June 24, 2019
This time on The Testing Show, Matthew Heusser and Michael Larsen welcome Mahesh Chikane and Smita Mishra to talk about the unique challenges and opportunities facing the software testing community in India.
- Smita Mishra Linkedin
- Mahesh Chikane Linkedin
- QaZone Infosystems
- The Test Tribe
- Weekend Testing
- Agile Testing Alliance
- AMA with James Bach on All things Software Testing
- Sahi Pro
Michael Larsen: Hello everybody and welcome to The Testing Show. This is our recording for June, 2019. Glad to have you with us. I’m Michael Larsen, your show producer and the guy who fiddles the bits behind the scene. We are of course joined by our regular MC, Mr .Matt Heusser.
Matthew Heusser: Hello, thanks for listening
Michael Larsen: and today we are doing something special. We have two guests that are coming to us from a rather long way away, at least for us. I’m not sure how close they are to each other, but we would like to welcome Smita Mishra.
Smita Mishra: Thank you, Michael. Happy to be here. Thanks, Matt.
Michael Larsen: And also a first timer for our show. We’d like to welcome Mahesh Chickane…
Mahesh Chikane: Thanks, Michael. Glad to Be here.
Michael Larsen: and did I pronounce that correctly?
Mahesh Chikane: Yeah.
New Speaker: Oh, awesome. Yay. Thank you. So for those who are listening I will mention the fact that both our guests, Smita and Mahesh, are coming to us from India, so thank you for joining us. I know it’s evening time where you’re at and the start of your weekend, I’m sure too. So we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. With that, let’s go ahead. Matt, I will hand the mic over to you and let’s get this show on the road.
Matthew Heusser: Yeah, so today’s theme is testing in India. Typically that’s partnering with a company to do testing in India. Some companies put employees on the ground and so we brought in two of our experts. Let’s get to know them a little bit. Now Smita I’ve known for years. She’s gone up and down the road from expert in testing, to running a testing company, to doing a couple more entrepreneurial ventures, and I think now she’s kind of back to both. Did I get that even close to right?
Smita Mishra: That’s right.
Matthew Heusser: Tell our audience a little bit because what we know, we know each other and have for years mostly through the conference and writing circuits. Please tell our audience a little bit more detailed, at least what you’ve been up to lately.
Smita Mishra: So first of all, I’m very glad to be on the show. Thank you. So I’ve been doing testing ever since 2001, I’ve been into the industry. For the first decade. I was mostly into various jobs and services. I started my own consulting firm, which is QaZone Infosystems. We’re still working on that so it’s not a very huge consulting firm, but it is a very efficient one. It’s more like service oriented, solution oriented. I am currently working on product platform that is Fandoro, which is more about connecting social initiatives to the enterprises, employees and trying to make good things happen. Besides these, I run a test meetup here in Delhi which has over thousand registered testers. We do monthly meetups, we have one tomorrow and I like to speak at conferences and network with people, so that’s what I’m up to of late speaking at different conferences.
Matthew Heusser: Okay, thanks and Mahesh I don’t know as well, so you come really recommended and I want to get to know you through this podcast with tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to and how you think about testing.
Mahesh Chikane: Yeah, sure. Thanks for having me here. So I have been into testing since 2010 I joined the company called Zycus. I’m still working with them as a manager. The Test Tribe community. We just started last January. Then that has been really good. Like initial thought was to you know, do something at a city level at Mumbai basically. And then later on more and more passionate testers joined in and currently we are basically doing meetups workshops, hackathons in India, so that’s like Mumbai, Bangalore. Tonight we are starting with Hyderabad this 15th. So we are in the meetups so we have around close to 2000 testers in the online community. And then in the offline space, like few thousand. Things has been quite good. So what we are trying to solve is we are virtually trying to get all testers across India under community roof, but then we provide them offline and online platforms wherein they can collaborate, learn and grow together. My own testing experience has been on multiple fronts, basically functional, nonfunctional, security to some extent, automation. I have been leading multiple products on the testing front at Zycus. That’s the journey so far.
Michael Larsen: Awesome. Great. Aga in, thank you both for joining us. So let’s start the conversation with a question that I would of course ask on. This is, it’s really easy, especially if you live in one country and you look at something across the world. We tend to abstract things and drop it down so it’s easier to deal with and of course I can only assume that with how complex cities and economies are in the United States that India is the same. For anybody to think “what is the current state of testing in India?” That’s not going to be a simple one line answer because India is a very large country, so I don’t assume that it’s the exact same everywhere, but generally speaking, what would you say the current state of testing is like in India? With the caveat I just gave,
Smita Mishra: so you actually pointed it very well, Michael, that yes, it’s not a simple one line answer that this is how the testing scenario today is in India because it’s really all over the place. It’s into a flux right now I would say. So there are consulting services where there are still those headcounts and staff augmentation kind of work going on where there is a manual team. Then there’s a separate automation team and mostly these things are client driven as to how they would want it to be and then there are product based companies which are hiring assets and then there are decentralized, we are doing testing, I mean decentralized teams. Then there are centralized. Then there are few who still believe in standardization and invest into tools and processes and certifications and wanting everybody to be the same. A nd then there are those who are like, okay, we don’t care about standardization, we want to focus on quality, we want quick work.
Smita Mishra: It doesn’t matter if everybody’s following the same process. So though I would say that we’ve moved a long way from the mostly independent testing to integrated testing into their trial teams into us being part of the scrum. Then from there too, where most of the other product companies today are striving to implement CI/CD, so testers are a part of t he whole pipeline. I would say it’s all over the place. It’s not this type is there and that type is not there. Anything you can think about testing services today exists in India concurrently.
Michael Larsen: Awesome. Thanks. Mahesh, What are your thoughts on that?
Mahesh Chikane: I completely agree with what Smita mentions, there is no one single trend which we can identify. So through The Test Tribe I get the chance to, you know, talk to a lot of testers from different cities and different companies and the problems they mention, the approach they take for their regular routine that’s like totally different. So as Smita mentioned, you know CI/CD , high availability and Dev Ops, desktops, but it’s a set of companies who are ahead in the curve, implementing these methodologies/technologies. Testers are very well part of it. That’s one set. Then there is a set still going into the standard operating procedures that still are developing a center of excellence for testing. And so on . When it comes to organization level, if we get the vertical view, it’s really, you know, a different situation in different companies.
Mahesh Chikane: Talking about the testers view, how I see a lot of like a majority of testers, they want to move towards automation now basically because the market demands it. But a lot of them will talk around like they want to get into automation, they want to learn automation or rather get full time into the automation, which is good thing and bad thing both. And the other trend, which I see when talking to the testers, a lot of them are looking for a very good alternative to automation. So a lot of them believe that you want to do the market demands that they don’t really want to, you know, get fully into the automation. And that’s where they’re looking for an alternative. And I think a lot of them are picking security testing. They’re like security testing or ethical hacking. So a lot of people who I know personally, they’re leaning towards that partcular phrase as well. So I see that also as we’re on the train, which really know, surely come up and also for the reason we got more and more companies are taking security testing seriously, though it’s not still enough. But I think it’s the axis of the graph is going to go getting higher.
Matthew Heusser: One thing we’re curious about, I think Smita mentioned two types. She mentioned product driven companies and then sort of more traditional IT work and how they were doing different approaches to testing. We were curious what industries are most likely to send work to India or work that is just emerging out of India.
Mahesh Chikane: So I again the you know, don’t see a particular type because here, you know, different companies like the ways Smita runs QAZone. Then there is Moolya, then there is Qualitest, a lot of different dedicated software testing companies out there. So I don’t see that one particular work only is coming to India for that matter though I have been personally into a product based company so I know that space very little but I don’t see a trend as such there.
Smita Mishra: Thank you, Mahesh. Yes, you are right in saying that actually knowing the streets untouched. As of today in India. However, we do see trend, it’s like the financial services specifically I would like to mention here, maybe it is because of their reasons are for security requirement or the reasons of performance. There are certainly ahead in the game. They approach testing very proactively and it’s not as an afterthought whether it is functional, or security testing or any other types of testing, B2C financial services. And then we are noticing retail as a traditional business also used to take up testing a lot. In fact, we have Target, Lowe’s, all of them having their centers here in India, in Bangalore, but with the rise of e-commerce and video commerce across the world, we are seeing more and more retail get serious about performance of applications, especially the OTP driven transactions.
Smita Mishra: So they really, really need the transactions to complete quick. And that’s where we see retail taking almost competing with financial services on testing. One thing that I do notice as things like travel and hospitality is a bit slow, they are in fact playing the catch up game, especially with Netflix coming into the picture. A lot of entertainment businesses have started to take testing seriously. They want that smoothness, that finesse so we see them catching up. Health care is another area where there is in fact a lot of testing happening but unfortunately it looks like very limited to compliance. Compliance is businesses, health care and insurance, so you’ll notice that there are still a lot of legacy code still there because of probably their limitation to the use of public cloud or limitation to use of SAS products. B2C model is definitely not working.
Smita Mishra: There are a lot though with some startups coming up in the business in these arenas. There is some digital businesses coming up in health care, the IoTs are coming up and there we see some good testing happening to start with, but because of maybe the conservative approach that they take for transformation and the low risk orientation they have and the low risk appetite probably they have to do all the compliance things. Mostly health care are a bit slow. Again, as I mentioned, the testing is there but it’s not like the hardcore testing. It’s a very limited part of testing which we do, mostly from compliance and clinical needs. Besides these, I would think education is catching up again in India and biggies like Pearson and all of them did get a lot of their work tested here in India. I was myself part of it. Now startups are also coming up big in the education sector. A lot of testing is happening in fact in their spaces too.
Michael Larsen: So this seems like a good transition point. There’s actually been quite a bit of both software testing and development wise that is originating in India. I’ll take an example, being Weekend Testing started in India. It was pioneered in India and it was exported to the rest of the world. That was something that a lot of us got a chance to benefit from and be able to, to grow our craft. So to just say that India is following on from things that are happening elsewhere is totally not the case. So to bring that together. What would you say are some testing trends that you see that are coming from India and are impacting the rest of the world
Mahesh Chikane: So we can talk about Weekend Testing has been very great initiative which was from India and what’s neat the has been doing as part of test practitioners and there are other meetups which are going so Agile Testing Alliance is doing great then then there re forums like StepIn. What we are planning to do at The Test Tribe is the credit goes to James Bach. We were doing one “Ask me Anything” session with James Bach and that’s where James mentioned about the rich history, which Indians have got. It goes back to the ancient Indian philosophy, how we can use our own philosophy to get something back into the testing, teaching testing in an effective way and also doing testing in effective way. So that goes to Indian School of Nyaya, which has six different darsanas. Basically our entire methodology which would say it if a particular thing passes as a true statement through all six darsanas, than it is something which can be categorized as true.
Mahesh Chikane: So that’s something which we at The Test Tribe are working towards. I have been discussing this with James as well. Probably we can possibly convert this into a framework. One, to help Indians, but rather we can get this to a larger stage. So it’s still at very beginning level but that’s something we have been working on and we want to use our own rich history so that we can make a mark towards something better. So this is kind of a mini announcement as well towards that initiative? I just hope everything goes well on that particular front.
Smita Mishra: Thanks, Mahesh. Thank you so much for giving the background of that. Frankly, I wasn’t very comfortable responding to this question, not because of any reason, but because I think there is a lot we can do and haven’t done, frankly, As Team India IT would say for testers. So we have come a long way from where we were and there are initiatives which we are very proud of. Weekend Testing, most certainly. I’m very proud to be associated with testers like Pradeep (Soundararajan_, Parimala (Hariprasad), Jyothi (Rangaiah) Ajay (Balamurugadas), Santhosh (Tuppad) who are making big name across the planet with their knowledge sharing, being on conferences, talking to people, writing. All of that is really good. There have been tools like Sahi Pro Indian testing solution which went global. Then there is something that Pradeep’s team is coming up. Moolya is coming up with is Bug Assure which is a testing tool, which is actually supposed to be complimenting Jira.
Smita Mishra: Something that we would have never imagined a couple of years back is deep testing tool that they are developing so that should be coming out soon. Having said these things and having highlighted them, I do feel that there has not been a lot from the community of testers here but at the same time you have to be cognizant of the fact all big companies whether they are Google’s or Uber’s, any of them have their off shore center in India, which definitely means there is a huge potential. I do notice a lot of value add being done by this community. In fact, going back to our previous discussion on financial services, India has been leading in the adoption of microservices, cloud based testing solutions and architecturally, a lot of these applications are more evolved, especially mobile financial services. Much like t here is an example here, PayTM wallets, so considering the technology background and considering the strength that India has in terms of its people and considering the community of testers, we have really huge in numbers. I wouldn’t look at it as a failure but definitely as something that we have an opportunity there and the way things are going, the way of our testers are evolving and becoming more of thinking testers and focusing more on business driven and value add services solutions, technologically, I do think we should be prepared for seeing something really grand coming up very soon from this community though I don’t think there is a lot of trends that we have been able to impact the globe right now.
Matthew Heusser: I wanted to talk about, if you read the literature about Western companies working with the software development offshore, probably the most developed off shore test opportunities are in India. The experiment has been going on the longest and I think it’s proven, but if you read the literature, some people think testing in India is cheap, others think is risky. Others think, well, since my project is going to fail anyway, I might as well send it to India because” it’s a lemon market. Outsourcers do terrible work, so at least they’re the cheapest and they’ll fail the earliest”. I don’t think that way, but it does sort of bring up this question of how do you find a good test partner in India? What should you be looking for so that you can have confidence that the work is going to be well managed.
Smita Mishra: You put it in a very good perspective, Matt. In fact we too have various perspectives testing outsourced to India. Let me, before I tell you as to what is the best way to actually engage. I’ll tell you how did it actually start? What was the original state of this kind of outsourcing? Typically the kind of work that started to come to India was mostly about staff augmentation. More like, okay, we need so many people, so many head count so let’s put it there so we need those many testers. We have put them in India and now a very task oriented approach was there, like, “Okay, we give task one that is done, task two that is done” and there was actually no ownership from the India team towards the product. I would believe that those team members were also happy. “Okay. I come to work, I get to task one, two, three, I do them. I go back home. I’m done”. and back home, wherever the on site is I have this theory that a, it definitely reduced some kind of repetitive low level job for them. Maybe it was more like, okay, we have written the test case now send them for execution. We just look at that at the same time maybe there was also a sense of security that because that team, team two in India, cannot scale up, which means my job is also secure. I don’t know if this feeling was really true or not, but I do have this feeling that it was both ways where this outsource team did not really start taking ownership, but I do feel that nowadays there are a lot of testing solutions company which are taking accountability, which are taking ownership and which are partnering up at the level of equality and saying, okay, you know what?
Smita Mishra: We take ownership of quality and we work with you. It’s not ownership about one person but entire team. If somebody had today to look at a particular testing company, I would suggest them to look at a company that has a more solution based approach than a headcount or services based approach. So I’ll give you an example. The other day, one of our clients who was looking for a testing partner, so they were quite a few who had filled up the RFPs, the request for proposals and we were one of them. We did win that. It was a small project, but we want it as our team. One of the experience they shared was one of the most strongest candidate on paper came in and said, you know what, just give us your code and you can go to sleep. We’ll take care of the quality. You don’t have to worry.
Smita Mishra: Which was like, it’s not how it should be. You cannot just mention that, okay, give us your code and you can test. And what they didn’t realize was that there are so much of microservices, so much of tech architecture involved in it, so much as API is there and they had no mention of the request response framework, what they’re going to do about the performance, how they’re going to test the security. It was like a very blanket approach, which is something maybe we should keep away from. There are a lot of testing solutions companies now who can add value technically not just limited to black box testing. Of course there are people who can help you with staff augmentation, but I would say a good testing solution if you’re looking for one, there are plenty available with the approach of “can you add value? Can you actually be technically sound?” And there are options today.
Mahesh Chikane: So when I came across in the last one year or so, there are companies who goes from you know $7 per hour, yo about $100 per hour, which is a huge range and people are offering and claim to offer good testing at just any rate just for the sake of getting the project done or winning the project, which is a very bad phase I believe because a lot of startups basically approach us also as a community and they asked us whether we can help them with getting the products tested, the kind of rates they compare good testing with. So basically a lot of people don’t understand testing, who are not from a testing background. Which is fair on their part but amount of competition which has surfaced and people are just claiming to offer good testing services at any cost and that’s, in a way, making it even more difficult to select a good testing partner. Smita you can, you know, add a few thoughts there.
Smita Mishra: Yeah, sure. If you look at what are the different models that have been offered and even before that, let me go to the cost point that you mentioned. Surely India does offer a most cost effective solution because yes, the cost of living is low, simple, so for the same quality of work. Let’s take the U.S. as the benchmark and we say that, okay, you can afford one test engineer there. You could probably afford two to three here in India in the same cost at least in the past. I would agree that the cost of living is also closing up. It has changed a lot. The rates have changed a lot. Still, India does offer a more cost effective solution without really compromising on quality. Having said that, there is a huge gap of talent in terms of yes there are so many testers but they’re more like so many headcounts of testers.
Smita Mishra: How many of them are really thinking testers who can really add value? That is probably growing steeply but still it’s not like if you just pick five testers, they’re all good quality. How do you really find your testers and so how you make it value for money? That’s a whole different discussion. But putting back into perspective about the different solutions, there are some projects that come up as time and money and then there are some that come up as fixed bid projects. The time and money projects mostly get better testers because as long as you take the project they are getting paid and fixed bid, you always know that this is the fixed amount that you’re going to get paid. So sometimes they start with the good tester and then, sometimes, they end up with not so good testers or replacing the good one because you know you’re not making margins.
Smita Mishra: So those kinds of things happen. There are various solutions for which people from all across the world come to India for testing, which is like on demand testing, testing services center testing as a service. Then there used to be a test factory where they were core groups of people creating the tests and then there was not so expert testers executing them. Lot of models which are followed earlier. But today I would say there are primarily two engagement modes. One is staff augmentation where you put on head counts and you say, okay, the client is going to drive the whole testing process. The client is going to drive the ownership of it. We just need people to patch in this work and that work. Maybe I need two automation engineers who can do some automation on this particular tool with this particular language. Those kinds of work are there and a lot of testing companies are doing that which is a part of their services but any good testing service company today in India it’s more like a testing solution partner, not really just services. They are more into the managed test services that it’s not about just people. Let’s discuss out the best solution. Interestingly, a lot of good testing solution companies in India and now led by testers, not by business folks or just some IT person. It’s led by testers who have been testers who understand testing and are still testing, which means that they are able to partner at an equal level.
Matthew Heusser: Thank you. You know, I’d use different language but I think we agree. When you bring in a company to do testing, what you really want is,”Oh, here are some insights into your software architecture, let’s talk about your software architecture. Here’s some insights about the different risks between components and here’s how we would think about testing and here’s the risks that we would focus on and maybe even here are the risks that we probably wouldn’t focus on, and then they say, “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, I’ve got all be covered. Okay, well then we want bigger pile of money.” “Oh, okay, well then I guess you can focus on these big risks.” That’s very different than, “Just give it to us and we’ll make it all better.” Or the sort of micro management approach where you, you act as if our people are part of your team and you assign them Jira tickets and managed them in my experience with that is while it can work, it’s very difficult with the time zones to do staff aug(mentation) offshore. That’s just my experience. I don’t, I don’t know if you disagree.
Smita Mishra: You did mention a very good point here, Matt. Does it happen like you both talk and discuss out the risks and then start to plug in, okay, it’s going to cost you so much to handle those risks, so let’s just limit it here. That used to happen much more often earlier in the sense that there is this optional partner who wants to try to engage more and more. It maybe add value and then there was this onsite client partner who doesn’t want to pay more so it’s always a tradeoff between the cost which the client is willing to pay and the ability, the test team, how much is this able to scale? Coming back to your point of having this time zone differences, so there are teams taking different approaches. Some of them have a fixed weekly or daily meetings calls and then there are those who are always event driven that, okay, we don’t have to really talk unless there is a ticket coming up or unless there is something coming up.
Smita Mishra: What I’ve realized is again great coming back to the same thing that firstly when you engage with an offshore team have accountability. What that does for you is when you go to sleep and you expect a “done” email in the next morning, you don’t get a list of excuses. You actually get work because there’s somebody who’s involved in the process. Having a very fixed agenda and agenda driven discussions, and having accountability of the off shore team makes it easier to manage them. And a lot of teams do talk at the overlaps like you know, okay so towards India evening and U.S. morning, let’s have a call. So those kinds of things happen very frequently.
Mahesh Chikane: So I think something which you know, Smita also mentioned that there is a gap between skilled testers and not so skilled testers. We have population to our benefit. So even though there is a gap, we still have benefit that if the entire, you know, hiring practice is made better, the neutral testing teams can still get a lot better. That will also set the standards very high even for the overall market because even the not so skilled testers, they feel the heat, which will be good in the longer run and eventually because the hiring will get better. You went for offshore teams or you know, you went for, the non Indian companies who wants the testing solutions to be in India, they’ll get a better quality in general because the market trend will get higher. With that. I believe, we can get benefited from this very fact that we, we have a larger pool together and with that the overall quality also should be better.
Smita Mishra: That’s a great point., Mahesh, Just to add on it. One thing that would definitely help, especially since there are indeed a lot of Indian testing solutions now that if you can find companies or solutions which are more driven by founders who are testers themselves. That could be great. And if you can find some client references, which goes for every business. But definitely these days we are very active on social media. We are very active communicating. If you can find people around you who have worked with certain companies and they give references, that’s the best way to work because tried and tested is always good. And if you can see people whom you know on the teams of certain companies, it gives a bonus point to them.
Michael Larsen: All right. I just want to say thanks for both of you for joining us for this conversation. This is probably a good place for us to conclude. Mahesh, Smita people want to get in touch with you directly. What’s the best way for them to contact you?
Smita Mishra: I think it would be best for them to catch me on Linkedin or Twitter where I’m “SmitaPMishra” on both of them. If they want to reach out to me on email. It is Smita Dot Mishra at QaZone Dot IN. It’s Q A (Zed) O N E.
Michael Larsen: Mahesh?
Mahesh Chikane: Yep. I am most active on Linkedin so they can, you know, search for “maheshchikane”. It’s the same name which goes there and the other medium I’ll prefer it’s email. So it is mahesh AT TheTestTribe DOT com.
Michael Larsen: Fantastic. All right. Well, again, we will take this time to say thank you for joining us for this episode of The Testing Show. Thank you, Smita. Thank you, Mahesh. You are awesome. Greatly appreciate you giving your time to us this day. For those who are listening, we look forward to talking to you next month. Have a good one.
Smita Mishra: Thank you so much.
Matthew Heusser: Thank you.
Mahesh Chikane: Thank you for having me.
Michael Larsen: Oh, thank you.