Doyen of Indian IT industry FC Kohli no more
Faqir Chand Kohli popularly referred to as the ‘father of India’s IT industry’ passed away on Thursday at the age of 96. Born on 19 March, 1924, Kohli was the first chief executive officer (CEO) of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Ltd, India’s largest IT services company.
As a pioneer of India’s IT revolution, Kohli laid the pillars of the country’s mammoth IT-ITeS services industry which is pegged at a whopping $191 billion today.
Nasscom in a tribute to Kohli, a former chairman of the industry body, said he was a visionary leader who foresaw the opportunity of India in technology services and built TCS many decades back when almost nothing existed in the tech sector in India.
“His leadership and passion over the decades played a key role in helping establish India as a trusted and quality partner for global corporations, evangelise the importance of technology adoption for India, push for greater research in academic institutions, bring awareness on the importance of local language and hardware industry in India,” Nasscom said. “FC Kohli will always be remembered for his pioneering contributions to the sector and remarkable leadership at Nasscom.”
As chairman of NASSCOM in 1994-95, Kohli led the industry and Nasscom to build global partnerships in key markets, showcase the opportunity for IT services from India and build a culture of collaboration in the industry members.
Born and raised in Peshawar, Kohli graduated in Physics from Punjab University. With a government of India scholarship, in 1946, he left for Canada where he pursued a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Queen’s University in Kingston, followed by a Master’s in electrical engineering in 1951 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.
Kohli’s career with the Tata Group began when he joined Tata Electric (now Tata Power) in 1951. He helped set up the load despatching system to manage the system operations and went on to become director of Tata Electric Companies in 1970.
After an illustrious career, Kohli retired from TCS in 1999 although he remained with them in a consulting capacity. For his pioneering work, he was honoured with numerous national and international awards including the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour, in 2002.
“A pioneer who saw the future and built the IT industry in India…has many admirers in the industry. We were fortunate to capture his thoughts on building the industry and TCS through itihaasa app. Will miss his thoughts and advice for the industry,” said Kris Gopalakrishnan, cofounder, Infosys Ltd.
“Sad day for Indian IT. He was not just the first CEO of TCS but someone who laid the foundation of India’s greatest growth story,” CP Gurnani, CEO, Tech Mahindra said in a tweet.
TCS said in a statement that Kohli had joined the company in 1969 at the behest of JRD Tata. “
He pivoted first into management consultancy, and then over the next two decades, into software development, helping the organization navigate multiple technology waves over two and a half decades by continually investing in people and staying relevant to customers,” the company said in a statement.
N Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Sons said he had the privilege of working with and learning from Mr. Kohli from the day he hired him as a trainee in TCS. “He was a true legend, who laid the very foundations for India’s spectacular IT revolution and set the stage for the dynamic modern economy we enjoy today. Mr. Kohli led innovations in areas far-ranging from adult literacy, water purification, software engineering, software automation, complex-systems and cybernetics,” Chandrasekaran said.
Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO and MD, TCS said Kohli was a true visionary, showing amazing foresight in harnessing the rich engineering talent available in India to create an entire new industry that defied all odds and grew to be a global powerhouse.
“Over the nearly three decades that he led TCS, his sense of purpose, his clarity of vision, strength of character and unwavering belief in investing in people left an indelible stamp on the organization’s culture. Mr Kohli’s contributions to TCS, the Indian IT industry and to the nation, are immense and immeasurable,” Gopinathan said.