“What we are seeing is how sustainable the Indian startup opportunity is,” Mathrubootham said, explaining the startup opportunity in India. Taptich noted that the country now has more than 9,000 SAAS companies, which is almost double the number of such companies present in 2018. Some of these companies, like Gupshup, have even achieved unicorn ratings.
“It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in India,” exclaimed Mathrubootham. He cited a recent report from consultancy Mckinsey, which said that more than 450 different categories of SAAS software are subject to disruption, which in turn creates more opportunities for SAAS companies in India to build new products.
Further, Mathrubootham says, the growth of the startup community in India has been made possible in part by AWS, which “levels the playing field” in a way that anyone who is anywhere in India can get to work on a startup. That, coupled with a “disruptive go-to-market capability” through online customer acquisition and “product-driven growth,” could be the secret sauce for startups to achieve success in India, Mathrubootham said.
But during this growth phase, the other major concern facing the industry is talent acquisition. Mathrubootham noted that talent today is the “number one challenge” for any CEO or any team, whether they are in India or the US, whether they are a startup or a full-fledged venture.
He advised younger entrepreneurs and startups to pay close attention to their hiring plans and who they hire. For Freshworks, he said the company benefited from the fact that AWS also allows companies to get rid of IT infrastructure costs and focus on building their core product.
The company outsourced these costs to AWS portfolio companies when it had just six employees and has taken the task back into its own hands. Now that Freshworks has 5,000 employees around the world, “We are on a mission to make people enjoy using their business software,” he said. “Our next frontier is to clearly break the silos of sales, marketing and support,” he added.
For young startups, Mathrubootham said it’s critical to focus on the company’s ability to attract new talent rather than just scaling in-house employees. “I think founders should always think two to three years ahead of the company and make sure that people you hire as directors and VPs are the right fit for those roles after you grow,” he said. He advised against pitching big titles to attract talent and said companies should set the right expectations; so that employees are not disappointed later.
Finally, Taptich and Mathrubootham discussed emerging technologies and how it is necessary for companies to experiment smartly. He said Freshworks divides the company into a performance zone, an operational zone, an incubation zone, and a transformation zone, with the performance zone responsible for quarterly results, while the startup zone moves quickly and experiments with new products.