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FreshDesk to FreshWorks: Girish Mathrubootham believes you can build a successful biz without being a jerk

Sindhu Kashyap
7th Jun 2017
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FreshDesk is now FreshWorks, an umbrella brand that will bring together the company’s entire business offerings.

FreshDesk, the software as a service (SaaS) company, on Tuesday announced that it was rechristening itself as FreshWorks in a rebranding exercise that will see the new entity bring together the company’s growing suite of business software.

Addressing a rare press at the company's head office in Chennai, its CEO and Founder, Girish Mathrubootham, said,

“We always wanted to be a multi-product company. Since we started in 2010, we began with naming the company after our first product, because we felt that till we add more products there was no need to name the company differently. Today after seven years, we believe that there is a stronger need to differentiate.”

Girish added that the team was assisted in this exercise by the marketing team at G Capital, an investor at FreshWorks, and other design and marketing firms.

From left: Girish Mathrubootham and Co-founder & CTO Shan Krishnasamy.

What will be a part of FreshWorks?

The company so far has introduced new products for IT service management (ITSM), customer relationship management (CRM), and cloud-based call centres. These products are designed to help companies better engage and communicate with their customers and employees. And the latest products will continue to do so.

The product suite that will now be part of FreshWorks are:

  • Freshdesk: a multichannel customer support helpdesk which allows organisations to collaborate and support their customers through email, phone, websites, forums, and social media.
  • Freshservice: a cloud-based service desk and ITSM solution to address the growing complexity of teams’ IT support needs through a simple but powerful interface.
  • Freshsales: a full-featured CRM solution for sales teams handling high-velocity leads.
  • Freshcaller: A fully functional call centre on the cloud.

The seven-year itch

The company competes with global players like Zendesk, Salesforce, and in some of its product suites, even Zoho. The Chennai-based company has offices in the US, London, Sydney, and Berlin. It had raised $55 million from Sequoia Capital and Accel in its last round of funding in November last year.

Over the past seven years, the company has moved beyond just customer service offerings by including other products in the CRM and ITSM domain. Its more than 80,000 enterprise customers include the likes of Swiggy, Cisco, Jaguar, Land Rover, 3M, and Lenskart, among others.

Adopted by more than 100,000 companies in 145 countries, FreshWorks’ mission is to help companies better engage and communicate with their customers and employees with refreshing business software that is easy-to-use, feature-packed, and accessible to businesses of all sizes.

Speaking to YourStory in his office cabin that has an equal measure of Rajinikanth portraits and startup award certificates, Girish says,

“When we started as Freshdesk in 2010, we never imagined this kind of scale or growth. Today, we can discuss about grand visions, but I had started out of a room that was as big as this cabin and I was working hard to convince people to join my company. Hiring people wasn’t easy. I had offered stock options, but everyone felt it wasn’t an option worth having.”

Acquiring for growth

Girish believes that any startup’s journey is never easy and getting stressed about things never really helps. He has always believed that if you fall, you get up and start again, the problem arises when you stop.

Girish Mathrubootham.

In the past year, FreshDesk has made a series of acquisitions including:

  1. Airwoot, platform offering customer service solution on social media, in April 2016
  2. Framebench, an online collaboration platform, in February 2016
  3. Konotor, Chennai-based messaging app, in December 2015
  4. Frilp, an online platform that helps users discover a shop or service through their friends and people, in October 2015
  5. 1CLICK, video, voice, and text chat platform with collaborative features screen sharing and conversation recording, in August 2015.
  6. Chatimity, a social chat platform, which developed artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot technology, in October 2016.

So is FreshWorks looking at adding more companies now? All the acquisitions have helped add on and build the product suite for the company. Acquisitions, Girish, believes doesn’t happen because it has to happen, but there are a series of factors like product fit and culture fit that matters.

“It is important that the companies have the same vision and ideas that we have. Also, the products need to fit what we are building or intend to build,” adds Girish.

How nimble are you?

As FreshDesk was a B2B software company, discounting wasn’t a model that Girish ever looked at. “The first customer we got had discovered our website and paid $38 after going through the trial. We didn’t have to do any kind of hard sales. We still have that customer–it is an Austrailian college from Perth,” says Girish.

The team believes that businesses today are looking at more nimble and easy solutions and are being frugal. Girish adds that for many businesses the solutions they have used so far weren’t only expensive but also needed. They had long implementation cycles and were extremely difficult to use without expert training, neither of which could be afforded by growing companies.

Enterprises are also tired of wasting time and resources on trying to make everything work together. Girish adds that they bridge the gap by offering products that are ready-to-go, easy to setup and use, and will be affordable for companies of all sizes.

Whether you are a company looking to share customer data and insights across your sales and support teams or quickly onboard and set-up new employees, FreshWorks’ integrated software products ensure all teams are working together in sync.

“In addition to being fully-featured, all of FreshWorks’ products come with free support over email and phone, making them attractive for businesses looking for value against more expensive alternatives,” says Girish.

FreshWorks adds that data shows that 82 percent of customers stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer experience in 2016. At the same time, providing a seamless experience means looking at the full customer lifecycle from sales to support. Says Girish,

“As internal teams become more integrated, these can no longer happen in silos. This is the problem that FreshWorks has set out to solve.”

It is people who build lasting companies

Even today, Girish says that one of the biggest challenges is to scale culture within the company. He says,

“People are who they are. I don’t think success changes anybody. It just amplifies who we really are. Being nice to people is something that I like and something I believe in. You can be successful in business without being a jerk.”

It is easy to build a company that is loved by shareholders. If you look at some of the bigger companies, as a shareholder you would love the company as the revenues and valuations grow, but are the employees who are working there really happy?

Explaining this, Girish adds: “I have always had a great career, but I have always seen friends and family members crib about work and I would wonder why they aren’t quitting if they don’t like the job. But they wouldn’t be in a position to do so. I think this has had a subconscious effect on me that the kind of company we are building it has to be a place where people are there by choice. I want people who are happy doing what they are doing and who are here because they want to be here. And that is what keeps me going.”

Girish adds that the team wants to build a company that is loved by its employees, customers, and thus by shareholders.

FreshWorks believes in hiring people who work on their core strengths.

"If you are a Sachin Tendulkar, you need to be batting high up in the order. It would be wrong of me to put you in a bowling role and ask you why aren’t you performing? When people play to their natural talent that is when they are happy. That’s when work becomes play."

He adds, “The unfortunate truth in India is everyone finishes engineering and figures out what to do next. We have marketers who are computer science engineers. Just growing revenue or valuation is not our game. It is easy to build a company for a year or two, but building something that stands the test of time is what I want to build. It is more difficult for a VC-funded company to keep growing and build on a vision of a lasting company."

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