Relatives Told Me I Was Only Good Enough To Be A Rickshaw Puller: Freshworks CEO Girish Mathrubootham

Girish Mathrubootham is currently the toast of India’s startup ecosystem — his startup Freshworks has become the first Indian SaaS company to list on the NASDAQ, it commands a valuation of $13 billion, and more than 500 of Freshworks’ Indian employees have turned crorepatis after the IPO. But when he was growing up, Girish Mathrubootham didn’t necessarily seem destined for big things.

In 1992, Girish Mathrubootham had written his Class 12 exams, and hadn’t managed to do particularly well. He was then faced with a situation that is all too common in India — barbs from nosy relatives over academic performance. “In 12th grade, I got my marks. Engineering admissions were based on entrance exams. I didn’t score well in those entrance exams,” Mathrabootham told Business Insider in an interview. “(A relative) told me I was only good enough to be a rickshaw puller,” he added.

But Mathrubootham didn’t let the jibe get to him. He joined SASTRA University, and completed a BE in Electrical Engineering. He then finished an MBA in Marketing from the University of Madras. He ended up joining HCL in 1999, and moved to the US. Mathrubootham was doing well in the US — he was earning an annual salary of $85,000 (Rs. 30 lakh). But then he decided to come back to India. The move didn’t make much financial sense — he had a salary of just Rs. 40,000 after he’d returned to his homeland. He worked with Chennai-based Zoho for 6 six years, and then founded Freshworks in 2010. The rest, as they say, is history — far from pulling rickshaws, Mathrubootham now has founded one of India’s most successful companies, and has a personal net worth is over Rs. 5,000 crore.

“Society will change, but it’s not something you can control,” Mathrubootham says about the ridicule he’d received from his relatives. “Rather than trying to change society, you can start focusing on two things. One, develop a thick skin, and ignore what others say about you. Second, you don’t have to react. You don’t let it get to you. You focus that energy, and use it to do something creative.”