — the change from being-an-employee to let-me-be-the-employer mindset. Ola, Practo, Flipkart are good examples of the change. All started by young, ambitious folks wanting to change the world and getting their hands dirty. Willing to be different. Willing to be stared at. Willing to change the status quo.

All the three solve the Matchmaking Problem. Earlier, folks had cars but had to hunt and book cabs to go out. On the other hand, cabs were available but then they had to hunt for customers. Each needing the other but just missing out. Each of these three provided a platform where demand and supply could meet. The platform providers take a cut for the value provided.

Could there be a similar approach for Online services like Online Customer Relationship Management or Online Project Management, etc? Could there be a way by which folks who are good at making Project Management software reach out to those who need good Project Management software and vice-versa?

There is indeed such an approach possible now.

Zoho has come up with an approach — the Zoho Developer Program. Now folks can take Zoho’s CRM offering (for now), customize it for a niche industry CRM process, rebrand it, price it and host it from their own website. There are no fees involved. Everything is Free. Hmm? So what is the catch then? Revenue-sharing. One needs to share revenue with Zoho based on the number of users who buy the subscription. Fair, no? Zoho does all the complicated background tasks with the code, maintenance, uptime, etc. Folks need to bring their industry expertise to customize Zoho’s CRM into theirs. Get the website up and start marketing their own CRM.

But why build niche industry CRMs? Simply because the one-size-fits-all does not work everywhere. Each business process is unique and if there is something available completely tailor-made for that specific business right out of the box, it provides value right from Day 0.

Typically one signs up for a CRM. Learns how to use it. Then checks if one can customize the CRM to the existing business process. If yes, then check if there are in-house skills to customize it. This is mostly where things go wrong and hence costs start picking up (typically a Consultant makes an entry here). Finally when the customization is done and the money paid, there will be some obscure requirement that crops up. The entire development cycle starts yet again. So by the time everyone buys in and the changes are rolled out, there is quite some amount of time and money used up. Till the next requirement comes up.

Contrast that with a case where folks can actually customize the setup just once, either using a third party or just in-house, and then deploy it for EVERYONE in the same line of business and also get paid subscription fees for it! And also a 1-time setup fee. And also a training fee and … Imagine the business potential!

If you observe, many changes happen even within this change. A change from — an implementor to a provider, a provider of a small, in-house software solution to a provider of a global solution. And of course, from an employee to an employer.

This change, let us call it — Online Distribution Model, is another change whose time has come. This change plays matchmaker for those who have skills with those who need those skills; those who have solutions with those who have the problems. Here is yet another opportunity to be-the-employer, a yet another opportunity to-be-the-change.

Disclaimer: I work at Zoho Corp. These are my personal views only.

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