W Power 2024

Fresh Guard: Can India transform from an IT services to IT products leader?

Freshworks' recent listing has its founder Girish Mathrubhootham convinced India can command its place on the global map as a product nation, editor Brian Carvalho writes. That, and a glimpse into our annual luxury issue

Brian Carvalho
Published: Sep 27, 2021 10:27:00 AM IST
Updated: Sep 27, 2021 01:43:19 PM IST

The 1970-71 India cricket tour of West Indies was distinctive for many reasons—a rare India series win, Sunil Gavaskar’s debut and his back-to-back centuries in the fifth and final Test, including a double ton in the second innings. The 200-plus score is etched in cricket connoisseurs’ minds for the Little Master’s determination to save the match—after reaching 100, he put his head down and took fresh guard, as if he was starting all over again.

It’s a similar feeling for Girish Mathrubootham, founder of software products maker Freshworks. The Trichy-born 46-year-old has recently been in the middle of a gruelling binge of back-to-back virtual meetings with bankers, sell-side analysts and investors on the roadshow leading up to Freshworks’ listing on the Nasdaq. The initial public offering (IPO) is a landmark event for the Indian founder, and roughly 4,400 employees, most of them in India working out of their homes (Freshworks is headquartered in San Mateo, California).

But as Mathrubootham told Forbes India’s Technology Editor Harichandan Arakali, listing day is Day Zero. “The work begins now. The IPO is about fulfilling my responsibility to my (VC) investors. Now we have a new set of investors to answer to.” Like Gavaskar, the software as a service (SaaS) evangelist is taking fresh guard for a new innings. The fresh priorities: To fulfil the promise to investors that Freshworks has long-term growth potential and is indeed here to stay—and scale.  

Mathrubootham envisions a huge opportunity for SaaS. He sees India commanding its place on the global map as a product nation. And Freshworks becoming for IT products what Infosys was for IT services when it IPOed almost two decades ago. As Freshworks makes the transition from startup to a listed enterprise, Mathrubootham is convinced that the IT product sector can be a bigger creator of value than services, and that SaaS is a trillion-dollar opportunity. I won’t reveal any more, but for insights into Mathrubootham’s ambitions and the roadmap for the next stage of growth, Arakali’s ‘SaaS Appeal’ makes for a gripping read.

Like most tech-led businesses, Freshworks sees a huge opportunity in a post-pandemic world, which includes disrupting traditional customer relationship management. Elsewhere, the luxury sector—the subject of our special package this fortnight—seems to be stuck between the rock of a pandemic-induced shift to digital and the hard place of a tentative return to physical stores. Amid such uncertainty, when the virus and its variants seem set to keep us company in 2022 as well, the buzzwords for luxury providers and consumers are to either adapt or scale down. The best example of the former, as Kathakali Chanda writes, is the increasing popularity of ‘quarantourism’, which is witnessing the well-heeled flying into destinations like Belgrade and Mexico before entering the UK or the US.
The scaling-down phenomenon—in terms of the guest list, but not necessarily the splurge quotient—will be best observed in the wedding season. As Monica Bathija puts it in ‘Fifty Guests and a Wedding’, there may be no grand baarats or huge entertainment acts, but the focus is on detailed décor and complete buyouts of luxury properties.

Luxury for the affluent often begins at home—even when they are working from it. For architects and designers, that means an opportunity to design residential workspaces with as much grandeur and personalisation as they would an extravagant villa. In the photo feature, Madhu Kapparath, our in-house shutterbug with an eye for the exquisite, presents what happens when the luxe life and HNI corner room come together.  

Brian Carvalho
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id:@Brianc_Ed