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The name Sridhar Vembu may not ring a bell to most people, but this name is catching the attention of Silicon Valley’s giants. The founder and CEO of AdventNet, Vembu is the genius behind Zoho,  a productivity suite that has more than 5 million users – an impressive number that  had power CEO Marc Benioff  and legendary venture capitalist Mike Mortiz  knocking on his door.

Sridhar Vembu

Described as the smartest unknown Indian entrepreneur, Vembu is a low-profile guy that quietly runs a $40 million a year business, earning net revenue of $1 million every month. His creativity led to the creation of one of the first cloud computing office suites available in the market. How he did it is even more admirable.  His frugality – some says advocacy – made Zoho (now AdventNet’s corporate name), a company with unique staffing practices. Vembu only hires economically disadvantaged Indian high school graduates as programmers after putting them through two years of education. All in all, Vembu has employed 600 people in Chennai, India. At his office in Silicon Valley, there are only eight.

With that unique workforce, Vembu has built a cash-cow business whose products even compete with Microsoft Office. This is why competitors want to get a piece of his company. Benioff, the chief executive of, made an offer to buy Zoho to get rid of the competition. With the administration costs eating most of his profits, Benioff knows he can’t afford not to. When Vembu turned down his offer, the rest of the valley got the picture. Vembu wanted freedom, and million-dollar offers are appreciated, but not welcome.

The 41-year-old CEO has a bright future ahead of him. He has shown that Indians can do the same thing to software what the Chinese did to manufacturing.  This cloud pioneer’s vision is just the beginning, and the world has yet to see the best  of him.