A first-generation college graduate from a farming family – these are the humble beginnings of Testsigma’s founder and CEO, Rukmangada Kandyala. As his co-founder Pratheep Velicherla sees it, overcoming an engineer’s hesitation and wading into business is uniquely Kandyala.

None of the four founders behind Testsigma came with specific business know-how. They all share similar backgrounds – like Kandyala, some of them are the first graduates in their families, come from simple means and were largely conditioned to finding a well-paying job.

Kandyala, though, saw an opportunity in the hours engineers spent on testing software code. Over the years, Kandyala (better known as KR), Pratheep, and the other founders Vikram Chaitanya and Rajesh Reddy, often met up and discussed engineering problems. All four studied in a small town in Andhra and at some point, worked with each other, either at Freshworks or Zoho. It was these discussions that led to Testsigma, an open-source test automation platform.

Testsigma was initially a passion project for KR. While he knew the what and the how of the product he was building, he wasn’t confident that he could sell and turn it into a valuable business. That made him wary of bringing on board anyone else in the initial days.

“I knew I wasn’t a good communicator. I didn’t come from an elite education background. So, I knew I couldn’t convince people by talking. Instead, I decided to let the product speak for itself.”

Today, TestSigma has already automated over 25M test cases, has over 250,000 visitors visiting the website every month, have scaled 20X revenue in the last 14 months and have raised money from global institutional investors.

Driving force

Do it and prove it – this is the motto and the grit KR epitomises.

Raised in Chittoor, the 37-year-old comes from a family that hasn’t seen anyone graduate class 10.

“From day one, I’ve been driven to do something. I have always wanted to make my tomorrow better, so we’re not struggling with the same problems. I knew I needed to get a good education if I wanted a promising career.”

While he opted for the typical path of engineering, he veered away from the haloed choices of Computer Science, and Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE), and picked mechanical.

“I was interested in automobiles, but because of my family conditions, I couldn’t pursue my Master’s. I got a job at Zoho through campus placements,” KR says.

However, the zeal to do something on his own wouldn’t quiet down. KR considered opening a restaurant and even pushed his joining by six months. Eventually, reality caught up and KR began working at Zoho in 2007. Fast forward to 2010, the itch to do something was back.

“I spent three-and-a-half years at Zoho where I learnt a lot. It was comfortable, but it was not what I wanted. So, I quit and was thinking about what to do next. I bought a few domains, thinking I was a good developer (in hindsight, I know that was immature!) Nevertheless, the (business) ecosystem then wasn’t what it is now. One couldn’t really start a company as easily.”

He did the next best thing – he joined a startup, Avenda Systems, which was eventually acquired by Aruba Networks. This is perhaps one of the defining building blocks in the journey to Testsigma.

In the nearly seven years he was here, KR learnt and understood critical details of how to build a company. By 2017, he was ready to take the plunge again. He quit his job, this time with several ideas in hand. One of them was Testsigma.

KR hired a few freshers and spent a year doing consultancy work, all the while building Testsigma. He also spent that time studying the market and looking for potential clients. It was in 2019, when he felt confident enough that he could sell Testsigma, that the company was officially formed.

“I had four to five prospects willing to pay by then. This was no longer just a dream; I was building a business.”

It was around this time that the other co-founders came on board. Pratheep is the CTO, responsible for all things technical while Vikram is the platform guy and handles all the infra. Rajesh focuses on the core automation engine and KR is responsible for business development and GTM.

After an extended beta phase, Testsigma launched in February 2022 with an open-source version and a cloud solution.

“Testsigma’s end to end test suite helps companies save a lot of time. Most companies take multiple weeks, at times months to run their tests and with TestSigma, this can be dramatically reduced. With the need to launch products quicker to market, companies can’t afford to manually test the product nor can they they afford to lose quality. Hence TestSigma makes a lot of sense to them.” KR explains.

Engineering a business model 

Pratheep credits KR’s clarity of thought for how the company has shaped up.

“KR has always been more business-oriented than the four of us. He can look at things from the user level while we are all very engineer minded. When we used to meet up (before starting Testsigma), KR and I often saw engineering delivery as a key problem. But as engineers, we were scared to 'sell' this idea,” Pratheep shares.

Part of the ‘Andhra mafia’ – an industry joke about the high number of Telugu engineers at any tech company – Testsigma’s founders didn’t have the contacts or the network to leverage outside the developer world.

So, what spurred KR to take the leap?

“I believe everything is possible. Focus on what you can do. Everyone will have weaknesses. You need to figure out how to overcome those and work around them,” KR says.

In their careers till that point, all the founders had worked on multiple million-dollar products. So, they were super confident about what they could do, KR adds.

Building and starting Testsigma was a steep learning curve. KR had his share of bad experiences along the way, but he’s been careful at picking his learnings.

“I’ve had partnerships that didn’t work out. I struggled because nobody was ready to believe in me. Meanwhile, I was too ambitious and wanted to accomplish things overnight. That has changed. Now I am more patient and think long-term.”

When Pratheep came on board, he brought with him his learnings from Zoho and Freshworks.

“Working at Zoho, I had the freedom to explore things and strategize from a product point of view. At Freshworks, I learnt the business view. Over here, I’m able to merge both learnings,” says Pratheep, who studied at a government school and college in Andhra.

The ‘Big B’ dream

Testsigma got its first round of institutional seed funding in 2022. A significant chunk of that $4.6 million is still in the bank – a fact that elucidates the founding team’s careful and tactical approach to growing their business. They will soon be announcing their Series A round of funding too. 

Runway is not a problem, but the company is keen to ensure every penny counts towards quantifiable growth.

“We see an opportunity to grow and want to grow faster, but not at the cost of company culture. We are steadily building and are careful not to be too slow either,” says Pratheep.

While they are fine tuning the business model as they go along, both KR and Pratheep are grateful for the investors they have, including BoldCap’s Sathya Nellore Sampat.

“Sathya is someone who understands our position and strengths. He was convinced about our pitch in the first meeting itself. Given my previous experiences, I didn’t believe him initially when he said he’d help,” chuckles KR, adding, “We have a very different relation with him than we do with any other investor.”

Sathya and KR's first in-person meeting in Bangalore

Agreeing, Pratheep says, “A big investor doesn’t have as much time to give. But people like Sathya are more keen and more invested in our success. He is very energetic and helps at the right time with the right details.”

“For us earning a few million dollars in early revenue isn’t a benchmark for success. In 10 years, I want TestSigma to reach $1 billion in annual revenue. I am aware most Indian B2B SaaS companies have not achieved that yet, but that’s what motivates us every day”

If TestSigma's origins are anything to go by, the founding team could prove it can be done.

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