Tech giant: What made JRD Tata take the ‘fateful’ decision to start TCS : Cover Story

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MG Arun

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FOUNDING FATHER

The chairman of Tata Sons from 1938 to 1991, J.R.D. Tata took a fateful decision in 1968. His brother-in-law, aide and confidant Colonel Leslie Sawhney had suggested addressing the group’s needs for data processing via a single business unit-and just like that, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) was founded.

THE TECH JOURNEY

This took place at a time when computers were looked upon with some suspicion because of their potential to replace human labour. TCS’s early contracts included punch-card services to sister company TISCO, an inter-branch reconciliation system for the Central Bank of India, and providing bureau services to Unit Trust of India. In September 1969, Faqir Chand Kohli, a director at Tata Electric Companies, joined TCS as a general manager. Later, he progressed onward to become its CEO. Much of the transformation in TCS took place under Kohli, who still has an office in the Air India building at Nariman Point, one of TCS’ first offices. Kohli, now 93, is often referred to as the father of the Indian IT industry. Another vastly influential individual was S. Ramadorai, who retired from the posts of managing director and chief executive officer in 2009.

N. Chandrasekaran, who succeeded Ramadorai, saw TCS generating revenues of $16.5 billion in 2015-16 under his leadership. In his book The TCS Story and Beyond, Ramadorai recalls that the company’s partnership with Burroughs, one the big three mainframe computer makers, was crucial to train its engineers in fundamental concepts relating to micro-programming and software architecture. The first real ‘outsourcing’ contract TCS got from Burroughs was to upgrade a hospital accounting system for about $24,000. In 1975, TCS delivered an electronic depository and trading system called SECOM for the Swiss company SIS SegaInterSettle. It also developed System X for the Canadian Depository System and automated the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. It associated with a Swiss partner, TKS Teknosoft, which it later acquired. In 1980, TCS established India’s first dedicated software research and development centre, the Tata Research Development and Design Centre (TRDDC), in Pune. In 1981, it established India’s first client-dedicated offshore development centre, set up for clients Tandem. In 1993, TCS also partnered with Canada-based software factory Integrity Software Corp, which it later acquired. On 25 August 2004, TCS became a publicly listed company.

SOUND HEAD OVER ITS SHOULDERS

The current MD and CEO Rajesh Gopinathan joined TCS from Tata Internet Services in 2001. He was first made vice president and chief financial officer, before being chosen to head the company after Chandrasekaran became the chairman of Tata Sons.

DID YOU KNOW?

TCS has 289 offices across 46 countries. It also has 147 delivery centres in 21 countries



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