While blasting Salesforce.com for spending too much on marketing and not enough on R&D, Sridhar Vembu, CEO of AdventNet, which owns the Zoho SAAS (software as a service) property that competes with Salesforce.com CRM and Google Apps, let slip that Salesforce.com tried to buy Zoho last year.
Companies don't normally air dirty laundry in such a wickedly detailed fashion. What were Zoho's motives?
In a phoner, Zoho evangelist Raju Vegnesa told me that Zoho just wanted to let the world know how Salesforce.com wanted to compete with Google in apps despite outward appearances to the contrary.
Was part of the plan to bash Salesforce.com to endear itself to Google, which could probably crush Zoho in the SAAS collaboration market? Is Zoho, which failed to land at Salesforce.com, interested in finding a home at Google?
"That's not the case," Vegnesa said, short of bristling at the suggestion. "In fact, we are exactly the opposite of Google. We don't hire PhDs. There are a good set of engineers that don't even have a degree."
I'm not sure that's something to be bragging about, but in doing so, Vegnesa essentially made the same point about Google as he did about Salesforce.com: you don't need to spend a lot of money or slap honorary titles on yourselves to sell your product.
So far, so good. Zoho's products are popular and praised by folks who use them, but how many folks use them? We don't know.
Vegnesa said Zoho's default option is not to get acquired. However, "if someone is forcing us, we'll probably talk with them."
Force is the operative word. If you think about it, between Salesforce.com's SAAS CRM might and Google's Apps momentum, Zoho as a smaller rival to both could find itself in a position where it might be forced to do something.
What that may be, whether an acquisition or a folding, is anyone's guess.