Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Girish Mathrubootham: The Sa(a)Sy entrepreneur

CEO and founder Girish Mathrubootham sets his sights on listing Freshworks in the US as the startup's subscription-based revenue touches $100 million

Published: Sep 21, 2018 10:58:00 AM IST
Updated: Sep 21, 2018 05:06:56 PM IST

Girish Mathrubootham: The Sa(a)Sy entrepreneurGirish Mathrubootham, founder and CEO, Freshworks; Image: P Ravi Kumar for Forbes India

The Freshworks juggernaut continues to roll. In the last 15 months, the Chennai-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup—founded by Girish Mathrubootham in October 2010—achieved an annual recurring revenue (ARR, which is subscription based) of $100 million (approximately ₹728 crore at current currency exchange rates), announced three acquisitions, entered the African markets of Kenya and Nigeria, and rebranded itself from Freshdesk to Freshworks.

“Freshdesk [a cloud-based customer support software] was the product we started with, our flagship. But as soon as we took the multi-product route, we knew it was time to rebrand,” says Founder and CEO Mathrubootham, 43. In doing so, Freshworks has become the umbrella brand for all SaaS products of the company, namely Freshdesk, Freshsales, Freshservice, Freshmarketer, Freshcaller and Freshchat.

“It is an extraordinary company that is going after a $50-billion worldwide market,” says Shekar Kirani, partner at venture fund Accel, which is an investor in Freshworks. “It is one of the top three SaaS companies in the world to grow from $1 million to $100 million ARR in less than six years.” The startup’s other investors include Tiger Global Management, CapitalG and Sequoia Capital India. To date, Freshworks has raised $249 million in venture capital and boasts an enterprise valuation of $1.5 billion.

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“If I look at the next six years, Girish and his team will create a phenomenal impact on mid-market customers worldwide in enabling them to get their business done better,” says Kirani, who is on the board of Freshworks.

However, Freshworks’ ride to success has invited its share of criticism. Critics have labelled it a copy of NYSE-listed Zendesk, a San Francisco-headquartered customer service software company. “In 2011 we were called a replica (or rip-off) for having the word ‘desk’ in our name,” says Mathrubootham. “Today, anyone who has used Freshdesk will know that the fundamental difference [between the two companies] is in our approach; we believe that customer support is everyone’s business, and not that of the customer support team only.”

Another differentiator, he continues, is that Freshworks offers multiple customer engagement products across functions like sales, support and marketing, compared to its competitors who offer only customer support software services.

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“We will eventually go public in the US, but we haven’t started the IPO process as yet. At present, our primary focus is on growing the business and investing in our platform,” says Mathrubootham.