Zoho strengthens Zoho Expense solution as they strengthen Canadian presence

Zoho is establishing its Canadian headquarters in Cornwall Ontario, as part of its new global policy of establishing offices in less expensive places for employees to live.

Today, cloud software suite vendor Zoho is announcing a new version of their  expense reporting software, Zoho Expense, with a major highlight being new capabilities for employees to book their own travel. The new release caps Zoho’s successful navigation of a turbulent year, in which their business overall did well, and where they embarked on plans to establish their Canadian headquarters in a comparatively small city in accordance with the company’s strategic policy of transnational localism.

“In 2020, we completed 25 years in business, as a bootstrapped company, private and profitable from day one, which has been growing organically year over year, and now has over 45 business applications,” said Chandrasekhar LSP, Zoho’s Canadian Evangelist.

LSP then reviewed measures Zoho had taken, some of them relatively unique, to deal with the pandemic.

“We made work from home a practice in February 2020, one month before any lockdown was announced,” he said. “We established a no layoffs policy, as well as one in which executives would take the first pay cuts should things worsen. We gave a 6-month subscription waiver for small business, and a free educational tool for up to 100 students [Zoho Classes]. We introduced Zoho Remotely, a suite of 11 free productivity products, and then ZohoBackToWork, a workplace reopening app, which is free for a year.”

Zoho’s adoption of transnational localism paralleled its COVID response in 2020. It was originally a response to social conditions in India, where Zoho has a strong presence, but is being rolled out globally, including Canada.

“2020 demonstrated that globalization is under tremendous duress,” LSP said. “There is a large population rooted in local community and in rural places, and we wanted to create rural jobs so they don’t have to migrate to an urban magnet to get an IT job. With Zoho, COVID accelerated the idea of implementing this philosophy. When people moved to Work From Home, we found many employees missed work social life. So we started spoke offices – small offices that could house 20-40 people – where people could go in at their convenience.”

Zoho has opened 15 of these spoke offices in the last nine months, and Zoho schools are also being set up in these spoke centres.

So what does this mean for Zoho in Canada?

“We will set up our Canadian headquarters in Cornwall in eastern Ontario,” LSP said. “It has affordable living and housing, easy access to Montreal and Ottawa airports and easy access to the U.S. We did not have a formal physical office before, although we had offices in co-working spaces in Montreal. Now, however, we will move to Cornwall physically.” That hasn’t happened yet, also because of COVID, but LSP said it is imminent.

LSP also noted that Zoho launched Canadian pricing for all Zoho products in early April. The new version of Zoho Expense is one of those products. The upgrades are specifically designed to improve customer Travel and Expense process  efficiency, particularly while recovering from the effects of COVID-19.

Businesses can book, organize and manage all their corporate travel end-to-end both offline and online from a single place.

Zoho Expense has now been fully integrated with Sabre’s GetThere, a powerful travel platform. This allows employees to book their own travel online based on the cost approval flows and other rules that the organization sets.

“This allows lot of updates around automation and cost compliance which can be specified very granularly,” LSP said. “For example, you can set a specific max payment for an Uber ride while in Europe. Zoho Expense automatically generates reports and sends them out for reimbursement.”

The new version of Zoho Expense builds collaboration and communication intrinsic to employees’ travel process.

“There is now an integrated messaging and communication stack as a part of Expense, so employees can exchange information with the finance team in the context of the application,” LSP said. “They don’t have to email the report as a PDF file.” He noted that this integrated messaging and communication will be in all the Zoho apps as they are refreshed. It is already in Zoho CRM.

Zoho Expense also has improved control and compliance capabilities. Businesses can create budgets and track them with the help of a dashboard, and customizable alerts can be set which will notify users when the budget limit is exceeded. The rule engine now lets businesses set specific spend limits based on hierarchy and expense categories to ensure compliance. A fraud detection capability now automatically identifies and flags fake receipts, duplicate entries, fraudulent data modifications, and mismatches between receipts and claims.

Zoho’s AI-powered virtual assistant, Zia will now automatically remind users about  their pending tasks such as incomplete trip requests, unsubmitted reports, and expenses, and will notify them in the event of failed receipt scanning and non-compliant expense claims.

The new version of Zoho Expense is available immediately. Zoho Expense offers three subscription plans: the Free plan, the Premium ($5 per active user, per month, billed annually), and the Enterprise plan ($8 per active user, per month, billed annually).