On 24 September 2021, Freshworks Inc. became the first Indian Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) startup to get listed on the NASDAQ (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations). In doing so, the company has uplifted close to 500 employees and made them crorepatis (through stock options). Of the 500 employees, 70 are under the age of 30.
Girish Mathrubootham (46), co-founder and chief executive of Freshworks, spoke to The Better India about this historical moment and what it means for the company going forward. Girish is the son of a former bank officer and founded Freshworks (then known as Freshdesk) in 2010 along with Shan Krishnasamy. Both Girish and Stan were employees at Zoho Corporation before they decided to embark on their entrepreneurial journey.
Within four days of having started their Freshworks, Atwell College a public high school in Australia came on board as their first client and within 200 days of launching, with no external funding, the company had close to 22 small and medium businesses from across the globe.
Speaking about how the idea to start a company came about, he says, “Before the advent of social media, customers would call on the customer care number to lodge their complaints or even raise a query. But, with the explosion of social media, all that changed. People started taking to Facebook and Twitter to lodge complaints and found that the resolution time was quicker.”
He goes on, “To address all these complaints on social media channels, companies would have to have all the customer data in an accessible place, and that is how the idea of Freshdesk, the company’s flagship product, was born.”
In 2017, the company rebranded itself and came to be known as FreshWorks.
Given that the life of an entrepreneur often sees many highs and lows, when asked about it, Girish says, “Success and happiness are two different things – One should focus on staying happy irrespective of what is happening around you. We always hold the key to our happiness.”
Commenting on the 500 freshly minted crorepatis that Freshworks has helped create, Girish says, “It feels good. I’m personally passionate about employee wealth creation, and now, I feel I’m delivering. Employees who have helped grow Freshworks to where it is should share the rewards. I’m grateful for all the contributions that employees have made because I truly believe that I am not building Freshworks alone – all of us together are building Freshworks.” It is also interesting to note that 76 per cent of Freshworks Inc’s. 4,300 employees globally hold equity options in the company.
Born in the temple town of Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu, Girish values the mentors who have helped him grow over the years.
He says, “Having mentors is critical; surrounding yourself with people who can complement your knowledge and skill-set will help you go farther. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with many mentors over the last 11 years who’ve helped me learn and grow.”
A firm believer in paying it forward, Girish is also the founder of a community called SaaSBOOMi, a community of founders who share hard-learned experiences by making these learnings available to all. “Our mission is to help SaaS founders learn from each other’s journeys across different life stages of their companies-from ARR (Accounting Rate of Return) of $0 to $100 million and beyond,” says Girish.
Girish says, “Passion and purpose are more important than almost anything else, as a word of advice to younger entrepreneurs.”
“Find your ‘fire in the belly’, but also ensure that you are patient.”
“You can’t do everything all at once. At Freshworks, we were patient and dreamed in increments – first, $1 million in revenue, then a second product, and so on. It wasn’t until 2017 that we even started thinking about taking the company public.”
As of now, Girish and the team at Freshworks are savouring this moment, and he says, “We’re enjoying the moment, and I’m very happy with where we’re at today. We will continue to invest in the innovation of our products and delighting our customers. Long term, I want Freshworks to be recognised as an iconic global software company.”
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)