- The firm, which he co-started with Shan Krishnasamy in a 700 feet warehouse in Chennai, has grown into a global business, headquartered in San Mateo, California.
Entrepreneur Girish Mathrubootham is on cloud nine. His company, Freshworks, created history last week, by becoming the first Indian software-as-a-service (SaaS) company to list on the Nasdaq. The company, which has raised funding from investors like Accel and Sequoia Capital, had announced the pricing of its IPO of 28,500,000 shares of Class A common stock at $36 per share. Forbes says “Freshworks raised $1.03 billion, selling 28.5 million shares,” which “started trading at a 21 percent premium to the IPO price and closed the day 32 percent higher at $47.55.” Mathrubootham, 46, is worth an estimated $700 million, Forbes notes.
Freshworks offers a suite of cloud-based business software products in the $120 billion global cloud application services market. It was recently featured in the Forbes Cloud 100 list, the ranking of the top 100 private cloud companies in the world, for five years in a row, improving its ranking from No. 95 in 2017 to No.10 this year.
On Sept. 22, Mathrubootham was joined by his family — wife Shoba, sons Charan and Sanjay — and members of his team, to ring the Nasdaq bell. “Today is a dream come true for me – from humble beginnings in #Trichy to ringing the bell at @Nasdaq for the FreshWorks IPO,” Mathrubootham tweeted on Sept. 22. “Thank you to our employees, customers, partners, and investors for believing in this dream.”
In a tweet, the following day, he wrote: Today, I feel good! Yesterday @FreshworksInc officially became a public company, trading on @Nasdaq as $FRSH. I’m humbled and grateful to lead this amazing company and invite you to learn a little more about our journey.”
The official handle of the San Mateo, California-headquartered company shared pictures of “celebrations of delight made easy around the world with our Freshworks kudumba.”
In a chat with best-selling author and Forbes writer Micah Solomon, which is posted on the Freshworks website, Mathrubootham explained that calling the team Freshworks kudumba was a way of emphasizing that the employees were a family, and it was “family first” at the firm. “Kudumbam means family in Tamil, which is the language we speak in Chennai, where Freshworks was founded,” he said. “I thought it was a great way to remind everyone that we are proud of our heritage and roots as an Indian company. I also wanted to help people understand what brings us together, that we are family, and we take care of each other. Family comes first, and we are an employee-first company.”
CNBC, citing calculations from Goldman Sachs reported that “as many as 150 Indian startups could potentially list on the U.S. stock market over the next 36 months,” which could add “as much as $400 billion of market value. At that rate, India could surpass the UK as the world’s 5th largest stock market by 2024,” the report said.
Mathrubootham was born in March 1974, in a middle-class family. Son of a retired banker from Trichy, in Tamil Nadu, he attended the Campion Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School. He later went on to complete his graduation in B.E – Electricals and Electronics, from the Shanmugha Arts, Science Technology and Research Academy, in 1996, followed by a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Madras, specializing in marketing.
Before joining tech giant Zoho, Mathrubootham worked at several companies, including HCL Cisco, eForce and AdventNetInc. It was Zoho that Mathrubootham first thought of starting his own company.
In 2010, he and his colleague Shan Krishnasamy launched Freshdesk, based out of a 700 feet warehouse in Chennai. Indiatimes says “Freshdesk revolutionized the way customers interacted with the companies, using social media.” It helped companies to address customer complaints across different channels, allowing them to have information such as account details, subscriptions, or payment information in a quick-accessible manner.
It took eight years for the company’s revenue to touch $100 million. Soon after in 2017, the company rebranded to Freshworks. CFO Tyler Sloat told CFO Dive that “in recent years, Freshworks’ headquarters moved from Chennai, India to San Mateo, California, though most of its engineers stayed put. About 85 percent of its workforce is based in India, Sloat said. “Our heartbeat is in Chennai; we don’t have any plans to change that.” The company has global offices in India, Australia, the UK and Germany.
In an interview with Business Insider, Mathrubootham shared stories from his life’s journey, of life post his parents’ divorce and his sought road to success. He recalled how in 1992 when he didn’t do well in his Grade 12 entrance exams for engineering, he was ridiculed by his relatives. “I have had relatives who have told me that I am only good enough to be a rickshaw puller,” Mathrubootham told Business Insider. He said those moments taught him a lot. “The point is you don’t have to fight (the naysayers) at that point of time, you don’t have to react or respond, but to use it to fire to do something creative,” he said.
When he moved to India from the U.S., “after the dot-com bubble had burst at the turn of the millennium,” he had to settle with a lesser paying job. He had to rent an apartment, while several of his friends were homeowners. “People’s definition of success is different. I was looking at being happy. So I was going after what made me happy, not chasing money. I was enjoying my career, building products and having fun, my friends knew that but I think that was okay.”
Today, the young entrepreneur has come a long way from his struggling days.
In the company’s S-1 filing last month for an SEC registration, Mathrubootham shared the vision for the company’s next chapter. SEC registration is required for U.S. companies that want to be listed on a national exchange. “I’m very proud that Freshworks is a pioneer of Indian entrepreneurship and of our ability to blend the art of Indian design with the science of Silicon Valley scaling,” he wrote. “We’ve been on an incredible journey so far, working hard to build a company that is loved by employees and customers,” he added. “It’s day zero all over again for Freshworks as we start our public journey to build an iconic global software product company.”