TiECon Pune 2018: Corporate values made TCS what it is today, says FC Kohli
The highlight of TiECon Pune 2018 undoubtedly was the session with the legendary FC Kohli, former managing director and chief executive officer of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and Ishaat Hussain, former chief financial officer of TCS.
At 94, Kohli needed no help to walk up the stage and more importantly, he recalled the minutest details of how TCS was set up and grew to be the multibillion-dollar giant that it is today.
“The transistor came to India in 1949-50 and in 1968, we at the Tata’s started using a computer to manage the grid in 1968. Today, you get power in your homes because of the computer the Tatas built in 1968,” he said.
What made TCS a great company, according to Kohli, was the corporate values. “In those days, people worked for the country; that was foremost on our minds. Even so, in those days former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was against computers. So we did the next best thing; we exported our work.” That is how the TCS story began.
“We hired freshers and trained them. Our training programmes were so thorough that we were almost like a university.
“At TCS, we started an Adult Literacy Programme where we developed a software that would teach people to read a newspaper, albeit slowly, in their mother tongue,” Kohli added.
The software was developed in 10 languages and handed over to the government, Kohli said, adding that nothing happened for the next 15 years.
Kohli said, “My point is that if people in France can use French to talk to their computers, why can’t we use Indian languages. Can you imagine the benefits of a computerised society?”
Despite his age, Kohli is far from retired. “When I gave up TCS about 15 years ago, the Tatas asked me what I would need. I asked for a secretary, space and all library access.”
He now works with universities to ensure that the level of education gets better and better. Ishaat Hussain spoke about the financial aspects of the TCS initial public offer (IPO).
“I was a man from manufacturing and was used to companies asking for money. However, at TCS, it was the reverse. We kept giving money. When we went public, it was after Infosys and at that time Infosys was 80% the size of TCS. Today, TCS is 2.5 times the size of Infosys,” said Hussain.
He believes that offering ESOPs (employee stock ownership plan) which is a popular means of employee retention is a bad idea. Hussain said that employee stock ownership plans lead to unintended consequences such as propagating short-termism, aberrant behaviour in keeping stock prices up and loss of focus.
Talking about the value system of the Tata group, Hussain said that, “We believe that profit is the outcome of the business, not the objective. While it is important to make money it should not become an obsession.
“You need oxygen to breathe but you don’t live for it. Two, it is important to make money but how you make it is even more important. Three what you do with the money you make is also important.” He stressed that TCS used its money to put it back in the business, to reward all stakeholders and lastly give it back to the people.