Hailed as the demigod of the Indian SaaS industry, Freshworks cofounder and CEO Girish Mathrubootham has gone on record saying it is “a heart-driven company and not a mind-driven company, so you need to be able to speak from your heart and connect with people.”
Staying true to his words and priorities in business, while speaking to a group of founders part of Sequoia’s early-stage accelerator Surge, Mathrubootham reiterated the need for a culture of growth and cheerleading the employees.
In a chat with Sequoia Capital MD Rajan Anandan, Mathrubootham gave the example of Dindigul Thalappakatti, which is renowned for its biryani store in Tamil Nadu since 1957, and has over 60 outlets in the state.
He said that the second generation of Dindigul Thalappakatti is now expanding stores to various cities and are building the business focussed on metrics. However, a startup lesson from Mathrubootham here is that leaders at VC-funded startups should start focussing on business metrics, but they should avoid pushing down the metrics down the throats of all their employees.
“Your people should be celebrated for making biryani, not for hitting numbers,” Mathrubootham added.
“If you push down the metrics, it becomes a meaningless run. If everything becomes metrics, there is no joy in it. So, which means, there is an important role for middle manager for alignment between all the activities people are doing,” he further explained.
Girish Mathrubootham further referred this to the OKR framework— Objectives and Key Results. It is a framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. He said that if done right, OKR is actually about how taking metrics and breaking it down into activity, and the activities are actually aligned to the goals. “So if you miss celebrating the activities, that is the most important answer to keep the team motivated,” Mathrubootham explained.
He told the group to ask themselves that, “As a founder, have I created a structure where you are celebrating making biryani, while the leadership is focused on building the business.”
Further, Girish Mathrubootham also said that revenue is a lagging indicator. “It’s an outcome. You need to first focus on maximising the pipeline.”
Some of the other lessons for a great culture, according to Mathrubootham, includes acting like an owner, embracing disagreement, understanding that people can be bad fits for a role and not necessarily bad employees.