From six paying customers in June 2011 to 45,000 plus customers across more than 45 countries today, FreshDesk has gone on to be one of India’s top startups in a span of four years. Thus who better to talk about building a global product and assembling a rockstar team than the inimitable Founder Girish Mathrubootham, who believes that life at Freshdesk is more about creating a happy ‘work’ environment where “the work that you do makes you really happy.”
Speaking at YourStory’s MobileSparks 2015 in Bengaluru today, Girish wooed the audience with his ‘cool’ one-liners while sharing people policies at Freshdesk. Headquartered in San Francisco, with a development center in Chennai, India, Freshdesk has 475 employees without an overbearing HR manager to manage a “highly-motivated” team.
Freshdesk closed a new $50 million series E funding from Tiger Global, Google Capital & Accel Partners in April this year. Its total investment is US $94 million. According to Forrester Research, SAAS software spending is touted to increase to $106 billion in 2016. This market is also notorious for the competition it poses for the players in their chase for customer acquisition. Zendesk which had gone for an IPO last year had mentioned Freshdesk as its top three competitors in their IPO filing. Currently, Zendesk has a market cap of 1.94 billion dollars.
Talking about his startup culture, Girsih shared the early days when they started out of a conference room in Chennai, where finding a co-working space during those days was unheard of. He said,
Our second office was in a warehouse. It was foolish of us to think that we could build software for a global audience from here.
Besieged by infrastructure problems like “no power, no water, and no parking with a hole-in-the-wall kind of place to eat all meals daily,” Girish took the audience down the road how they got to be housed in a truly awesome workplace in Chennai on a 60,000 sq feet space by breaking walls both metaphorically as a well as physically.
What is life like at FreshDesk
“I have a big problem with work-life balance,” Girish revealed to a surprised audience. It is not because he does not believe in taking a break and recharging, “but the fact that the statement assumes that work is boring and life is something you enjoy.” At his company, 40 hour work week is not forced upon the employees. Treating employees as adults and letting them decide what to do when, leads to a productive workforce, believes Girish.
How do they hire
Pointing out to an enthusiastic employee from among the audience, Girish said he was hired at a YourStory Jobs Fair two years ago. “We hired him for his passion.” For someone who does not respect degrees but respects passion, Girish puts his money where his mouth is. According to him, good techies do not talk on their resumes, but let their work talk. When they hire freshmen, they look for job-role fit. The core talent of the job seeker should match with the job. He said,
Fundamentally, there is no bad employee, but a bad role fit.
Recounting his talk at a recent Nasscom HR event, Girish had announced that Freshdesk did not have an HR manager to manage their large, growing team. Clearly, non-interference works well in most instances. “At another Nasscom event, our Prime Minister had stated tongue-in-cheek that the reason India had made advances in the IT space was because the government did not know much about it and hence kept itself away,” he said amidst laughter from the audience.
Girish emphasized upon the difference between empowerment and control. For instance, their customer policy is to do what is right for the customer. “Don’t be a manager. Be a coach,” he told young aspiring entrepreneurs in the audience.
“No one tells Sachin Tendulkar that your area of improvement is in bowling,” said Girish, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging unique strengths of the employees.
Real growth is measured by three key factors, according to Girish. Knowledge on the job, challenge, and salary – as long as all three are growing your career is growing, the moment there is an imbalance in the three key factors, there should be a cause for concern.
Regarding performance appraisals, Girish said all employees want to hear what hike they will get, hence he tells his managers it is a waste of time to give feedback at that time, especially negative feedback. “Do not hold on to negative feedback to share only during the appraisal time, give it there and then,” he said.
People relations work best when one builds honest relationships with co-workers. “Don’t be a jerk. Even if you are brilliant, do not be a brilliant jerk,” said Girish.