The Freshworks story: Building on CX fundamentals
ITWeb recently interviewed Girish Mathrubootham, CEO of Freshworks, who tells the story of how his experiencing bad customer service resulted in a start-up business focusing on excellent CX delivered as a service.
Today, at 47, Mathrubootham leads a Nasdaq-listed company valued at about $4.7 billion, with around 52 000 customers globally. The interview was conducted over e-mail.
ITWeb: How and why was Freshworks started and how did the first clients come on board?
Mathrubootham: Freshworks was founded after a terrible customer experience around a broken TV and the realisation that there had to be a better way (a fresh way!) to provide delightful user experiences through software. You can feel it in your own life – when you need help at home or at work, you want it to be easy, fast and painless, delightful if possible. That’s where Freshworks software comes in.
Our first customers came in through digital marketing. Our product was all set for self-service and had a free trial. The first customer, Atwell College from Australia, came onto our Web site, signed up for the trial, played around with the product, was happy and paid using their credit card. They are still a happy customer of Freshworks.
ITWeb: What was the turning point in making the company a global player?
Mathrubootham: We were global from day one – our first seven customers came from five different continents. We relied on our product and its ease of use to attract global customers. This product-led growth meant that we were able to sell to a global audience out of a small office in Chennai, India. As we grew, we knew we had to be closer to some of our larger customers, which prompted us to expand our global offices. We are currently in 13 different locations across the world, serving over 52 500 customers in 135 countries.
ITWeb: What is your management style? What is it like to work for Freshworks?
Mathrubootham: I believe in allowing employees the freedom to find their fit within the company. As long as a person is passionate and skilled, they will always have an opportunity within the company to make a change.
Freshworks' listing on Nasdaq is a Roger Bannister moment for Indian SaaS
Culture has been an integral part of Freshworks right from the start. We pride ourselves on it and the
culture has taken the form of CHAT, an acronym for Craftsmanship, Happy work environment, Agility
with accountability, and True friend of the customer.
ITWeb: What makes Freshworks software different?
Mathrubootham: It's óur ability to bridge silos that traditionally exist between IT, customer support, sales and marketing. Freshdesk is our flagship product for multi-channel customer service. Freshservice adopted that same easy-to-use software for internal IT support, and Freshsales and Freshmarketer, our newer products, help shorten sales cycles with AI and chatbots.
ITWeb: What is the strategy for Africa? What is unique to our market?
Mathrubootham: Some of our largest customers come from Africa, like MultiChoice, PPS, African Bank, to name a few. This shows the focus of African businesses towards delivering satisfaction for their customers and employees.
There are some unique experiential trends in the region; the rise of chatbots is one. From being seen as a cost-saving method, it has grown to become a channel that businesses look at to better their service and availability while increasing their efficiencies.
ITWeb: To what do you attribute the company's successful IPO?
Mathrubootham: Freshworks’ listing on Nasdaq is a Roger Bannister moment for Indian SaaS. We created history by becoming the first Indian SaaS company to list on the Nasdaq in 2021, but could be the first of many, cementing India's place as a product nation. I think we’ve been very lucky. We worked very hard, but I also think the timing was good.
ITWeb: What trends do you see in the software industry? And what is the next chapter for Freshworks?
Mathrubootham: Since 2020, consumers have been eager to spend, and plan to do so with businesses that provide increased digital offerings and services. The enhanced digitisation of business-consumer interactions is here to stay. And that's great news for business software companies everywhere, more so SaaS.
The best way to understand Freshworks’ long-term vision is to start with our mission. Our mission is to
make it fast and easy for every business to satisfy and delight their customers and employees. That is the guardrail we are setting for ourselves. If we see any gaps, we will build products to help us in this mission to break down silos of sales, marketing, and customer support in the customer world, or break down silos of HR and IT in the employee world.