Editor’s note: Qualitia is a platform for test automation tools (such as Selenium, WebDriver, HP QTP or IBM RFT). It eliminates programming as required by conventional techniques of automation and brings automation close to an organization’s QA team, subject-matter experts and manual testers. Managing director and CEO Rahul Chaudhari explains testing differentiation in the market and shares his startup’s experiences in acquiring initial customers, determining pricing and other lessons learned.
SandHill.com: Please explain the situation that led you to launch your company.
Rahul Chaudhari: Well, we were not different than many others who were struggling to deliver expected results in test automation. In our previous roles, we were part of a testing services company delivering very large and demanding turnkey test automation projects. We had gone through challenges multiple times.
We realized test automation is unexplored and untouched. Conventional methodologies cannot reach to it unless you have very large budgets and the best technical team who will be with you forever. But this is not what you accept before investing in or initiating test automation. Nobody has time and budget to simply burn in experimenting.
We saw a large opportunity to accelerate this process. We invested in research to know the reality in global markets and found that four out of five companies were unhappy with the manner in which their test automation had progressed for them.
So we immediately started working on conceptualizing a solution that would help enterprises realize the strategic objectives of test automation in much less time, with fewer required skills and efforts and with half the budget.
When we showcased the wireframes and the complete concept to three large global enterprises that were serious investors into test automation, they found it awesome and immediately expressed their willingness to invest. That was an exciting moment. Our thought process was certified. We decided to start a product journey.
SandHill.com: Your company focuses on “scriptless” test automation. What are the process challenges that cause the testing process to be so costly and led to your creation of a scriptless approach?
Rahul Chaudhari: Test automation is a reliable strategy. In fact there is no other option to optimize testing and meet quality standards within time for any complex application. But most test automation tools available in the market demand programming to build scalable and maintainable test automation suites. This makes the time to automate very long. It also poses other key challenges:
- Skills are not easily available. Every tool has a unique and proprietary approach to interact with application technologies. So you need different teams to deal with different tools because they support different programming languages. And functional experts and manual testers cannot automate because they do not know programming.
- Maintenance of test suites is very high in frequently changing scenarios. Thousands of lines of test automation code, no documentation, and resource turnover create a mess that shifts the focus from the very objective of test automation. Then the test automation is not ready when it is needed the most, so the organization burns money, time and effort just to make that work. It’s a lot of frustration and no results.
- Cost of tools and special skills prolongs expected time for return on investment.
We thought there could be a better, easier and smarter way to drive this and ensure that enterprises get their expected ROI from investments in test automation. We did not want to interfere with enterprises’ liberty to choose an automation tool of their choice. We took a pioneering scriptless approach and also opted to sit on the top of existing tools so that we can solve the problem that starts post their selection.
After 18 months of continuous interactions and brainstorming with customers and co-founders, multiple failed and successful internal releases, and ultimately with a lot of excitement, our first release of Qualitia was launched in March 2011 in Pune, India.
SandHIll.com: How much faster is the test automation process with your product?
Rahul Chaudhari: Our scriptless approach reduces time to automate and enables enterprises to leverage functional experts and manual test engineers to automate and build test automation suites three times faster. Plus they’re easy to maintain. We have more than a dozen success stories where our customers saved more than 60 percent time and cost to successfully automate their applications that they had struggled with for the last few years.
Our platform is also independent of tools and people. End-to-end traceability and our smart alert system can reduce maintenance efforts by 70 percent. Also, the majority of our customers are now using Selenium, an underlying open source tool to further cut down on the commercial tool costs because it does not really matter which underlying tool a company uses to execute automated test cases.
SandHill.com: What enables the acceleration?
Rahul Chaudhari: Qualitia has in-built constructors that bring the power of simplicity to adopt test automation in the most effective way for any complex applications. It puts in one place all the best practices of test automation such as functional decomposition, centralized repository, reusability, end-to-end traceability of all the test assets. So it streamlines test automation, and it’s easy to maintain at any point in time. Shorter release cycles give customers the confidence for faster time to market without compromising on code quality.
SandHill.com: Who are your typical customers, and how did you acquire your first customer?
Rahul Chaudhari: Our key customer segments are software product companies, Internet businesses and enterprises with revenue above $50 million that are in the BFSI, Retail and Healthcare industries. For that matter, we can help any enterprise where the need is most critical and urgent.
We initially had a list of 10 target customers to chase. We wanted our first customer to have complex environments, demanding markets and work in a large size competitive market with a lot of credibility.
We reached the right people in three to four companies after one or two months of efforts. We were appreciated by two customers for our value proposition and unique approach. One of them was one of the global leaders in PLM software products and another was a stock exchange. Things moved much faster with the PLM software company. With three deep-dive pilots on different products/applications under test, they accepted Qualitia’s scriptless test automation.
SandHill.com: What challenges have you encountered that you didn’t anticipate?
Rahul Chaudhari: The biggest challenge was around positioning. Scriptless test automation was a change to everybody. As with any other change, it was difficult to make prospects believe in a new approach. Continuous improvement in our elevator pitch and educational approach with senior executives of potential customers helped us cut through the clutter faster.
SandHill.com: How did you determine the right pricing for your product?
Rahul Chaudhari: We had a few meaningful conversations with customers about their ways to invest and the ROI experience. Having collected this data, we also talked to a few analysts and experts to validate the data we had collected to understand their perspective of ROI and how we impacted product rollout time lines and the overall quality index.
SandHill.com: Please describe one of your company’s lessons learned and where it occurred in the time line of your product development.
Rahul Chaudhari: Startups are lean, but they are very energetic. There is an excitement to do more. But it leads to chaos. I must say in the first year we took up too many things on our product road map and started working on all simultaneously, feeling everything was important and urgent as well. But learning came our way with lots of burning and incomplete forms of multiple functionalities.
We learned to say no to certain feature requests coming from various sources like marketing research, customer interaction and product R&D teams based on the decided product road map. That has helped us set the right priorities from a go-to-market perspective. At any moment we focused on a six-month plan and another six months of road map. Product management then started becoming more meaningful and efficient.
SandHill.com: If you could spend an afternoon this month with a top exec in a well-established software firm to learn some insights from the exec, who would you choose?
Rahul Chaudhari: I don’t know the name of the exec, but I would love to spend an afternoon with the exec who leads UX (user experience design) for Apple. It is very fascinating to deal with a product that stands for itself in every aspect of business. A close conversation with a leader who is driving this for Apple would be a great learning.
SandHill.com: What challenges have you encountered in recruiting or retaining the right talent?
Rahul Chaudhari: We did not realize a need to invest in building a resources pipeline for hiring at a very early stage. I think that is a key challenge. Unless you have options for the right roles that are picked up over the period of time through conscious efforts of connecting people socially, it is really difficult to attract talent that mutually fits for each other. And if this is not driven well, then you have too much time pressure at the last moment to select someone, which could mean negotiating at least one of the key aspects of mutual growth.
I think this will remain as a challenge and we need to constantly figure out a way to proactively deal with it. Connecting with great people every time and silently nurturing those relationships, interests, passion and role vs. previous track record match is the only way to go. This is a job for every leader in the company.
SandHill.com: If you could go back and do it all over again, from the time you first began your position with your company, what would you do differently the second time around?
Rahul Chaudhari: Investment into marketing right from day one. Research for the target market, or a research around customer challenges or data around competitive positioning, or leveraging the right channels to position Qualitia to target customers — it’s all about marketing. I must say that it is “the” pivot for business. I wish I could really have one chance to go back and fix it.
SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name?
Rahul Chaudhari: We wanted to name it based on the value that product will deliver. We had many long discussions to name the company as well as our product. We always wanted a unique and meaningful name that would reflect the very existence of the company and everybody in the ecosystem should be able to relate to it. Someone suggested “Quality + Acceleration = QUALITIA,” and we really liked it. Later on we realized that there is no such word in the dictionary, but innovation does not always have a past existence; so we locked it in.
SandHill.com: What do the next 12 months hold for your company?
Rahul Chaudhari: There are three key items on our agenda, which are critical for us. The first is market penetration in the U.S. and UK markets. Reaching out to hundreds of customers through various channels and helping them understand Qualitia and its value proposition is the top item on our agenda. We will be driving a few enterprise deals. Partner ecosystems development is also one of the key aspects of market penetration for us.
Our second priority over the next 12 months is a new product release. As a road map to drive value up in the value chain we are coming up with Qualitia’s design studio. It’s too early to talk about it in this conversation but I can share one thing for sure: the design studio will empower businesses to convict test coverage of applications under test. It will have deeper analytics, which will help various stakeholders to set the right priorities to improve the quality index of applications in record time. User experience is a continuous work. But we have lots of data and input from our customers to take user experience to the next level.
Third in priorities, we plan to invest in people. We want to attract the right talent in leadership roles on the forefront who understand this business and can translate existing and upcoming customer challenges into our product road map. We look forward to bringing in this team and conversations with customers to deliver an experience and value that will drive measurable results to our customers globally.
Rahul Chaudhari is managing director and CEO of Qualitia. Passionate and fiercely assertive in his approach, he focuses on Qualitia’s vision and value creation. He also identifies and develops strategic partnerships and alliances through actionable directives to the management team members. In addition, he builds and maintains great relationship with customers with their deep involvement for every new feature, functionality so that they can create an edge for themselves. Gartner recognized Qualitia as a Global Cool Vendor in 2013 for Application Development.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.