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Q&A: India’s SaaS superstar Girish Mathrubootham on his secret strategies

Girish Mathrubootham Startup Saas Freshdesk Freshwork News - Retail In Asia

India’s best known SaaS startup Freshdesk rebrands itself Freshworks today. Under this umbrella will be multiple business software products, including customer support software Freshdesk that shook up global rivals soon after its launch in 2011.

Its restructuring has been quietly in the works since early last year when Freshdesk bought the Freshworks domain. But a lot of back and forth went on before the company eventually decided to go ahead with the new name.

Currently, Freshworks has four products: Freshdesk, Freshservice, Freshsales, and Freshcaller – all designed to work “together to increase collaboration and help teams better connect and communicate with their customers and co-workers.”

Here are excerpts from an interview with Girish on the evolution of Freshdesk into a multi-product company, the thought behind its rebranding to Freshworks, and tips for entrepreneurs building product-driven companies.

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Has Freshdesk outgrown its name for the company?

When we started in 2010, we wanted to build a fresh helpdesk, and that is why we called the company and the product Freshdesk. We always wanted to build a multi-product company, but in the early days we did not give away our strategy. We needed to do well with one product before we could embark on the next one.

Over the years, we saw that more than 23 percent of our customers were using Freshdesk for internal team support, so we launched Freshservice. Last year, we launched Freshsales. Today, we have tens of thousands of customers using Freshservice and Freshsales. And we saw that with the name Freshdesk, though it is a great brand now, everybody thought of us as a customer support or helpdesk brand. We wanted to create a brand which allows us to tell people that we are a multi-product company and not just one product. So now we have Freshworks which will be the umbrella brand and Freshdesk will continue as a product.

Freshdesk has become so well-known around the world. Was it scary to rename the company? What was the thought process?

When Freshsales took off, we started talking about the rebranding again. There was a lot going on and we were also afraid. We didn’t know if Freshworks was the right way to go. We had a well-established brand with Freshdesk, so should we stick to it? We were going back and forth on which way to go. This was a very strategic move for the company and we didn’t want to make a mistake. After a lot of deliberation, we finally realized that this was the right way to go.

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What is the key takeaway for entrepreneurs from the Freshworks journey as a SaaS startup?

In the early days, we focused on winning in the SMB (small and medium business) market. We knew that since we were sitting in Chennai, doing sales over the phone and web, our ability to close really large deals in 2011 or 2012 was less. The decision to keep the focus on SMB and keep building the product was important.

As the product gained credibility, bigger companies started coming inbound. One of the biggest discoveries for us was that. We didn’t go sell much to bigger companies, but a lot of them reached out to us inbound, they start trialing our product for one of their teams, and then more of their teams would start using us as well.

To give you an example, SolarCity is one of our bigger customers. They started with 40 agents and today they have more than 2,000 agents with us. So that was kind of a different business model – where instead of selling top down, we were assisting customers who were buying from us.

It is not luck, and others are also experiencing this new model. Rather than going and signing a big multi-million-dollar contract for software, the big companies now want to start small – try it with one team, see how it goes, and then rapidly expand.

What is the most important thing entrepreneurs should keep in mind while building a software product company?

We are a product company. Every business problem that we have, we try to come up with a product-based solution. When we do not go after large enterprise customers, one common opinion that everybody holds is that it is very hard to grow fast and ramp up revenue as you mostly have mid-market customers or SMB customers. So our strategy was that we will build more products and we will get more money from the customers, so that we can ramp up revenue faster. We tie everything to our business model, and we do everything in a product-driven manner.

(Source: Tech In Asia )

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