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Why African tech companies are ditching Google for a small Indian competitor

Zoho has positioned itself as a cheaper alternative to Google and Microsoft, attracting the attention of African startup founders.

When Nigerian edtech startup, Flexisaf, decided to cut costs earlier this year, it realized it needed to reduce its spending on technology.

One of the company’s biggest costs was the money it paid Google to use its Workspace — a collection of Google products including Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Meet, and Docs. Flexisaf had used Google Workspace since 2010, but with 100 employees now, it was becoming too expensive for the small business.

In March, Flexisaf found a solution to its problem in Zoho, an Indian company that offered similar products as Google, but at a fraction of the price. Flexisaf has started the process of migrating to Zoho — once that is completed, it will save the company around 8,000,000 naira ($6,960) a year, Sa’ad Shehu, Flexisaf’s people and talent manager, told Rest of World.

“⁠The approach we’ve taken is to introduce the mail and meeting tools first, and drive adoption of the other features within the coming months,” Shehu said.

Zoho, a lesser-known rival of Google and Microsoft in the enterprise software space, has been stepping up in Africa as an affordable alternative to the global giants. The company has hired local staff, introduced payment options in local currencies, and even sponsored a cricket tournament to dig its heels into the market. But even as it has seen some early success, African tech experts say Zoho needs to strengthen its branding and engage with the local tech community to give serious competition to its larger rivals in the future.

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