Zoho’s Bid to Rival GitHub Copilot

Zoho is developing a new ‘programmer productivity’ tool designed to generate accurate codes, and aims to surpass other platforms’ issues with hallucinations and factual errors
Zoho's Bid to Rival GitHub Copilot

Zoho is building its own version of GitHub Copilot alternative. While speaking to the media last week in Bengaluru, Sridhar Vembu, co-founder and CEO of Zoho Corporation, announced the company’s plans to work on ‘Programmer Productivity’ – a platform that will focus on code generation.

Prioritising accurate results, Vembu is personally involved in the project and aims to create a product that is unlike ChatGPT, which Vembu believes generates hallucinatory answers 20% of the time. 

“In business, you cannot make facts up,” said Vembu, while explaining Zoho’s new coding product that is in development. He believes that models that generate incorrect answers limit business usage, “If you generate code out of it, that limits the usage of the code too.” With the new coding product, Zoho looks to eliminate inaccuracy. 

Zoho Enters The Coding Ring 

In an exclusive interaction with AIM last week, Vembu highlighted AI neural network’s capability to regurgitate memorised information, which can also lead to hallucinated output. Overcoming faulty output is Vembu’s biggest priority in the upcoming product, as he believes that fixing bugs is where a developer spends most of their time. Furthermore, security is another concern area that will be addressed as well.

Concoction of Training Methods

While the how part of it is not fully detailed, Vembu confirmed that there would be a combination of training methods. “I am not taking the conventional, ‘training a billion parameter’ approach, although that will go in parallel. We are investing in compiler technology,” said Vembu.   

A compiler translates high-level programming languages into machine code or lower-level codes for executing into a computer’s hardware. As explained by Vembu, any form of java code, c-code, etc. goes through a compiler. He believes that this technology has huge potential but it is not fully explored as many companies do not invest in the same. “Microsoft and Google have invested in it, but Salesforce will not have.” 

Vembu also said that Zoho is investing in this technology owing to security. “If we ensure correctness, the compiler can ensure correctness, and we can also ensure that you are secure.” There are 20 people working with Vembu on the R&D of this project, and he has personally filed 10 patents in the last few years. 

An Unconventional Move To Take on Others

Pioneering as a SaaS company providing a number of CRM-based products and services, the company is probably moving to an approach that integrates the best of two worlds. With the integration of ChatGPT in their product suite, Zoho has been embracing AI extensively. The company recently announced additional features such as Cliq Rooms, to their existing AI-enabled Zoho Cliq platform.

However, the foray into coding assistance for programmers is an unconventional development for the company. 

With major players already in the market, such as Replit, GitHub Copilot, and the recent Code Interpreter from ChatGPT, Zoho’s entry in a similar segment is probably a push to utilise their current customer-enterprise base of 100 million users.

Microsoft’s GitHub Copilot is being used by a million developers across 20,000 organisations today and is considered the world’s most widely adopted AI developer tool. The platform is powered by generative AI developed by GitHub, OpenAI and Microsoft. 

Closely competing with each other is Replit. The company recently made their suite of AI products called Replit AI, accessible to all. The coding assistance feature will be open to over 23 million developers. There are also other players such as AmazonCode Whisperer in the race. 

Relatively new to the coding assistance game is ChatGPT Code Interpreter. However, there is no information available about exclusive developer communities for the product, similar to the communities established by GitHub, Replit and other platforms. 

Closer to its home turf, Zoho’s competitor Salesforce has also entered the same segment. Salesforce, another cloud-based CRM software company, recently announced its coding copilot platform ‘Anypoint Code Builder‘. The integrated development environment (IDE) enables developers to create APIs, simplifies and enables coding for developers. It is currently in beta and will be available in the second quarter of 2024. 

While Zoho may be late in the game, the different training approaches adopted by the company for building the product will probably determine its success. “Correct by design is where the action is and that’s where we are investing in,” said Vembu about the programmer productivity product goal. 

Vandana Nair
As a rare blend of engineering, MBA, and journalism degree, Vandana Nair brings a unique combination of technical know-how, business acumen, and storytelling skills to the table. Her insatiable curiosity for all things startups, businesses, and AI technologies ensures that there's always a fresh and insightful perspective to her reporting.

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