Engineers in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu, create a world-class Help Desk tool

06th December 2016
Engineers  in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu, create a world-class  Help Desk tool
Zoho founder-CEO Sridhar Vembu and (inset) the Tenkasi development centre nearby

From rural India,  for the world
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, December 6 2016: It may be sobering for techies  in Tier 2 cities that  when it comes to software innovation, they might face competition, not just from the Usual Suspects -- Bangalore, Hyderabad, Gurgaon -- but from  a small rural town in the heart of the Tamil Nadu rice belt. 
Last week in the village of Silaraipuravu, on the outskirts of  Tenkasi,  in Tirunelveli district, a team of visiting journalists were witness to the formal launch of  Zoho Desk,  a cool software tool to run  customer help desks, enhancing the contact agent's responses using  context-aware  information and feedback.  The product  which has been honed  and perfected over nearly five years, flows from the  Tenkasi-based development centre of Zoho Corporation , a Chennai-headquartered  business software leader with presence in USA, UK,  Europe Australia, China and Singapore.  
Here   some 150  young people  work  -- all school leavers or  technical diploma holders from the surrounding  towns and villages of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.  They did a stint in Zoho University to acquire the required   software skills.  Zoho has  become the biggest employer in Tenkasi -- bringing the smack of technology while tapping into the  latent talent of what is otherwise a laidback  rural and agricultural area.   
The rural experiment has been a startling success-- with unusual side effects:  Quite a few Zoho-ites from bigger cities opted to move to the beautiful, peaceful ambience of Tenkasi. There are no airports nearby by -- Tuticorin  is a three hour drive away as is Thiruvananthapuram across the state border, in Kerala.   Indeed, such is the  rush to seek a seat there that  Zoho has began construction of an additional 30,000 sqft  facility next door that will add space for another 200 engineers  by the end of this fiscal year. 
"We will deepen our roots here before thinking  of other small towns and villages", says  Zoho founder-CEO Sridhar Vembu. For him personally and for Zoho, the Tenkasi experiment  was a commitment to move   high tech development away from big cities and to create the necessary  skills from among local people. 
The company had no particular fiscal incentive to move away from Chennai.The product uses customer data from past interactions and from other Zoho products, like Zoho CRM and Zoho Projects, to organise tickets and intelligently present information to agents so that they can better understand a customer's problem and resolve it efficiently.
Zoho Desk  is already been used to service   millions of  customers of Zoho's other business products. Anchor clients  like Tech Mahindra in India and Daimler and a division of Sears abroad, have successfully deployed Zoho Desk over many months Now it is available for a global clientele. 
Zoho Desk  is free for  up to 10 users. Paid plans cost between Rs 750 and Rs 1500  per user/month. More information here
'Tenkasi' means 'Kasi of the south’.   The town is home to the 700 year old  Kasi Viswanath temple. The famous  waterfalls of Courtallam are just  6 km away.  It is somehow appropriate that India's first  'make in rural India' product should come from a city that became famous  even 7 centuries ago as the  Kasi or   culture capital of the south.