WATCH: "Someone said I am good enough to be a rickshaw puller," shares Freshworks CEO Girish Mathrubootham in a candid chat

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WATCH: "Someone said I am good enough to be a rickshaw puller," shares Freshworks CEO Girish Mathrubootham in a candid chat
Girish Mathrubootham is the co-founder and CEO of Freshworks.@Nasdaq/Twitter
  • Girish Mathrubootham is the co-founder and CEO of Freshworks, which is worth nearly $13 billion.
  • “The point is you don't have to fight at that point of time, you don't have to react or respond, but to use it to fire to do something creative,” he says.
  • The 46-year old Mathrubootham shared stories from his life’s journey, from his parents’ divorce to scornful relatives, and how he dealt with the down moments in his life, in an interview with Business Insider.
“I have had relatives who have told me that I am only good enough to be a rickshaw puller,” says Girish Mathrubootham, the man who went on to build Freshworks, one of the biggest software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies in India.

With a valuation of $13 billion, Freshworks has become the first decacorn (a startup valued at over $10 billion) in this space and the first Indian SaaS company to list on Nasdaq. In a candid conversation with Business Insider, the co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) opened up about his early life and the challenges he overcame.

The 46-year old Mathrubootham remembered the scornful remarks from 1992, when he couldn't score high enough in his class 12 and entrance exams for engineering ⁠— not from his parents but his relatives ⁠— while speaking about how he dealt with the down moments in his life. “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,” Mathrubootham says.

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“The other thing to do is truly follow your heart, you will be happy,” he adds, while citing multiple examples from the Indian film industry including Rajkumar Hirani’s blockbuster 3 idiots. “Madhavan [R Madhavan, who plays Farhan in 3 Idiots] says, ‘It’s okay I will not have enough money but so what, I will be happy as a wildlife photographer’,” Mathrubootham recites the dialogue.


‘Success is not always about money’

He had moved back to India from the US after the dotcom bubble had burst at the turn of the millennium. From earning $85,000 a year in 2001, he was back in India at a job that only paid him ₹40,000 a month in 2005-06.

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His father, a retired bank officer today, was concerned because in his eyes all of Girish’s friends were successful with well paying jobs and had bought their own house. Girish, on the other hand, only had the in-hand salary and a two-bedroom apartment on a loan.

“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,” he adds.

‘Differentiating the well wishers and well informed’

Mathrubootham doesn’t take advice from everyone. “If you are Sachin Tendulkar, who do you take advice from — Gary Kirsten or the other man who is there in every Tendulkar match with the Indian flag painted on his body,” he says.
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He was referring to Sudhir Gautam, a die-hard fan of Tendulkar and one who would famously be seen in every match that Team India played at home. “The said man (Sudhir Gautam) is a well wisher but Kirsten has more knowledge about this field,” Mathrubootham adds.

WATCH: "Someone said I am good enough to be a rickshaw puller," shares Freshworks CEO Girish Mathrubootham in a candid chat
Sudhir GautamBCCL

“I don’t give the key to my happiness to anyone and recommend my wife to do the same,” Mathrubootham says.

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An early jolt that made him independent

Mathrubootham was young when his parents got divorced. "I would just say that experience also made me who I am and so in a very simple sense that I had to kind of fend for myself, take my own decisions and be accountable for those decisions," he says, adding he doesn’t like taking decisions on other peoples’ part including that of his own children.

If you take all the decisions for your children until they’re 25, how do you expect them to go out into the world, he adds. “Decision making also needs experience,” he believes.

SEE ALSO
Girish Mathrubootham, the son of a retired bank officer who built a $13 billion company in just 10 years
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