Employees made us who we are, they are equal owners: Freshworks CEO

Topics Freshworks | IPOs | SaaS industry

Girish Mathrubootham, Founder & CEO, Freshworks
After a “superstar” initial public offering (IPO) at the Nasdaq, which made 12 per cent of the company’s employees crorepatis overnight, Freshworks founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) GIRISH MATHRUBOOTHAM says employees are equal owners of his company. In an exclusive interview with Shine Jacob, he shares his views on the journey so far, what his IPO means to the SaaS (software as a system) ecosystem in India, and the road ahead for $85-million venture capital fund Together, launched by him. Edited excerpts:


On your debut day itself, your market cap crossed $13 billion. Looking back, how are you seeing the growth story of Freshworks?


We’re humbled by the market response and proud to be the first B2B SaaS company from India to go public on the global stage. We look forward to building Freshworks for the long haul. It has been a memorable journey, one that we will continue together as the Freshworks kudumba (family).


More than 500 of your employees or over 12 per cent of the 4,300 employees became crorepatis overnight. How do you assess this achievement? You have said it is not just the founders who should be richer.


Our employees have made us who we are and are equal owners of Freshworks. We are glad we have been able to share the wealth with them.


Along with Manav Garg, founder and CEO of cloud platform Eka Software, you recently launched a $85-million venture-capital fund called Together. What was the vision behind coming up with the fund?


Together is an early-stage, venture-capital fund to help India’s best entrepreneurs build, scale and win together to establish India as a product nation. It’s more than a fund — it’s a way to pay it forward to the start-up community and is designed to be “founder-first”. While financial returns matter, that is secondary to the fund’s primary imperative to ensure that it does right by the founder at all times, operating on the simple, but often forgotten, belief that what is good for the founder is good for the company and ultimately good for investors.


After the “Superstar” IPO, what is your next major goal in business and what are the important benchmarks you have set for the next few years?


I cannot comment on financial benchmarks. As a company, we will continue to scale and invest in innovation, including our vision for a new product experience that breaks down data silos and creates unified experiences. We’re designing products now for a future where businesses are ready to embrace our vision of a unified customer cloud —and someday, a unified employee cloud. In the meantime, we continue to execute, build our business, and focus on delighting our customers.


How do you see growth prospects for the SaaS eco-system after the pandemic?


The pandemic accelerated digitisation, which is here to stay. There has been a behavioural shift -- everything is online and digital. I don’t see this changing anytime soon and B2B SaaS companies will benefit from this accelerated push towards digitisation.


For the Indian SaaS ecosystem and for growing entrepreneurs, what are the key takeaways from Freshworks’ story?


If anything, it will show entrepreneurs that it is possible to succeed listing in the US as well as in India (as Zomato and multiple other IPOs have portrayed recently). The important takeaway from Freshworks is that you have to focus on the right things first. We invested in our products and they are carrying us now. If you get the ingredients right, it is just a matter of execution.


What are the major changes we can expect in your business strategy and product portfolio after the current listing?


It is business as usual. We have been operating like a public company for the past few quarters and will continue to do so.

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