Padma Shri Sridhar Vembu: A Simple Man with Boundless Vision

On the eve of Republic Day, The Union home ministry announced the coveted list of 102 Padma Shri awardees from various fields and categories. India Inc and the entire tech startup segment rejoiced when one of the recipients of the award was our very own technopreneur Sridhar Vembu, Co-Founder & CEO, Zoho Corp.

Awarded under the Trade and Industry category, news of Vembu receiving the Padma Shri was well received by the entire Indian corporate and startup ecosystem. Vembuhimself tweeted on Tuesday, “Receiving the Padma Shri award is a huge honour and I feel humbled. I dedicate this award to our employees, my extended family, for keeping the faith. I want to thank friends and well-wishers for all your messages that have poured in. Your support keeps me going.”

The recipient of the fourth highest civilian award in India, Vembu is widely known as a billionaire business magnate who founded Zoho Corp in 1996. Headquartered in Chennai Zoho is a multinational organization that specializes in software development, cloud computing, Internet, Zoho Office Suite. Originally name AdventNet, the company was rechristened as Zoho Corp in 1998 as the funders (Vembu, his siblings and Tony Thomas) felt that the name was not very impressive.

Zoho Corp has over 12 international locations in India, US, Australia, Sweden, Spain, Italy, UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, China and Singapore. A SaaS bigwig, Zoho Corp has an illustrious clientele that includes names such as Apple, Netflix, HBO, Nike, Sony, Intel, Paypal among various others.

However, it is interesting to note that the company has remained bootstrapped much to the dismay of Venture Capitalists and Private Equity Investors. There were also talks rife of Salesforce looking to acquire Zoho Corp, however, Vembu had declined the offer. 88 percent of the company is owned by Vembu and members of his family.

A simple and humble man with an abundant vision, Vembu was born in Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu and is an IIT Madras and Princeton University graduate. After spending various years in the Silicon Valley in US, Vembu has recently moved back to India. Surprisingly, his place of choice upon his return was Tenkasi, a remote village in the very heart of Tamil Nadu. Always known for doing the unthinkable Vembu is currently working on a new project with engineers hailing from nearby villages.

Vembu is a strong believer in keeping the mind, body and soul healthy and happy and attributes it as a major reason for his move back home. He also champions the importance of education and is actively involved in educating children in his village.