It look 36 years for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to go public. But when it did, it was a blockbuster that raised more than $1 billion (Rs 5,500 crore at the current rate of exchange).
And Ratan Tata, the man who led the roadshow for the initial public offering (IPO), marked
yet another milestone.
Like him TCS had seen a lot: mainframe computers and the "Licence Raj" - both of which were put behind as TCS listed at a 41% premium to the issue price. Ratan Tata's decision to take public what was for decades a mere division of the group holding company, Tata Sons Ltd, showed his skills in taking on new opportunities as the economy opened up.
"TCS had functioned as the cash generation engine for the group wherein a practice was evolved of retaining half of the profits generated within TCS with the balance being used by Tata Sons," S. Ramdorai former CEO and managing director of TCS wrote in his book, The TCS Story. He was at the helm of the company from 1996 to 2009.
Ratan Tata's role was in giving TCS a strategic financial shape to get it into the big league in which the listed Wipro and Infosys were getting all the global investor attention despite being smaller than TCS.
To convince institutional investors about the potential of TCS seemed a daunting task. But it was done in style. Even before TCS went public, it made some key acquisitions, several of them strategic, which helped it strengthen its position as India's largest software exporter.
In October 2001, TCS acquired 51% in government-controlled CMC to benefit from a privatisation plan.
Several more buyouts and joint ventures followed, such as a JV in Brazil with Internet services provider Grupo TBA in 2003. Latin America was conquered in style. In Chile, TCS acquired a local firm Comicrom in 2005 that enabled TCS to expand into Spanish-speaking markets.
Within the group a consolidation gathered momentum when TCS folded in Tata Infotech.
There is a tale involving a diplomat who once asked Ratan Tata whether the IPO would have been better off in 1999 than 2000, when IT companies received much higher valuations in multiples of their earnings.
And Ratan Tata shot back: "But who do you think would have been the loser?"
Clearly a man who had shareholders in mind and was grounded in his thinking, as Ramadorai observed in his book.
Aided by its string of acquisitions, joint ventures and a huge software army, TCS is now a clear infotech bellwether and of late, seems to be stealing a march over its peers.
Ratan Tata unleashed the company, taking it from "among the top ten" right to the top. For Cyrus Mistry the challenge will be to sustain and maintain the growth momentum.
© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.