Thanks to a broken TV, the Freshdesk team now sits in Mindspace Berlin.
It all dates back to 2010, when founder Girish Mathrubootham relocated from India to the United States. His television broke en route, and getting in touch with the moving company to request a refund proved to be quite a difficult feat to overcome. Mathrubootham soon realized that, despite living in the digital age, a great hurdle served as a barrier to contacting companies. And this hurdle needed to be overcome. It was not just his problem; it was everyone’s problem. And it was not just the problem of a moving company, but of every company.
There was, for example, David Caroll, a singer whose guitar broke during a United Airlines flight. For over a year he tried getting in touch with United for a refund, to no avail. So he wrote about it, and a song about how “United breaks guitars” soon took the web by storm, creating a catastrophic nightmare for United PR.
To save both companies and customers from future possible headaches and to break the communication barrier between the two, Mathrubootham took to the drawing board. The customer service experience needed improvement – that was a given. Requests needed to be given responses within minutes, and not within days. But how could that be achieved?
To counter the problem, Mathrubootham and his partner Shan Krishnasamy developed a software to help companies manage the inflow of customer requests and complaints easily on various platforms: e-mail, phone, and web-forms. Thus, Freshdesk was born in 2010. Today, Freshdesk serves roughly 80,000 companies in 145 countries. They have offices in Sydney, London, San Francisco, Chennai, and Berlin.
Arun Mani, the Managing Director for Continental Europe, along with five other Freshdesk workers, is based on Mindspace’s 6th floor above Berlin’s Friedrichstraße.
“We wanted to open an office in Europe, and when thinking about locations, we primarily wanted to be at the heart of Europe so we can reach clients across Europe quickly when needed.,” he explains. “In Berlin, you can also find young multi-lingual talent, many start-up events and networking activities. I’ve seen these sorts of things only in Silicon Valley, NYC and maybe Tel Aviv. Being here in Berlin also gives us the option to easily access the German-speaking market, the largest in Europe,” he says. “That is why we chose Berlin.”
Mindspace’s Berlin opening coincided with Freshdesk’s launch in the German market. It was a perfect match. The opportunity to connect with other Mindspace-based companies is what convinced Arun Mani to settle for the space. “Our office is located directly next to the terrace,” he says. “When coworkers come here to smoke, they pass by and see our billboard. That gets us talking. Who knows, maybe one of them will be our next customer.”
The fully equipped offices and services offered also attracted him to the space. “We have bigger problems to take care of. At Mindspace, we can plug and play,” he says.
One of Freshdesk’s current challenges is to penetrate the traditional, skeptical German Mittelstand market. Family businesses pose the greatest challenge. “They are not convinced easily,” Mani says. “They prefer direct contacts. It takes time to win their trust.”He outlines a fundamental difference in culture and business etiquette. “If you give the Brits a two-page document about our work, they will say: ‘sounds good.’ Give the same document to Germans, and they’ll come back with a hundred follow-up questions,” Mani explains. “They want to know exactly how it works. Details are essential to them.”
Another Freshdesk goal is to improve internal communication in large corporations. “In a company spanning 100,000+ people, employees somehow become equivalent to customers for the legal, IT, HR and financial departments,” Mani explains. “We seek to target that.”
He illustrates how it works: “Suppose I see a broken glass on the Mindspace balcony. I would write an e-mail to Anton, our community manager. He would start working on it, but processing the request takes time. Our software would show you that ‘Anton is working on it’ so that you don’t think your request for maintenance went unnoticed.”
A lot of things are happening with Freshdesk this year. Mani is sure of it. “We’re not a startup, we’re a scale-up,” he explains. “Our business is growing 100% every year. At the moment, we’re a team of six in Berlin, but by the end of the year we’ll likely be 10.”
As for Freshdesk’s Berlin’s vision? “Our vision is not only to break into the German speaking market but the pan-European market,” he says. Setting sight on the Nordics, ,Nederland and France, he says, “We hope to grow through Mindspace.”
Arun Mani, an electrical and computer engineer, grew up in India. Prior to Freshdesk, he lived in USA, Singapore, France, and Great Britain. He worked as an advisor and as a sales leader for Intel, Accenture, McKinsey, and AppNexus.
Arun Mani on ‘This is Berlin’
Berlin is a special place. But for a city of its size, it lacks economic weight. Only one or two of the 30 DAX-listed companies are based here. You can feel that this city, with its millions of inhabitants, is still evolving. That’s what makes it so exciting and attractive for so many people. In Silicon Valley, everyone is an engineer. Here, everyone is doing something different.
Where would you be in a world without high-tech?
I’d find something to do. I’m a yoga teacher, I love to read, to meditate, to be with nature. My wife’s family lives in the countryside of Bavaria and the internet there is really bad. It lets us reconnect with nature. Every other year I travel to Costa Rica for one or two weeks, straight to the jungle, sans phone or Internet. So I know what it’s like to disconnect.
Office: 637, 6th Floor, Friedrichstraße.