When I joined the rocket ship called Freshworks in 2016, I enjoyed setting up the SDR team during my first year. It was a great problem to solve! Building a high-quality lead team for the mid-market segment became important for us.
I have spent most part of my working life being a marketer or a consultant. So a year and a half later after joining Freshworks, I went back to my calling, i.e. marketing. When I knew Freshchat was being inducted into the Freshworks family, I wanted to be part of the story.
The day when the baby was born
So, I joined the Freshchat team to head the product marketing function, and I joined them pre-launch. I had a couple of rounds of interesting conversations with two other members of the product marketing team, Shruti and Swathi, and a long talk about Freshchat’s positioning with Sri, who heads the BU.
Initially, we had planned to launch the product by the 9 September. But we postponed the launch by a week more because we wanted to ship the product with all the essential parts. So we decided to launch Freshchat on 18 September. When I heard about the new launch date, my heart sank. That’s because a year before, on the same day—18 September 2016—my wife and I became parents to our lovely son, T.
I was at work by 8:30 am on the day of launch since I wanted to ensure we had everything in place. We were launching the product from India and wanted a press release to go out by 9 am PST. Ahhh! Launching from India has its advantages; it literally gives you a day’s worth of headstart to get things done. My initial plan was to get the product website up and running by ~6:30 pm (6:30 am PST), set the launch in motion, and get back home to spend the rest of the evening with T.
The clock struck 7:30 pm and I was still with Girish—the dreamer who envisioned the Freshworks ensemble—still fine-tuning product positioning and finding the perfect words to say on our website. It was the final mile sprint. Girish pointed me to this Hackernoon article which talked about how keeping things simple and precise makes a lot more sense than being wordy. My mind was aligned with what he was saying, but in my heart, I was just interested in getting back home. After all, it was my son’s first birthday and I wanted to be with him on this special day.
But the website was not even on staging and things were getting heated up, both for launch and the rush to get home to see T. Fast forward to a few hours, we launched Freshchat, the press release went live, and we got hunted on ProductHunt too.
Sadly, the day went by without me getting to see T. By the time I reached home, he was fast asleep. I could only wish my sleeping son for his very first birthday. It was a bittersweet day for me.
On the outside, I was ecstatic because the product launched and people were responding to it positively. On the inside, I was feeling horrible to have missed my kid’s first ever birthday. I know for a fact, in the years to come, he would discover this article and ask for a bribe every time he feels it was unfair.
Raising a wild child
Once T was born, the first six months were extremely overwhelming for me and my wife. We discovered that kids don’t follow a routine. They whine when they feel like, cry when they feel like, sleep when they feel like, and eat when they feel like. Honestly, there were times in the first six to eight months after T was born when I said to myself, “I am not ready for it”.
It felt the same launching Freshchat too. The first six months was a mad rush. There was so much to do in terms of aligning GTM activities, product positioning, creating support documentation, planning campaigns, setting customer journeys, improving website optimization, etc. We were already understaffed. Just a few months after launch, Swathi, who looked after content, decided to leave the company for doing something else than product marketing. But for us back here, it was not just marketing, because there were so many more things. I even ended up doing parts of pre-sales, sales, support—you name it.
Having a baby and taking care of him in the first six months and growing the product felt the same. You are not ready for it. But once you move past that phase, it all makes sense.
After the first six months of having T, I remember, he started responding more. He would smile back at my funny faces or giggle at all the horrible sounds that I made. It felt fulfilling to see him smile; it all started to feel worthwhile. All the gaga, gugu, crying, whining, and sleepless nights were all worth it.
The first few months went like a minute. But from that moment on, there was no looking back. We have grown wiser, bigger, and more accomplished as a product in the last one year.
Five months into Freshchat’s launch, we hit a huge milestone. It was much faster than what we all had expected. Most customers who we acquired back then are still with us and they are able to see the great value that we offer. They appreciate the experience and engagement that we offer through our product.
We’re really proud to have brought innovation to the table with features like Message Channels (unique to Freshchat), web push notifications for the customer widget (an industry-first), and IntelliAssign. Within a year of our launch, we have had large gaming companies, financial services companies, and e-commerce businesses re-write their RFPs for chat after getting a demo with us.
Before Freshchat’s launch, there were two types of products in this space—the legacy live chat products and the more modern products that enable asynchronous messaging experiences. We are really happy that we have been able to arrive at a pricing model which helps companies move from traditional experiences to a product built for 2018 without having to worry about a new pricing model or getting charged for every user who ever used the system. We have created an impact in this space and forced some of our competitors to move away from pricing that did not make sense for customers. We are glad to have made a positive impact in the industry.
I really believe that we as a team have identified great opportunities to push the boundaries and we are continuously working towards driving new experiences for customers.
I might not be able to share all the data points to show you how big we have become in the past one year. But I can share a few non-confidential data to give you a glimpse of how far we have come within the first year of launch:
- Our customer churn is half than that of the industry average
- We are consistently rated leader on G2 Crowd for Summer and Fall 2018
We are happy to be able to solve the problems we set out to accomplish through Freshchat, be it lead generation or exceptional support. It feels great.
Finishing our first victory lap
It is 18 September again and it is as special as the last two years and will remain special to me—forever. And this time, I am spending time with T. He has grown to love animals, mostly elephants, and I have brought him to the Singapore Zoo that I had seen with awe when I was much younger. Both these babies, T and Freshchat, have grown to keep me on toes and give a lot of meaning to my life.
Right now, I’m with T baby celebrating his birthday among his favorite animals, while I have a bunch of awesome people taking care of the other baby and celebrating its birthday.
I’m so immensely proud of the two. Happy birthday, baby!
(Cover GIF and image editing by Karthikeyan Ganesh)