InterviewsOutlook

Outlook 2022: “The Year of the Chatbot”

Manish Mishra, the Head for the Middle East and Africa at Freshworks, says that his company has a vertical as well as a regional focus, which enables them to go deep

What sort of opportunities did 2021 bring along?
The continuation of pandemic protocols meant a continuation of the reliance on cloud solutions. Continuity for indigenous businesses meant remote work, for health and safety reasons; continuity for global corporates meant virtual meetings, because of travel limitations.

Not only were business stakeholders forced to try out new technologies, but their growing confidence in cloud ecosystems – and the changing expectations of customers and employees – led to experiments with digital experiences on both the CX and EX sides. As these are Freshworks’ focus, this was a huge boost for us. We now have thousands of regional customers and saw double-digit growth this year.

Did you face any challenges in 2021?
We have a strong core value proposition. And like many companies, we like to tell our story in person. So, 2021 presented many of the same challenges for us as other businesses faced. We missed being able to meet face to face with our customers. And we missed being able to attend and host in-person events.

Compliance continues to be a challenge. We find some countries are quite open in their regulations, but others are very strict, so we must work very closely with our customers, especially on data residency. In Europe, we must ensure our data centres are GDPR-compliant.

What were your key achievements in 2021?
We went through a successful IPO in September, listing ourselves on Nasdaq. We started in Chennai, and are now based in San Mateo, California, but the Nasdaq launch still makes us the first India-founded software company to list on a US exchange.

The IPO was a roaring success. To raise more than US$1 billion at a valuation in excess of US$10 billion is no small thing.

What promises does 2022 bring along?
In 2022, Freshworks will be going on a recruitment drive and focusing strongly on investment in our talent pool. We shall also be investing heavily in technology and enhancing our offerings in the areas of natural-language processing and bots, as well as our innovative CRM solutions.

Our global expansion will continue. We have plans for a regional presence in the United Arab Emirates to spearhead our forays into markets across the Middle East and Africa. This is a strong signal of our ongoing commitment to a region in which we see strong interest in CX and EX.

Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
AWS has announced plans to open a UAE data centre to serve the region. AWS is a key Freshworks partner, so we see this move as a great potential advantage for us.

Given recent crises, it is important for technology partners to demonstrate availability. Customers need to know that if another crisis forces a replay of 2020, that they can weather the storm. To do that, they need to be able to plan, so they need to be confident that their technology providers are going to be there throughout the crisis. Working with AWS, Freshworks can assure them of that.

According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
We see 2022 as the year of the chatbot. Regional businesses are having to re-evaluate the employee experience because now that talent has become a global market – thanks to the success of remote work – employees can be a lot more discerning when selecting an employer. Bots augment the employee, taking humdrum tasks off their plate and freeing them up to enjoy a more innovative and rewarding work life.

Also, next year, expect to see the cloud march on, with greater adoption levels in SaaS and PaaS, now that companies have gained confidence in digital services.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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