“We want our leaders to really understand people’s problems.”— Girish Mathrubootham, cofounder, Freshworks
Freshworks, a business-to-business software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup, has been growing in multiple digits and is one of the fastest growing unicorns in the Indian startup ecosystem. With nearly 1,300 employees, the company has already achieved $100 Mn annual recurring revenue and $250 Mn in funding to date. It is backed by investors such as Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, and CapitalG.
Founded in 2010 by Girish Mathrubootham and Shan Krishnasamy, Freshworks has been constantly innovating to make additions to its product portfolio. It recently launched its bundled Freshworks360 offering, which takes in seven individual products in CRM, ITSM, caller, chat, etc.
Freshworks has also been acquiring startups to add newer technology products and growing its userbase of more than 150K businesses and organisations worldwide.
The company’s spectacular growth is, in large part, to the credit of its strong leadership team.
The importance of senior leadership in companies was highlighted by the India report of the Global Leadership Forecast 2018, which found that developing ‘Next Gen’ leaders and failure to attract/retain top talent were rated as key challenges by 68% and 64% of respondents respectively. The India report is based on survey responses from 1,363 leaders and 161 HR professionals.
Further, a survey carried out from January through March by the global Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) revealed that India ranks in the top three markets for executive job growth for 2018, along with the US and China.
With the leadership holding the key to the growth of a company, startup founders have to shoulder the huge task of hiring the right leaders at the right time in the right role. Freshworks’ co-founder Girish Mathrubootham too highlighted this during Inc42 Facebook Live Ask Me Anything (AMA).
Mathrubootham is of the opinion that startups make a mistake by “hiring junior people in VP (vice-president) level roles early on, which doesn’t give you the ability to hire world-class talent later on.”
So, the obvious question for Inc42 to ask Mathrubootham was: What is the criteria based on which Freshworks hires for senior leadership roles.
Mathrubootham told Inc42 that, at present, the company has a very strong leadership team. STS Prasad has moved from Walmart, San Francisco, US, to Chennai as Freshworks’ senior vice-president of engineering and Sidharth Malik, the former managing director of Akamai India, has joined the company as its chief revenue officer. Freshworks has also appointed Suresh Seshadri — the former vice-president of finance and treasury at AppDynamic — as its chief financial officer and Suman Gopalan as its chief human resources officer.
“At (sic) leadership roles, you are not dealing with people who are not smart, at our profile (sic), the kind of candidates that we get are all topnotch. We are dealing with high-performance individuals who come with a lot of credibilities, a lot of references,” said Mathroobootham.
He explained that the number one focus of the company while hiring in leadership positions is to look for a culture fit.
“We are 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. Our people will turn repulsive if somebody just gives gyaan (knowledge) and just talked about theories (sic); we want our leaders today really understand people’s problems and they were able to talk to people from a heart level, playing to the experience why a change needs to happen and that also my role is to ensure that (sic),” he explained.
So, founders, according to Girish Mathrubootham, the thalaiva (leader) of Indian SaaS, the core of senior leadership hiring is ensuring the right culture fit. Also, make sure the people you hire have the ability to connect with people at a “heart” level and are not just “mind” persons.