Quest of conviction

Updated: Mar 26 2006, 05:30am hrs
It has grown to a $36 billion business in the country and has seen entrepreneurs go from zero to multi-million dollar company promoters. But one has to look hard to find an IT company founded by a woman. The geeks are almost always male and so are the success stories. Women are employees in the software industry and more accounted in the headcount rather than the top slot. Vandana Dandekar and Meena Sane chose not to be one of unknown shopfloor members and set out to build their own IT company.

Fat salaries offered by IT companies make women complacent. There are a few who venture out but prefer to freelance. Those who want to, find little support from their families, says Meena Sane, as one of the reasons there are so few examples of women who have taken up the challenge and established their own firms.

Quexst Associates, their company, chose to focus on a difficult area. They are among the few third party software testing players in India. This is being done by the big guns Infosys, Wipro, Satyam or niche players such as Applabs, Mercury, ReadyTestGo and Verisoft. We did realise that it was a major risk, But deep in our hearts, we were quite convinced that it would work, says Sane.

Both of us had worked for Mastek in Pune for three and a half years and knew that software quality had potential to be an independent business. We took the plunge in 1998. A Rs 80,000 order from Kuwait set the ball rolling, remembers Dandekar.

Today, Quexst has a client list that has Tech Mahindra, KPIT Cummins, Siemens, Zensar Technologies, NCR and i-Flex on it. Quexst is now bidding for bigger projects outside India and has recently bagged a deal from UK for testing their products. We are also in the process of setting up ODCs for US companies in Pune, Sane says. The duo are acquiring more space for accommodating these ODCs. We have 100 employees currently and want to scale up to 200 in a year taking revenues to Rs 10 crore.

Convincing companies to outsource testing, however, was not an easy task as they were always worried about security issues and were not comfortable with the idea of giving out their products for testing and especially to an unknown company. But networking and their own expertise helped. Quexst is today considered a serious player in the testing business. Apart from software testing, which brings in 60% of its revenues, Quexst also does process consulting and training. Quexst helps companies going for process quality certifications including CMM. Quexst is gearing up to tap the $2 billion opportunity.

Dandekar takes care of testing, process consulting, HR and future strategy, while Sane looks after training and day-to-day finance at the company. Disagreements are common, but after seven years together, it has become easy to sort out issues, says Dandekar.

The company takes a lot of their time. But they manage to spend time with their children and their husbands who are pursuing independent careers.