Chandran Rajan, TechTestNow: Web-based platform to test the coding skills of programmers

By Team YS|29th May 2011
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YourStory caught up with Chandran Pratap Rajan, the founder of TechTestNow, an online programmer & coder testing platform, to learn more about his venture and how it helps IT recruiters hire smart and hire fast.

Chandran, please introduce the business idea behind TechTestNow.

TechTestNow is the world’s best web-based platform to test for practical skills in coding/SQL online. It helps IT recruiters/managers to quickly and accurately filter down the qualified candidates, so that they can focus on the recruitment process. TechTestNow helps IT companies to assess smartly and hire fast, thereby saving them tremendous amount of time and money.

How is TechTestNow different from other programmer testing platforms?

TechTestNow is the only platform that has the following:

  • Automated scoring mechanism to test for coding skills using a proprietary algorithm that is very accurate.
  • Automated ranking mechanism to list candidates in the order of scoring and overall performance.
  • Video play back facility that allow tech managers to review how the candidate actually went about writing the code for a question.
  • SQL testing using a live database

Tell us about your background.

I got my Bachelors degree in Electrical & Electronics Engineering from NIT Trichy in 1991 after which I went to the USA and did my MS in Manufacturing Technology from Indiana State University.

I spent the next 16 years in the USA, working for 3 global giants - CapGemini, KPMG and AOL Time Warner. In 2007, while working for AOL Time Warner in New York as a Director of Technology (Products and Professional Services), I decided to move back to India for good and started a new product division at AOL in Bangalore.

For more than a year, I was shuttling between New York and Bangalore every two months to get things moving fast for “FinAIM”, the product which AOL was building for Wall Street firms and stock exchanges. It was during 2008 that I had a fortuitous meeting with my co-founder from Sri Lanka regarding TechTestNow.

I am an ardent adventurer and recently, I made it to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro via the longest route. I thrive on challenges and making TechTestNow an easily recognizable and trusted brand is the challenge that is keeping me busy, currently.

How did the business idea for TechTestNow come about? How much capital was required to implement the idea?

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to be a hardcore techie/programmer, IT manager and an executive with 3 of the biggest global technology firms, with responsibilities to build and manage software development teams. I always had a tough time finding good software programmers.

After spending endless hours in reviewing resumes and talking to candidates over the phone, I would finally narrow it down to a few candidates and end up hiring them.  They would have stellar resumes and educational qualifications from top notch universities. But when it came to writing smart code and delivering, most of them would turn in dismal work. I would secretly wish for a solution that could quickly test for a candidates programming skills, without any human intervention! It would have made my job easier and saved precious time. Soon, I realized that almost all IT recruiters and tech managers faced similar problems.

Tech Test Now Founder

So, the idea of some sort of web-based software to test a candidate’s software skills began to take shape. It had to be fully automated and accurate and that was a big challenge. With my busy schedules at AOL, this idea had to be put on the backburner till 2008 when I had a fortuitous meeting with my co-founder from Sri Lanka.I came to know that they had developed a rudimentary web-based system to test the programming skills of top coders in universities across Sri Lanka who were to represent the country in the IOI (International Olympiad in Informatics), which is a tough competition that attracts the best coders from around the world.  That is when the idea of TechTestNow was born. We quickly discussed the commercial version of such a product and decided to make it a web-based platform that would help IT companies worldwide to assess smart and recruit fast.

So far, we have spent around $60,000 from personal savings to implement the idea from concept stage to full-scale production deployment.

Is there acceptance for your concept? Can you give us some incidents to illustrate the same?

We went beta in July 2010 and publicized it through tech sites such as TechCrunch and HackerNews. There was a great response. Companies in the USA actually used TechTestNow to test the coding skills of candidates before hiring them.  Some candidates made a big fuss about how our system was not accurate, etc. But the tech managers were able to see the video playback of their coding session and they did find problems in the code! They were convinced that the system was accurate.

Click Forensics, a small firm based in Texas, USA actually instructed their staffing agency to use TechTestNow to screen all potential applicants for their Senior Programmer positions. Jay Vilalta, a senior tech manager said that the candidates, who took the test with TechTestNow and had gotten hired, were more qualified with a pleasant personality than the ones who didn’t!

Where do you see the online programmer testing space and TechTestNow five years from now?

At the moment, most companies use knowledge-based testing (such as BrainBench) which involves the candidates to answer ‘True or False’, Multiple Choice Questions etc. These do not test the candidates’ practical skills, which are crucial. This is like the airline companies hiring pilots without testing their actual flying skills.

With the advent of an automated programmer testing system such as TechTestNow, IT recruiters/tech managers around the world are going to see tremendous benefits in being able to quickly test for practical skills such as coding/SQL in a structured manner. They are going to embrace it as a trusted ally in the screening for qualified programmers, real fast and real easy.

Five years from now, I see TechTestNow covering many major areas in IT for which coding and other practical tests can be conducted.  Future job seekers could take a certification test and place the TechTestNow score label on their resumes to add more credibility.  TechTestNow will be the most trusted practical skills assessment system in the IT world. Companies around the globe would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars by greatly reducing their cost per hire.

What is TechTestNow’s revenue model?

TechTestNow has several revenue streams.

  1. Average of Rs. 500 per test per candidate during assessment for recruitment
  2. Average of Rs. 1500 per test per employee during internal annual performance evaluations
  3. Educational institutions will pay a licensing fee to train and test their students
  4. Resellers

What are the challenges that you faced while developing TechTestNow? How did you manage to overcome them?

We did extremely well in solving business-related issues. The challenges were mainly technical. For example, we were, at times, stumped on:

  • How to scale the system when potentially thousands of candidates are taking the test while their coding sessions are recorded in real time.
  • How to test for SQL skills using a live database when thousands of candidates would be taking the test at the same time with their own set of DB objects.
  • How to make the automated scoring and ranking algorithm so smart that it can detect multiple coding solutions possible for a single question and still grade it accurately and fairly.

We managed to get past these challenges, thanks to the technical proficiency of my co-founders from Sri Lanka.

How big is the team behind TechTestNow? Are you looking at hiring?

After TechTestNow went into production earlier this year, the 3 co-founders from Sri Lanka decided to move on to other projects. I am busy promoting and marketing TechTestNow to companies here in India. At the moment, TechTestNow is seeking seed funding to hire a good technical team, customer support and sales/marketing professionals.

Let us know about your expansion plans.

TechTestNow will be introducing new products and services in iterative cycles to address market needs. These will immensely help the IT recruiters and candidates. The sales and marketing efforts are going to be focussed around India in the immediate future, as the IT majors are on a hiring spree and will be so for the next few years.

We at YourStory wish Chandran and TechTestNow much success. To know more, check out http://www.techtestnow.com/. So, if you liked this story, do subscribe to our RSS feed for the latest news on startups, business ideas and entrepreneurs. Also, please do share with us your thoughts and views by writing to us at feedback@yourstory.in.

Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 29th May 2011 | Bangalore

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