Manish Mishra, Head, Middle East & Africa, Freshworks, explains how Freshworks provides a seamless digital transformation platform for SMEs.
Please introduce Freshworks to our readers.
Freshworks’ root can be traced back to a specific ‘Eureka’ moment, related to something consumers around the world can no doubt relate to – a broken TV. It occurred when our founder Girish Mathrubootham, fondly known as G, was relocating to India in mid-2009 and the TV he had shipped arrived broken. To his frustration, the insurance company didn’t honour their commitments, and over five months of emails and phone calls yielded no result. With all other options exhausted, G took to an online forum and within just a day, not only was the money appropriately refunded to his account, he received a personal apology from the President of the company. This incident ignited the spark which eventually became the billion-dollar company dedicated to helping businesses provide delightful customer experiences through software.
So, Freshworks was born of our founder’s desire to fill the market gap for ‘democratic design’ as he couldn’t understand why technology had to be so complicated and expensive — and why users disliked using the software so much. The mission was, and remains, to massively simplify business software, designing first and foremost for the front-line user, then for the team, and then for the managers.
This is a message that has resonated strongly with businesses of all sizes and the soundness of our mission and vision was validated not only by our hugely successful IPO, but by the fact that today, we are trusted by over 56,000 customers in 120 countries.
With digitization becoming the norm in the present day, how in your opinion have startups /SMEs in the Middle East region adapted?
Digitalisation has levelled the playing field in a way few could have imagined just a few decades ago. When done right, it gives start-ups an edge, allowing them access to technologies that were previously available only to enterprises. This is the very concept of ‘democratic design’ that underpins the way we at Freshworks design and deliver our solutions. Cloud of course is key to this. It provides the platform for SMEs to digitalise operations with far less risk, predictable operational costs, and a dramatically flattened technical curve.
For this reason, we have ensured that our software is purpose built for the cloud and also for our end users, making it easy to set up and run. And we work very hard to make sure it works seamlessly for everyone. Unlike traditional enterprise software companies that design for the Fortune 500 executive suite, we design for the millions of SMBs that need business software to work out-of-the-box, empowering end-users to be productive in no time with beautiful software they will love.
With Fintech leading the way in both the startup arena and digitization, how does Freshworks offerings enable them in particular?
In the highly competitive FinTech space, elevating customer experiences is key to standing out from a pack where every other vendor has the ability to offer the same functionalities and feature sets. Freshworks therefore has a strong value proposition for FinTechs of all sizes as we enable them to double down on customer delight.
Consider AI-enabled chatbots which have become a popular focus across the region to alleviate the burden on customer service agents in industries ranging from financial services to utilities. With a Freshworks chatbot aka Freshdesk Messaging, FinTechs can offer 24x7x365 customer service, and improved satisfaction for customers and employees, while simultaneously increasing efficiency and cost savings.
This is complimented by our CRM offering. Creating a customer-first experience is crucial, but FinTechs can struggle with managing and maintaining complex customer records, such as banking history, credit scores, transaction activity, payment preferences, and financial goals. This makes it hard to build a complete picture of a customer. However, all of this can be monitored using a CRM for financial services or a customer data platform (CDP), which stores and updates this information based on their unique interests and needs.
In the FinTech world, brands leveraging these powerful technologies will gain a clear competitive edge, enabling them to provide super-slick operations, and optimise their revenue. Moreover, Freshworks enables them to predict customer needs and create personalised experiences through product recommendations and financial forecasting.
As an example of how a Freshworks solution empowered a FinTech organisation to deliver exceptional customer service, FinAccel, an Indonesian financial technology company, achieved 98% CSAT with Freshdesk Messaging.
Startups are generally lean and limited in resources. How can Freshworks help in optimizing their resources?
We recognise that it doesn’t make sense to spend inordinate amounts of time or money implementing and “configuring” software when you could just do it yourself. We handhold startups, we also provide them with all the technical support they require while simultaneously making it commercially more viable and practical for them. Our software is designed from the bottom up to be easy to pick up and learn by the front-line user in sales, support, marketing, or IT. At Freshworks, we strive to put more power into the hands of end-users through intuitive interfaces, easy integrations, and straightforward workflows. This, we believe, not only makes users more confident and autonomous but also spurs them on to get the most out of their software — and their money.
In addition to this, we also help startups with FORGE, a mentorship platform that is part of our ‘Startup Program’ that offers informative sessions, conducted by senior leadership professionals at Freshworks, enabling them to avoid common mistakes or rapidly pick up and apply learnings to help them as they grow in business.
Put simply, start-ups love Freshworks because we not only design our products for the Fortune 500 but for the Fortune 5 million as well. In their success, lies our success!
Can you share with our readers the roadmap of Freshworks especially targeting startups in the next 18- 24 months?
Broadly speaking, our mission of making customer delight easy will hold firm, but we will augment this value proposition by highlighting our ‘Power to the People’ approach which resonates especially strongly with start-ups and smaller businesses that have the pressing need for solutions that are intuitive and effective.
Freshworks is a big supporter of startups and we will continue and further enhance our support to the startup community in the months and years ahead.
What advice can Freshworks offer to the budding startups and entrepreneurs?
Three key learning from Freshworks’ success story that would serve as compelling advice for any start-up are:
Focus on your customers: Delivering a superior experience to customers should be a key focus for any start-up – this is what helped Freshworks stand out in the crowded helpdesk marketspace.
Don’t forget the little guy: The business model that worked for Freshworks was not going elephant hunting, but rather, staying focused on hunting deer and rabbits. So, while the Fortune 500 are great, there’s plenty of scope to engage with great, long-term customers outside this niche. Today, we have customers who pay us $1 million, but they did not start as $1-million customers. They start as a $50,000 or $100,000 customer and then grow over time.
Hire for passion: Recruiting talent can be a challenge, especially for start-ups that can’t match the financial compensation packages offered by large enterprises. In the early days, Freshworks overcame this challenge by hiring smart youngsters who were willing to learn and were passionate. Getting these talented professionals to buy into your company’s vision and mission will ensure they’re along for the journey and grow in expertise and capabilities along with your organisation.