Zoho announces Zoho Billing for SMBs, talks GenAI

At its Zoholics user conference in Toronto last week, Zoho announced the launch of Zoho Billing, which it described as an end-to-end billing solution for small and medium businesses.

The product evolved from Zoho Subscriptions, which, the company said, “addressed the unique needs of businesses that rely on recurring revenue streams. Newly established and growing businesses used Zoho Subscriptions to automate recurring billing, manage subscription lifecycles, handle complex pricing models, and track subscription metrics.”

Zoho Billing expands on that, adding features to also support one-time payments, tier, volume, project, and expense billing, as well as allowing users to customize billing, and offer discounts, fremiums, and trials.

The product supports multiple payment methods through its PCI-compliant hosted pages, as well as integrating with PayPal and Stripe. More than 20 plugins are on offer to connect it to productivity, communication, and analytics apps, according to Zoho.

In an interview, Purnima Meenakshi Subramanian, who leads the Billings business in Canada, said that taxation support has been enhanced, automatically applying relevant federal and provincial (for Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) taxes based on billing address. There’s country-specific taxation support for another dozen regions, plus a global edition in which the customer can configure appropriate local taxes. “Businesses should not be confined to the limits of a billing system,” she said.

Billing is tightly integrated with the Zoho Finance products, she noted, and there’s a marketplace in which customers and partners can offer custom plugins such as links to additional payment gateways.

Zoho and GenAI

Zoho’s philosophy about artificial intelligence (AI) – and generative AI (GenAI) – is simple, said Raju Vegesna, chief evangelist at Zoho Canada, during a media and analyst briefing. “We consider it the perfect use of AI when the user doesn’t know they’re using it.

“How many of us cared about HTTP? We just visited websites. So why should we care about AI? We should be able to just use the tool. That’s our approach to AI. There are various reasons AI gets hyped up, but the reality is, how is it useful for the user? And that is all we’re focusing on. … AI can convert a tool into a power tool.”

And, he said, every tool should be a power tool.

Zoho is developing its own GenAI technology, he added, so it has end-to-end control and can ensure customer privacy. “Not owning it will force us to compromise,” he said. “We have to own the infrastructure and the models.” However, customers will have the option to customize the models for their own use, or bring their own models – but Zoho will make it clear what information is being passed to those third party models, and insists that customers BYOK (bring your own [encryption] key) so they maintain control of their data.

Third party applications today are only integrated into Zoho via Zoho Bridge, he noted, which in turn passes information to and from the Zoho applications; the company plans to do the same with AI applications, allowing administrators to control what passes through the bridge with policy settings.

Zoho in Canada

Canada, said head of Zoho Canada Chandrashekar LSP, is a key market for the company. In the last five years, Zoho has grown in the enterprise and midmarket sectors by 36 per cent; year to date, the growth is 24 per cent.

“What we found this year was interesting,” he noted. “While we are generally seeing a 24 per cent growth rate, the collaboration and communication tools – Workplace – has seen a 32 per cent growth. Obviously, a lot more people are working remotely, there’s more collaboration happening. And I think there’s still that buzz around it, a lot of organizations have not come up to speed. So there is still a lot of interest in these tools.”

Later this year, two data centres – in Toronto and Montreal – will open to serve Zoho customers’ data sovereignty needs. And the company is hiring – it has already almost doubled its Canadian staff since last year, going from nine to 17 employees across the country, after having managed Canadian customers from the U.S. in the past.

“I’m very bullish about Zoho, the way it’s going in Canada,” LSP said.

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Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree

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