Andrew Bourne is the Regional Manager, Africa, Zoho Corp, an Indian software development company that is rolling out its latest solution, Bigin, in Africa, starting with Kenya. We asked him questions about his product to get a clear picture of how it works. Here is the full interview:

  1. When did you think of the idea, and why did you choose Kenya?

Bigin has been in development for some time now and builds on the work we have already done in the small business space. It is a well-known fact that small and micro businesses are the lifeblood of any country and this holds true for the fast-growing Kenyan economy as well. Given Kenya’s status as one of Africa’s leading entrepreneurial hubs, we felt that it was important to include Kenya as part of our global roll out.

2. What inspired Zoho to come up with the solution, what gaps are you seeking to bridge
in Kenya?

Zoho has a proud track record when it comes to providing innovative solutions for small businesses around the globe. We built Bigin to address the most common challenge that small businesses face: finding and keeping customers. Having been in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) industry for more than 15 years now, we sensed the need for an exclusive CRM solution that was built and priced for small businesses. Bigin is the latest entrant to Zoho’s strong suite of 45+ business apps. Ultimately, we are hoping to help Kenyan small businesses easily manage their customer relationships and enhance their chances of winning customers for life.

3. How does your solution work? Who are your target customers? How many are they? How cost effective is it?

Bigin is a pipeline-centric CRM solution that allows businesses to manage their customer data in one place, streamline customer-centric operations, and ultimately grow faster by winning more customers. Bigin is available on desktop and as a mobile application. It also offers best-in-class features such as built-in telephony, multiple pipelines for distinct customer operations, workflow automation, task management, and analytical dashboards.

Bigin is specifically focused on small and micro businesses who are looking to move away from less-productive tools such as spreadsheets and other archaic ways of managing customer information.

Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager, Africa, Zoho Corp. PHOTO/ COURTESY

As a newer product, Bigin has received a tremendous reception across the globe, and we’ve received some encouraging responses from some of our customers who are actively using Bigin in their day-to-day operations. At 560 Kenyan Shillings per user per month, Bigin is the most affordable CRM solution in the market. Zoho is a bootstrapped and private company. Bigin is the latest in our line of products tailored to
our global customer base.

4. What challenges do you expect while implementing the solution in Africa? What
hurdles may users experience? How will you handle them?

Unlike other legacy CRM systems, Bigin does not come with a steep learning curve. Implementing Bigin is easy and anyone can set up a working CRM system in less than 30 minutes, without any training or prior experience of using CRM systems. This saves both time and money that is usually associated with implementing business software.

5. How do you ensure data privacy on the part of clients? Where is your MIS hosted?
Who controls that?

Just like other Zoho apps, Bigin is secure by design and is compliant with GDPR and other latest privacy and security standards. Customer data is hosted on Zoho’s data centres. We do not have an ad-model even in the free version of our products. We own all the core aspects of our technology stack.

We are not in the game to gain monetarily from our user behaviour, and are hence not reliant on ad-providers for our revenue. We have also taken a strong stance against adjunct surveillance and removed all third-party trackers from companies that have ad-based models in order to protect our customers.

6. How secure is the system? What cyber security measures have you incorporated into
the system?

Our security measures involve the following components: organisational security, physical security, infrastructure security, data security, identity and access control, operational security, incident management, responsible disclosures, vendor management, and customer controls for security. Zoho has always put data security and user privacy at the heart of its operations and will continue to do so.

7. How do you plan to make money from the innovation?

Because of Bigin’s competitive pricing and range of features, we can reach a much wider customer base than many of our competitors. We also offer over 45 other products that can cater to the various needs of an organisation from sales and marketing to HR, finance and more. As their business grows, and their needs change, customers can easily start using other apps from Zoho’s ecosystem, and even migrate to Zoho CRM once they need a full-fledged CRM solution.

8. 90% of start-ups fail within 5 years after establishment, according to Forbes. How will Zoho ensure that does not happen?

Zoho is a 24-year-old company, bootstrapped and profitable since its inception. We have never raised money, or been in any debt. We have survived two major crises- the dot com burst of 2000 and the global financial crisis of 2008. Being bootstrapped allowed us to quickly re- strategise, reallocate our resources and diversify. Under the Zoho brand, we have more than 45 applications — which we have built from the ground up — that help businesses manage everything from sales, marketing, finance and HR to productivity and collaboration. Having the most extensive portfolio in the industry is helping us survive the current crisis, as our productivity and collaboration tools are being used by companies around the world to adopt remote working. Our focus on long-term R&D and building deep capabilities, and being self- reliant has helped us survive.

What clients say:

“I was looking for a simple sales-oriented CRM and was going through and signing up for the top 5. Each one had way more features than I needed. I wanted something that had an app, wouldn’t drain my time learning how to use, just did what I needed to do, and didn’t cost an arm and a leg per user. Then I came across Bigin, not sure how, but it was exactly what I was looking for. Only started with it about three weeks ago, but I’m a very happy camper.”

Nachum Klingman, CEO, Book Like A Boss Ltd
Region: EMEA
Type of business: SaaS

“Easy to use, easy to implement, and accessible to the pocket is what Bigin stands for. It is easy to set up, it has the newest and most straightforward interface which we love, it is suitable for small budgets, and offers a very sound product for low to mid-range needs. Our current business processes in terms of collaboration, communication, and visibility is more efficient, and the system has allowed for better alignment of first-line teams around customer-oriented processes. We are sure that Bigin has the potential to both save us costs and increase revenue if appropriately implemented. I fully recommend Bigin to small enterprises looking to improve their customer-centric processes.”

Harmodio, Sales Director, Edusoft Learning
Region: EMEA
Type of business: Education

“We were so impressed by Bigin’s ‘perfect fit’ for small organizations and we have now
consolidated all information about our clients and projects in Bigin. It’s impressive to see that such an affordable product helps in managing duplication of records, customizing fields specific to our processes, providing dashboards to manage the performance of emails, and even linking up with the Twitter accounts of our clients.”

Luison Lassala, General Manager, Bedrock Success Consulting
Region: EMEA
Type of business: Software consulting

Detailed case study:

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