“I have always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur.”
[This interview is part of our Founder Talk series wherein we share the learnings, motivations, and experiences of founders whose companies got acquired by Freshworks or who otherwise happened to join Freshworks at an exciting point in their journey.]
Even as a child, Abhishek Pande, senior architect at Freshservice, has always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps in the world of entrepreneurship. In a video interview for the Founder Talk series, he narrates his journey, roadblocks, and inspirations that eventually led him to co-found Flint, an IT orchestration and cloud management platform that was later acquired by Freshworks in 2020.
Abhishek was born in a quiet corner of the ‘orange city’ of Nagpur, the winter capital of Maharashtra. His childhood dream of starting something on his own morphed in time into a fully fleshed intention of “understanding and solving customer problems” in IT service management.
Abhishek pursued his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Nagpur. Right after college, he made his first venture into the world of software. When that didn’t take off as he had hoped, Abhishek felt the need—like many others—to find a job that offered him the safety and stability people often seek.
So in early 2006, Abhishek started working as a configuration controller with InteQ Corporation. In this role, he managed the build and deployment of products and related documents throughout the product’s lifecycle. CA Technologies later acquired the company.
Looking back on the course of events that eventually led him to co-found Flint, he considered this “a milestone experience” for his career. That was his first foray into the domain of IT service management. Needless to say, he took to the domain like a knife to cheese.
I felt a natural urge to understand and solve customer problems in the ITSM field.
Once he began to understand what plagued customers in the ITSM domain, he aligned his team with the problems they wanted to solve. “Then we started solving those problems, which put me on the path of starting my own venture, which became Flint,” he said.
Flint was born out of the idea that the next era of IT service management should focus on automation.
Automation can help employees avoid manual tasks and enable enterprises to focus on growing fast once they do not have to tackle everything manually.
Abhishek narrated that although the idea of the venture was seeded in 2013, he started working on Flint only in the latter half of 2016. In the meantime, his passion for solving customer problems led him to join a series of organizations where he worked in myriad roles managing teams and driving new ideas and trends in automation.
“As a consultant at BMC Software, I would often visit customers to understand their pain points better. I realized we could solve their problems by automating their IT processes most of the time,” Abhishek explained. The more he observed his customers, the more convinced he became that his childhood dream of doing something on his own had finally landed him in the right place: into the world of solving ITSM customer problems with automation.
Taking his cue from the buzz around infrastructure as a code, Abhishek and his colleague from BMC Software, Ankur Gakkhar, toiled for days to develop a platform where the “IT administrator can finally feel at home.” What ‘home’ signified was a sense of respite, a feeling of delight where admins could automate mundane tasks. With repetitive tasks out of the way, it became easier for admins to concentrate their time and resources on something more innovative.
Shortly after Abhishek and Ankur launched Flint’s beta version, they stumbled upon their first customer serendipitously while attending a startup conference in Pune. The customer was an IT organization based in Mumbai looking for software to streamline and manage their employee onboarding and management efforts.
Abhishek’s eyes lit up as he narrated the inspiring incident.
After the conference, we installed Flint and worked with them on fifteen use cases to start things off. The software was on-premises then. I was curious when a full year went by without hearing back from them. “What happened to the software? Are they even using it?”
That’s when I decided to go back and find out.
The feedback was surprisingly pleasant.
Everything was working seamlessly, so the customer didn’t get in touch. The fact that a beta version of Flint was running perfectly without glitches and solving the complex tasks of employee management and onboarding for an organization with more than 10,000 employees made us more confident.
What’s in a name?
“The name was Ankur’s idea,” said Abhishek. He explained that the name for their IT operations and cloud management software was ‘loosely’ based on ‘flint stones’—not the 1960s animated sitcom about a modern stone-age man on the verge of misadventures but the stones themselves.
He explained the thought behind the moniker beautifully.
Early humans used flint stones to make tools. The world has changed, but not so much. We are digital but also analog. At the end of the day, we still want to build tools which can help us work better.”
In the context of ITSM software, he added, “Now, we want administrators to use tools like Flint to automate repetitive tasks for them easily.”
What Abhishek related is a recipe for ‘delight made easy,’ our mantra at Freshworks. In early 2020, Freshworks welcomed Flint into its family of fresh solutions that enabled customer and employee delight with easy-to-use software.
Abhishek considers this decision “a natural progression.” He explained, “We were already helping Freshworks customers with automation requirements for over a year. Once we were confident that our tools and technology were compatible and fully scalable, we wanted to take this relationship to the next level with Freshworks.”
Flint’s software has bolstered Freshservice’s IT service management and operations management capabilities with better insights into managing hybrid infrastructure, optimizing spending, and automating employee workflows. As part of Freshworks, the Flint co-founders are now in charge of their respective teams—with Ankur leading the automation and cloud management product team and Abhishek spearheading the platform and technology integration effort.
In his new role, Abhishek feels himself at the center of things.
It’s exciting to be at the right place at the right time. The business is ever-growing, which means customers are getting onboarded daily in large numbers. It also means that customer requirements are changing rapidly. You must work toward scaling a product, tweaking its architecture according to Freshworks standards while being flexible with your thinking and cautious with time and resources.
A culture of delight
Speaking about the Freshworks work culture, he said: “After spending 15 odd years (and counting) in this industry, I can say that I have never experienced anything like it.” Abhishek appreciated the various employee engagement initiatives and flexible working-from-anywhere policies during the pandemic and beyond.
Even as an enterprise, Freshworks has been able to preserve the essence of a startup: working as a team.
He added, “There is a flat hierarchy that helps you reach out to anyone. You are free to speak your heart out, and people will listen to you and respect your opinion. It’s truly a happy work environment.”
Abhishek plans to continue working with Freshworks until he is sure about his next move. “The things I am learning here are unprecedented,” he said. “The deep learning I have experienced while trying to scale a product and considering many other things have changed my perspective of looking at a product,” added Abhishek.
Talking about the entrepreneurship bug in him, Abhishek said he would like to start another venture someday.
You can watch the complete Founder Talk video by clicking below to get more insights into Abhishek’s entrepreneurial journey and evolving role at Freshworks.
Video editing: Arjun Pillai
Cover design: Saikat Das
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