What is a No-Code Software?

Gayatri on May 06, 2020

In this podcast of our No-Code Insider series, we interview DronaHQ Co-founder, Divyesh Kharade, and talk about the platform’s journey towards making a difference in the enterprise app development industry. We get the inside scoop on the aspects that mould DronaHQ to be the future-proof no-code platform that it is; learning about the product, the capabilities, how it is different from its competitors, and the problems that it solves for customers.

You will understand:

  1. The overlapping nature of No-Code, Low-Code, and Pro-Code
  2. Which app development verticals DronaHQ can support
  3. What is the secret behind the growing popularity of No-Code
  4. When is No-Code not the answer
  5. What is the unfair advantage of a No-Code Platform

This podcast will help the CIOs, IT heads, entrepreneurs, non-technical founders, and many LoB executives to apply the No-Code technology in their digital initiatives.

If you, like us, have questions like these on your mind, tune in to our Podcast Series No-Code Insider where we pick the brains of No-Code app makers, DronaHQ makers, tech wizards, and more.


Kinjal [K]: Hi and welcome to No-Code Insider. This is a series of talks, interviews, insights and Q&A with no-code enthusiasts and makers of Drona HQ, a no-code platform. 

I am Kinjal here and today we have Divesh Kharade Co-founder and Tech leader. Here to take us behind the scenes of Drona HQ. Hi Divyesh, Welcome to the podcast. 


Divyesh[D]: Hi, thank you for having me here.


K: Hi, and how was the day going through so far?


D: So far, so good. Firefighting of course. As usual. 


K: Yeah, that’s nice. That’s a nice way to explain or describe your day. That’s usual, isn’t it? 


D: Of course, that’s daily life for any product or a tech guy, yeah, nothing, no surprises.


K: No surprises there. Cool. So today I really want to go to the basics about what is no-code, what is a no-code platform all about.

Background of what no-code is all about

D (01:01): So, let me give you a little background about, you know, what no, is all about. So generally if we look at, you know, applications have been created in the market for many years and there has always been an attempt to do fewer lines of code that people can write to create applications since whenever it started. So since the time of Lotus norms 3GL,4GL and so on and so forth. So no code is nothing new as a concept. It has always been an aspiration for everyone in the industry who creates applications by writing the least number of code, least number of lines of code. That is to increase the productivity of developers or people who are writing applications. No Code is into the same space. What has happened recently is if you look at the changes people have, the technology has advanced a lot in the last five to ten years.

The growing popularity of No-Code

D (01:55): If you look at 10 years back, we probably did not have iPhones, Android devices, the computational power and mobility were not very high. Same with cloud and everything coming up. So, when you look at all of these technologies merging and letting you experiment without going ahead and writing tons of lines of code, no code is a simple extension to the same stuff. But the only difference this time is, the demand for applications has grown rapidly because of these technologies. Now when you see the demand for applications growing rapidly and people not having enough resources to build these applications or these solutions or systems, the popularity of No-Code has grown multifold in the last, one or two years. And that’s why we are seeing no code, no code, no code, low code, as a very trending kind of topic. But to be very honest, it has been existing for a long time. So that’s what No-Code is all about.

Is there really no code at all?

K (02:55): So tell me some secrets. Is there really no code, to really not write any piece of code? Is it possible?


D (03:03): So I’ll give you a small story of what happened. So, DronaHQ, as an organization, we were into the enterprise platform space. We used to provide a platform where developers could build or rather deploy applications that they are already built on hybrid frameworks. Uh, but what we basically figured out was, if we have to really accelerate this phenomenon, we thought, you know, how would it be if we could create these applications without writing code. So that was a very, very, very raw, basic, a very top level kind of a discussion we had around a couple of years back. And to be very honest while having that discussion itself, we argued ourselves, because we used to build applications. We were techies, we were developers and we used to build applications and we thought, how is it possible?

D (03:59): You know, even though we are thinking what people are thinking like that, is it really possible to create these applications without writing code? Can we really do that? How will we handle this? How will we handle that? How will we handle navigation, caching, offline, and tons of stuff there? That a developer would ideally think, I write code in this kind of away. How would it, how would a business guy be able to do that? If you fast forward from two years back, the discussions that we had to now, I think our conviction into the no code story has only become stronger simply because when we started off, probably when we started off thinking, Is it possible? Should, we attempt it? and we try to aspire and attempt to do something of that sort.

We’ve come a long way since 

D (04:48): But we’ve come a long way and right now if you ask me, if you would have asked me two years back probably I would have certain to the same kind of a tone where would it be possible or not?. But if you ask me right now, I think every application that you are building at this point in time, Ok! enterprise or business application at least, I would say I think most of them are possible to be built without writing any kind of code with a very business guy who can actually drag and drop and build. Wow!! That’s something that we’ve seen and I’m not saying because we are building a platform of that source, I have seen other platforms also being built, in parallel that people are, let’s say building websites on or any other tools on. And I think it’s, it is a reality.

Difference between low code and no code

K (05:37): Wow, that’s massive. And what do you want to say about the difference between low code and no code? There are a lot of things coming up in the market and there are lots of articles, no-code, low-code sometimes people have used them, the same sentence. Low-code, no-code applications. And sometimes people are arguing that please don’t mix both the terms. What is your take on this, how do you define them or differentiate them?

D (06:11): I think it’s a very valid question. When we speak to customers, when we speak to people who are into this ecosystem, I see a lot of confusion where people misuse the words No-code or low-code and try and fit in some definition into it. But I think the definition is very, very, very, very easy. 

So there are three types of definitions to this one is the no-code one is low-code and one is pro-code. Okay. Let’s start from the pro code. Pro-code is basically the target audience to pro-code developers, who are writing active code and they will have an ID or a development environment where they will use some kind of a script or language and they will write code to write an application. That’s pro-code which is aimed at developers.

D (07:07): Then comes low code. Low code is nothing but a development environment itself or a script that you write. The only thing is, it is also aimed at developers but it saves, you know, some mundane tasks of writing code every day, like putting a header every time, putting a footer every time and so on and so forth. So the definition of the target audience remains the same. It is still developers who are using low code, but the number of lines of code that they write has gone lesser and everything else remains still the same. They still have to compile the application, they still have to deploy and so on so forth. That’s low code and there are specific players like Outsystem or Mendix who serve this kind of a market which is low-code and eventually every script that you see is eventually low-code itself and that comes to no code, the biggest difference between low-code, Pro-code and no code is low-code and pro-code are targeted towards developers. No code, the target audience shifts or changes completely. It’s not completely developers. Though of-course developers can use it as a no-code platform, its primary audience is people who are subject matter experts of building a particular application. They are domain experts of building a particular application. They’re business people and they want to create tools or applications and without involving a developer, they can basically drag, drop and do all of those things. So that’s the overview of what these ideal three platforms are.

An app built without a developer in place

K (08:37): Okay. So that brings me to my next question. I understand this is for the business users, but how many of these applications are actually percentage-wise, if you have seen in the last one year, what percentage do you think are actually a no-code application, which was end to end developed without a developer in place?

D (08:58): I’ll be able to give you examples of apps that are built on the DronaHQ itself. 

Because DronaHQ is a pure no-code platform, we basically have seen applications being built by business analysts, by business heads, by project managers, by quality analyst guys. So all of these guys who have something to do with tech. In their very periphery. So if you look at a business analyst, he is into the tech space itself. He is analyzing business requirements and putting them into place for an application to be built. So it’s very close to the tech. He understands the requirements, he knows what is to be built, but he’s not actually going in and writing code at that point of time. I think these guys are people who are the first immediate people that we have seen adopting DronaHQ. And they can build everything that they wanted to build right from applications for a particular department to whole organization-wide applications, forms, transactional applications, display dashboards and you name it so on and so forth.

The different elements of an application

K (10:15): Wow, that’s impressive. So, there are many elements to an application from front end to the database and integrations to various other systems. Does a no-code platform support the complete infrastructure of creating an application from not just the front end or not just the backend, how does it stand?

D (10:40): If you look at any application right, so every application has a stack of, the way the architecture is built. Ideally, there are four larger pieces to it. Of course, there are a lot more things internally, but there are four larger pieces to it. One is the front end, which is your ideal web application with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, etc. Which is your nothing but your UI and all of that? The Client-Side logic that you are going to build. The second layer is basically your API layer, which is nothing but data arbitrage that takes place. But, more or less business logic connecting to the database and so on, so forth. That other stuff that you write in your API. The third is the data, the actual data, which is the database layer. 

D (11:31): Now if you look at your databases. There are tons of databases that you are, that are available in the market and some of these no-code tools like DronaHQ also provide you with the same. And the last part is nothing but Automations, which is generally if we look at schedules or migrations scripts and we want to write some schedules and so on and so forth. So that’s the last part, which is not a very important part, but most of the enterprise applications required at some point of the time it requires those things. 

The four major pillars of DronaHQ

So, what DronaHQ does is, DronaHQ covers all these larger four points. For building out the front end, it provides a UI builder where a user can drag-drop build UI depending on the mobile or web or responsive, whatever front ends that you would require. And it also gives you a complete no-code way of writing your client-side business logic, which is, you know, hiding any controls, showing any controls on different rules and so on, so forth.

D (12:30): So that’s all that we can basically do on top of the UI builder that we provide. The second part of it is the API part. We provide a workflow engine, which is again, no code. What it does is it, when you are going to build the workflow completely, it also gives you an API endpoint. So if you have an application which is the only backend that you would want to build and front frontend is in your existing application that you want to enhance or something, you can also use the DronaHQ workflow engine to build out those kinds of workflows as well. And you have tons of blocks in it, like approval blocks, input blocks, branching, logic, updating a sheet or data, transferring or data transfer into third party systems, integrating them and so on, so forth.

D (13:20): So all of those things we can basically configure drag-drop into the workflow engine. The third part is the data, actual data itself. So the DronaHQ provides a sheet-like interface. Which is nothing, but we call it as sheets itself where it’s a database, it’s a columnar database, but you can access it like a sheet. You can build out your columns, you can put rules into it, you can have your column definitions with your text number, etc. And you can use it as a full legit database, which can scale as your systems scale itself. And the last part is we call it as automation where you can configure particular schedules, on particular events into third party systems or into the DronaHQ. You can run scripts with basically nothing but trigger workflows in DronaHQ itself. And you can write your own logic there. So these are your four major pillars that DronaHQ covers. But if you look at all of these tools that you will see in the market or if you look at any no-code platform, We have few differentiating factors into all of these three or four sections that we use, for which customers basically come to us. 

What is DronaHQ Not right for?

K (14:32): That’s Nice! I think I would love to go into each of those, but in today’s episode, we will just stick to the overall view of the DronaHQ and no-code. Definitely, in some more episodes, We’ll cover each and differentiate each element, each of the four elements. But that brings to my next question. What is DronaHQ not right for? There will be some elements or a niche where you say, Hey, this is my platform for something like this or best suited for.

D (15:01): So, I will tell you what people have been building. So generally what happens is we are building a platform where even we don’t know what kind of cases people are building. So every day when we speak to customers, we are starting to praise ourselves that, you know, what kind of things people are in a building on top of this platform for which we did not even build those features or platform for. 

Popular No-code Use Cases

So that itself has been a surprise for us. But ideally, if you will look at, not from our perspective, but what our customers are more comfortable building things on top of DronaHQ. One is internal tools, which are facing employees. Systems like- invoice management. Uh, you know, systems like- HR systems, inventory management, order taking, stock keeping and so on, so forth, inspections, audits, certifications, etc.

D (15:54): So those are the kinds of applications which are very popular that people have built, critical running applications, business-critical applications, and they are successfully built, running in production, tons of users. So those are, I think that’s the sweet spot for us. So if you look at a target audience of employee-partners, B2B customers are where DronaHQ fits in very well. But like I always say, never say never. So you never know, The use cases grow every day, as in when additional features and customers discover things into the platform that they are building it for.

K (16:31): A quick one, tell me one application which you were surprised to look at, somebody a customer would have made and showcase to you and would have come up to you and you were surprised. Wow, this is something which would have amazed you.

D (16:45): Let me think so, I think there was one application which was a large FMCG customer. So, the way they wanted to build is, they have tons of brands under their umbrella and they have all of these guys spread across multiple geographies and they faced a lot of issues where the counterfeits or copycats of their brands were appearing in the market because it’s a very popular FMCG brand. Right. And, the business head there was facing a lot of business hits when it comes to counterfeits or copycat products across the globe. He thought of why can’t we, because we have people, distributors, across the market. Why cannot we think of something where this part, a counterfeiter or a copycat, can quickly be reported back.

D (17:48): And it basically goes through a whole workflow of legal guys + their brand protection team and so on, so forth. Right. So that started off as a concept because we had viewed it as some kind of a workshop with that customer, with their business team itself. And I was surprised because, in two day’s flat, that whole application was built and was ready to go live. But more importantly, the look and feel of the application appeal to the end-users. It was completely built by a designer and not even a business guy or a business analyst or anyone else. So that was more surprising for us.

K (18:32): Superb! That’s amazing. Flat two day to build an app and make it go live. I have never heard of such stories.

D (18:39): That to a company which is a global fortune 500 company and global deployment. That’s nice.

What is your unfair advantage in the market?

K (18:47): So tell me Divyesh, what is your unfair advantage in the market?

D (18:52): So, I’ll tell you the way we look at what are our advantages and why we are going that path. So when we speak to customers, I would not say small customers, but the medium-sized and plus medium size and large size customers, enterprise customers. Generally, they have a preconceived notion in their head that when I use a no-code platform, I would not, I would be in, I will hit a ceiling. I will not be able to build an app, I would want to build, which is pro code. So, if I put a developer in place, probably a developer will be able to build anything and everything possible, right! But with the no-code platform, I will not be able to do that. I will hit a ceiling, I will get stuck somewhere and so on and so forth.

Hitting the ceiling with no-code

D (19:42): So generally if you look at DronaHQ as a platform, of course, with any no-code platform that is going to be the case because what the platform provides you will be limited with what they provide and what you’re going to build. But what we’ve done is there are three places where we have opened a developer interface. So while you are doing no code, while the people who are configuring are going to be business guys, if they think that they are getting stuck or they have a ceiling, they can basically have a developer build out that small module. It can be business logic, it can be a UI control or it can be a workflow block. So a developer can be used at that right amount of time.

D (20:30): So just because that small model is not supported by a platform, you need not give away all the benefits that no code platform brings with you and go towards the pro code. So it’s not an extreme decision to make. You can basically get a developer to write that small piece of code and integrate into the same application that you have. So we have a code block of function editor and UI editor that we provide that developers can use so that they can provide a reusable component. So that is one. Second is, you know generally when customers go live with any application if it’s a small use case they can go live and they can at runtime, they can iterate on their application and deploy it in production. 

Environments in No-Code Development

D (21:25): But if you imagine a case where a customer goes live with 10,000 users, it is widely used in an organization, the whole tool that they have built, an app that they have built. And now you want to do any iterative changes. It’s not very easy because you can’t just do an iterative change and break the whole application that all of these 10,000 users are not building or using on their devices or on the web. 

So, what we have is something called an Environment. So when we have a dev and production environment. Whenever you iterate on your application by default it moves into a dev environment which only gets deployed to the dev version. So you’re right from your UI to your workflow, to your database, everything has a dev version to it and you can basically at runtime. You can make all of those changes. Once everything is stable, you can easily publish them into a production environment, that second. The third is while any business guys in a large enterprise organization are building these critical applications, like invoice management for example, or inventory and so on, so forth.

The data becomes very critical. Permissions come into play.

D (22:18): The data becomes very critical. The system of record becomes very critical because you cannot tamper with that data at any point in time. So when you look at those, then permissions come into play. So, Who has a creator’s permission? Who has editor permission? Who has read-only rights? Who has view-only rights? and so on and so forth, Who has publishing rights? So we have all of those different rights built onto the platform itself. So, while you are building a very serious data-intensive or data critical application, you can use all of these things, to keep your data safe as well. And last but not least, I think, uh, the user experience of building this, applications completely. So I think we spend a lot of time getting the user experience right for everything that users are going to use to build out these applications. I think by far, We think we have one of the best user experiences to build out any platform, any app that you would want to be.

Biggest compliment received

K (23:20): Fantastic. That’s great.

So quickly tell me one more thing, which is the best or the biggest compliment that you’ve received for the platform? I think that’s quite a lot and every day we receive a lot of compliments. Some reviews and something that made your day or something that do remember that Hey, some user just popped up a message.

D (23:41): There was one, HR, someone from an HR fraternity runs an assessment company. I think he has no relation to tech at any point in time. He’s a pure HR consultant. I think due to the recent Coronavirus they wanted to do, they couldn’t do face to face assessments of a company that they were looking for. And he thought well let me give it a try. I think in a week he was able to build a whole online assessment platform on his own. And I think, what he came and told me was I couldn’t believe that I could build an app myself. So I think that probably you made somebody into an app developer.

D (24:31): And now he is probably offering it to a lot more customers. So that’s like a partner. I mean that’s the way we enable partners as well. Our partners are also surprised that, you know, they can build apps. So all of our partners, if you would see, they have never built apps ever in their life. And I think that’s one of the best compliments that I would say that we received.

How do you explain No Code to a non-technical person? 

K (24:57): Great. Quickly tell me in a short one sentence, if somebody has to understand what is DronaHQ as an outsider to the tech industry?

D (25:11): So, if you look at anyone. They have a schedule every day, they start doing something and you know, they end their day somewhere. So whatever jobs you are doing. I think all of these jobs or things that you basically work on every day, like to do tasks. I think everything can be more efficiently done if you use technology systems or apps to get an advantage. Unfortunately, the bandwidth to hire someone to build out these applications or the budgets to shell out to go and find someone and build these applications was missing at this point of time because of everyday tasks that you would want to complete in time. So I think what platforms like these provide is not everyone who’s even a non-tech, right. Can come. They can think of what part of their job can they automate or they can more efficiently do using apps. And even if they start with that one small thing and come ahead and build, I think it’s going to change a lot of their lives.

Sneak peek for the Power No-Code Users

K (26:27): On an ending note can you tell us a sneak peek into what’s coming up next on the platform?

D (26:34): So there are tons of things that we release almost every week, but, so there’ll be something, so of course, there are always improvements that happen. So if you look at the system of record, ideally there are two things. Either, your data has to be reliable and the data integrity has to be right because you are playing with a system of record. So, we keep on always improving day today. So that’s the boring part of the deployments that happen. But one big kind of update that is going to come in for the, uh, not for the end-users, but for the people who are going to build these applications. So, while no code lets you build applications really fast, what we are basically focusing now on is also, while they are building these applications while they are dragging, dropping while they’re binding data or pushing, how can they use shortcuts a lot more, how can they do things even quicker than they are doing on the platform, on the tool itself. I think that would be a big deployment that will come up.

K (27:42): Great. That’s a secret to our no-code tool today and on that ending note I would like to thank Divyesh for his valuable time to share What is no core platform all about, Why and how DronaHQ was built up? And go out and explore the platform. It’s a SaaS cloud-based platform for everyone out there who thinks they cannot code and they cannot be. Make an app. Go out, make those apps surprise yourself and surprise us. Thank you so much. 

D: Thank you. Bye. 

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