10 things that made my Startup Profitable in the first year of Inception

28th Oct 2011
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First person account from Entrepreneur Pradeep Soundararajan, Moolya Software Testing Private Limited As an entrepreneur, I am very happy of where we are today and where we seem to be heading towards. Break even and profits within our first year of incorporation is one among the many sweetest things we could achieve. Other sweet things are our customers and the kind of help we could offer them in testing their software. Our business is focused towards helping our customers grow their businesses. We are a good combination of business analysts and testers. We understand where our customers could lose money and help them plug the hole. How do we do that? Simple, we understand what their customers want and don't want.

We are users of many hundreds of software products ourselves. We ask ourselves, whenever we encounter a bug, what is the loss due to this for the company that developed the software. For instance, I was trying to buy travel medical insurance for a foreign trip from a leading insurance company in India. I had registered with them last year and I tried providing the same credentials for buying insurance to avoid re-entering all fields about my date of birth, address and a whole bunch of other details. The website put me in a loop. I had to enter all details again. This is a pain. Why did I register with them? One of their competing website has a simple UI flow and I could purchase the same insurance for the same cost in fewer clicks.

Assuming there are a 1000 people as frustrated as me, running away from that insurance company website to their competitor; the loss is huge. Most importantly, they are losing customers, who would never want to return.

We specialize in testing and hence our clients appear to gain by hiring us because we care for their customers. Most IT services companies would just care for their immediate customers and would want to do everything that their customer says, for the sake of business, even if they are aware that the end users are likely to not benefit from it. We think of that as a dis-service. By doing that, they are sinking their future and that of their customers.

I would like to tell you 10 important things that might have made Moolya Software Testing Private Limited to achieve profits in the first year itself:

1. Passion for what we do - Testing: We love to test. We love testing. We love testing so much that we don't feel we are "working". Moolya came into existence because of this passion and we wanted to build an organization that fosters such passion amongst other testers. Right from day one, we tried building a culture where there will be no separate "Learning & Development" department in our company. All teams are into Learning & Development all the time, and if they need any external help, they take care of bringing the kind of trainer / mentor they want. As a leader of this company, my job is to just facilitate. There is so much of information that our colleagues know, and we can benefit a lot from it. Only passionate people can do that. My partner Santhosh Tuppad and I have been able to inflict people who joined us with that kind of passion.

2. Our values & protecting them from erosion: Before we started this company, we were sure of what not to do and what to do. One of them is we won't lie to get business. We'd be honest and do well. It is going to help us in the long run. May be there is no immediate benefit for it. However, we aren't doing it for benefit per se, we are doing it because that is a true reflection of who we are.

We at least lost one big business because we said, "No, we don't have that many testers available immediately". What if we had lied? We would have got the business, tried hiring whoever is available and make our customer unhappy and lose them forever. This UK based MNC appreciated our honesty and have signed on a NDA with us and asked our rate cards. They are likely to come back to us. Meanwhile, we have grown in size and can help them going forward. There are more such stories.

3. People who want to make a difference to this world joining us  - We have talked to a lot of testers prior to starting this company as a part of our consulting and other community activities in testing. We know there is only a small percentage of them who want to make it big and are working hard to reach their goals. Our goal was to get them to be a part of this company. As they have seen us do what they consider to be /good/ testing, they too wanted to join us. Now, to join a startup whose future is unknown, they need more than just passion for testing to quit their high paying so called /permanent/ jobs at MNC's. That was the test they passed with us. That's a test we passed too. Dhanasekar Subramanian, one of the top testers from India is an avid learner, blogger, reader of good books, practitioner and an aggressive tester. He joined us 6 months ago. Dhanasekar is an ardent AR Rahman fan & AR Rahman being his role model, he wants to grow to be the Rahman of software testing. The goal for Moolya will be to facilitate him in doing that.

Parimala Shankaraiah is another example. She joined us as a test manager after working at top organizations. She is recognized as a women leader in the software testing space and her blog on testing is a favorite to many international readers. Her goal is to mentor hundreds of testers as she grows along with them. She is a mother of two kids and yet she manages to do so much of work at home, office and beyond all this. The energy she has is amazing and inspiring.

There are more examples but I can't use this space to cover about all. In just a couple of years, Moolya will be the destination for all top testers of India.

4. What we are offering makes us a winner : Traditional testing is boring. I don't quite get why so many companies are still stuck to methods that were in use in 1970's. There is so much of advancement that has happened to all fields but many companies don't appear to care about advancing their testing. That is why software testing isn't a top priority to many college graduates.

We offer testing that is focused towards helping a tester control the tests based on the mission to be accomplished. We try to treat our testers as commandos who are given a mission to accomplish and they just are focused towards achieving it. Our approach to testing is context driven & exploratory. If you don't get it, no problem, here is what we do - we do testing as it was supposed to be done with freedom and focus on solving a problem.

We are the first company from India to offer context driven testing and exploratory testing services and hence our USP.

5. Clear differentiators from other services companies from India: This is funny. Every services company website tells you the same story. Here is what you see, "We saved so much money for our customer". The question we ask is, "Are our customers making progress? Is saving cost the progress our customer wants to make or they want to grow their business much bigger?

We are in the business of helping our customers grow bigger with their customers. For instance, if we were to be testing an e-commerce web product and our customer thinks a lot of people visiting their website are not actually making a sale, we would investigate and inform the reason. We would help them fix such problems. So, they grow in their business of making more sales and we help their customers buy what they want to buy in simpler steps while having a delightful experience of shopping online. Did we save costs? Maybe. Did we help them grow larger? Hell, yes!

6. Treating humans as humans and not as resources: Once our customer sent us an email, "We need two resources, do you have them?". We replied, "We do not know what kind of resources you need. We have humans with us who can test well. Is there any testing help you require? We will be glad to assist you with it" and the customer wasn't offended. Instead, he wrote back saying, "I see the problem. Thanks for helping me out. We have a need for two testers who are skilled at testing web applications". Oh yeah, we can help you.

I am personally annoyed at companies counting heads, treating people as resources and working hard to make a process that makes people replaceable commodities. With all companies I worked in the past, I didn't expect them to treat me like a king but I expected them to treat me as a human. I think there are some good companies who treat their employees like human beings and they are going to go a long way.

7. Providing the world with visibility of our work, thoughts & ideas:  We have been putting up our work on our company blog and in other places for the world to taste the kind of work we do. This gives us the best opportunity for our potential customers to sample us out against their needs. We also want to share our ideas to test to the world.

As a matter of fact, at least a thousand testers of a large size IT services organization have read about the browser add-ons we use to test and we know of at least 5 projects that they started to use after that. They hired Moolya to help them in doing better testing. So, we have benefited customers who they work for and it is a great feeling. We also use our blog as a platform to tell the world who in Moolya is doing what kind of cool stuff and thus providing our testers visibility and help them gain recognition for their work.

8. Innovation & Publicity : We are innovative. One of the latest advancement in the software testing is usage of mind-maps for brainstorming and documenting test ideas. It makes life easier and better. We are great fans of mind-maps for testing and have been practicing it for quite a while. We were wondering what is the best way to tell the world that we are pioneers of using mind-maps for testing? We thought why not have our website home page with a mind-map on it? After we posted a mind-map of Moolya on our homepage, we got quite a number of people appreciating the idea.

We are building a brand, not a money vending machine. We realize this and also realize this needs publicity. It is important that many potential customers need to know that valuable services exist. So, we do good publicity of our work. We sponsored a couple of conferences and gave away books and T-shirts of Moolya.

We are active on Facebook with about 200 plus fans there, 300 plus followers on Twitter and many leading testers of India have posted our logo linking to our home page on their blogs. We didn't pay any of those testers but they do because they love us and the cause we are working towards. Our own blogs are a good publicity medium. My Tester Tested! blog is one of the most widely read blogs by testers in India. Some people did surveys and rated my blog as the Top 5 in the world for software testing. So, there it goes.

9. Humor at work: We have had some tough times, too. So, you aren't reading a script of a Bollywood movie where the hero starts a company and the next day he owns an Audi and flies a helicopter to attend a meeting. For the tough times we faced, humor helped us paddle through it. Humor is such a lateral thinking concept that we love each other for the jokes we crack. If you take a look at one of our post, you'd get to know how much we love it and how much others love us for it : http://moolya.com/blog/2011/07/15/the-last-big-thing-in-software-testing-has-emerged/

10. What others think about why Moolya is successful: After I wrote 9 points, I thought I'd tweet and ask what the 10th point should be. I tweeted and asked my Twitter followers what they think about why Moolya is successful. Here are some of the responses:

  • The people involved
  • I believe number one on the list would be you! Without you, there would not have been a Moolya.
  • Reputation blended well with efforts. You and your team.
  • Sticking to your *thing*, not bending too much to the "existing way" of the market..?
  • Brainual testers, lots of goodwill, even more hard work, God's grace and a bit of luck!
  • Moolya has unique values that the world needs. As a businessman, you have not fallen to the trap of traditional thinking.

Don't be stuck trying to save costs. Make more customers happy, and hence gain more business. Eventually, you will have to take that route if you want to make progress.

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