Mr Girish Mathrubootham is the CEO of Freshdesk, a multinational company – based in Chennai- that develops Software as a Service (SaaS) products. A massive success story of the startup culture in India, Freshdesk has a multi-million dollar valuation and is considered one of the most exciting, fresh companies to work for in the country. At the helm of the company, Mr Girish has had a pivotal role to play in its achievements.
Mr Girish presented a Guest Lecture at Kurukshetra 2016 on his success in the business world, and how Freshdesk sets itself apart. We were able to quiz him on his story post-lecture.
Q. You’ve said that you set up Freshdesk because of a ‘nightmarish consumer experience’ shipping in a TV from the US. Could you tell us how that shaped your product, and vision for Freshdesk?
A. That incident helped us identify how the world of customer support was undergoing a paradigm shift. When I contacted the company [responsible for the shipping] through traditional channels, I did not get a proper response. However, reaching out to them through social media provided a quick resolution to my problem. And for someone in customer support, this was a significant moment in realizing the power of social media. From my experience in the industry, I thus saw an advantage in building a cloud-based tool and social help desk alongside traditional channels, as was advantageous to several companies.
Q. In the 5+ years since you’ve set up Freshdesk, the company’s grown tremendously. So what do you see as the key to maintaining that growth and success?
Ans. We’re continuously launching new products. We’re hiring great people. So primarily, if we’re able to continuously scale that culture, I’m sure we’ll continue our product innovation, revenue growth and customer acquisition.
Q. You’ve started out as a Product Manager, and you’ve stated that you’re not a technical guy per se. How do you then head up a company that is based primarily off an IT product?
A. I’m also a Software Product Manager, but my co-founder takes care of the technical aspects. Building a company takes great teamwork; you need your Dhoni, your Tendulkar and your Zaheer Khan. It’s about specialist skills, each unit knowing what they bring to the table.
Q. On a lighter note; what’s a day like in the life of the CEO of a multi-million dollar company?
A. Who’s that? *chuckles* But it’s pretty hectic. Today is in fact a lighter day, where I’m able to talk to students. The growth [of the company] places a lot of demand on time, and your calendar starts driving you; which is when you realize that the joys of doing what you want, when you want aren’t always there.
Q. Freshdesk has offices all over the world, including in Silicon Valley. What personally compelled you to stick to our city of Chennai?
A. Chennai has been very special, and good to me.
I came to the city in ’96 and took up an MBA admit in Madras University, partly because I was an unemployed young man who didn’t want to be probed by society. Further, I first tasted success in business in Chennai. People say where they achieve their successes becomes home. My time in the city continuously pushed me forward and upward. So there is certainly an emotional connect for me to Chennai. Finally, I think it’s a sound business decision.
Q. Freshdesk is known to attract young talent, and the company itself has a tendency to hire outside the IITs and IIMs. So what do you think makes a talented young graduate want to work with you?
A. I believe that it’s easier to build a company that’s loved by shareholders, but it’s much harder to build a company that’s loved by its employees, customers and shareholders. But it’s worth trying, in the vein of Apple and Google. We’re not here to make a quick buck; we want to build a scalable, sustainable company.
Now, what we offer the young employee is a career, which is like a tripod. One leg of this tripod is knowledge, the second is the challenges and responsibilities you encounter and the third is money. Hence, real career growth encompasses all three aspects. That tangible growth is what we offer to our employees, not just a title.
There’s a lot of ‘learning by doing’ which involves pushing our freshers right into their work to learn. In fact, we’re launching a product, Globot, built entirely by freshers.
Q. Final question: the startup culture is obviously huge in India now. What would be one major Do, and one major Don’t, you’d offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?
A. One major Do is : build the right structure as your company grows, and build world-class products.
And the Don’t is: don’t assume money will solve every problem.
We, The Guindy Times thank Mr.Girish for his time, and wish him luck in his continued success.