Interview: Meet Kiran Darisi from Freshdesk

Consumer support can be messy, and it can make or break an organization. With this in mind, developers have covered the web with countless help desk solutions, each promising to be different from the other. But in reality most of them were mere copycats, offering basically the same features with little variation beyond their stylesheet.

Freshdesk does an excellent job at bringing something new to the world of customer support, and has received critical acclaim across the board. Here at Web.AppStorm, they have bagged a prestigious score of 9 out of 10, and we loved their simple approach to Customer service.

Today we are going to talk with Kiran Darisi, Co-founder of Freshdesk. Keep reading to find out the story behind Freshdesk, how it was developed, and what’s in store for the future.

What was the idea behind Freshdesk? Was it aimed to bridge a gap in the market? Or was it seen as an improvement on an existing product?

A little bit of both, actually. Help desk software have been around for over 3 decades, so we knew that we were entering a pretty commoditized space. But we also knew that customer support itself was evolving rapidly, and most existing solutions were still not trying to fill this gap. For example, we knew that customers were venting their support issues and frustrations on Twitter and Facebook, so, in addition to traditional channels like Phone and Email, that was a big pain point we wanted to solve. Two months later, we were the first full-fledged social helpdesk solution in the market.

Another big gap we saw was in usability. Help desk solutions had grown so much in complexity that it took users months to just get started. To break this paradigm, we built Freshdesk ground-up as a cloud-based solution that businesses can get started with in a few minutes. We have always been obsessively focussed with the user’s productivity and experience inside Freshdesk, and I think that continues to be a big differentiator for us.

Want to read more of Freshdesk’s story? Here’s a recent blog post telling how Freshdesk was launched – in part – thanks to a comment on Hacker News.

Running a startup can be a nightmare in the beginning. How did you keep up under the pressure, and how does it feel to be running a successful startup?

Frankly, it was never a nightmare! More than pressure, I fondly remember it as a fun time. I believe time bound pressure is good and will get your creative side out.

We focused on the details, the specifics needed at every stage. First the minimum viable product, then the main requirements from our Beta customers and then the differentiators. And at every stage we needed to wear a lot of caps at the same time (development, testing, support, operations, etc). In my opinion, the early days of starting up is an experience worth a lifetime.

But if I had to pick the tough times, there were the infrastructure problems. For the first 6 months we were put up at a small 10-seater space that never had any good food options nearby, sometimes the electricity failed on us (and the diesel generator too!), and we had no parking space and poor Internet connectivity.

What’s your work environment like at Freshdesk, and what keeps you motivated every day?

We have a work culture where mistakes are allowed, as long as we are giving our 100%. During the earliest days, one of my mistakes in the testing environment resulted in a few of our first sign ups being sent a notification email from the still-to-be-released product. We turned this into an opportunity, releasing the public beta 3 days in advance, backed by the rest of the team. I’ll never forget that. I’ll pick our CEO’s words here, “It’s a Commando culture – the team understands and respects each other, we are in it together & watching each other’s backs; we live or die together”.

There’s nothing more motivating than the results at work. And we ensure that we recruit people who believe in this. No pizzas/beers/pets (yet), thank you. We’re motivated by the challenges we overcome, and by how fast we do this. I worked in Zoho and Accenture before this, & I’d still love to start as a fresher straight out of college in Freshdesk again!

Without giving too much away, give us a short introduction on the underlying technology of Freshdesk.

I’ll give it all to you. We use Ruby on Rails, MySQL, Redis, Memcache, and we’re on AWS via Engineyard.

Being a self-proclaimed Windows fanboy myself, among a number of Mac using colleagues, I have to ask: do you primarily use Windows or a Mac for your work?

Mac. If you use Ruby on Rails, please forget Windows.

What web apps does your team use?

Freshdesk, New Relic, Salesforce, Google Apps, Trello, Yammer, Mailchimp, EasyClock (really useful when you’re supporting a global audience), Logentries.

There is no shortage of customer support apps today. What do you think sets Freshdesk apart from its competitors?

Honestly, the best answer I can give is – Freshdesk is a pure joy to work with. Apart from being dead simple to use, Freshdesk has integrated game mechanics into the help desk – have you heard of “supporting customers” being addictive? That’s Freshdesk.

Do you use Freshdesk internally? How does it work for you?

Of course we use Freshdesk. Worked like a charm even in the pre-release days (we gathered product requirements from the archived support mails). Now with a few dozen people (support, sales, developers and the CEO himself) on Freshdesk, our leaderboard is the most visited page. Told you it was an addictive helpdesk!

Have you got anything exciting planned for Freshdesk for the future?

We never plan anything not exciting! 🙂 There’re quite some new stuff up our sleeves that I’d rather keep the lid on. Right now, my commandos and I are trying to reduce page load times to 1/4th of the present.

Thanks Kiran!

We’d like to extend our heart-filled thanks to Kiran Darisi for taking time out from his extremely busy schedule to answer our questions. If you haven’t tried Freshdesk yet, I’d strongly recommend you find out more before signing up.