There is one fundamental fact that stands out whenyou consider the history of the Tata group: this is a business house that places people and human values above all else. By making people an intrinsic part of business, living by the values they inherited and bringing them into everyday operations, the group has demonstrated how these can become the bedrock of an enterprise.
The values we profess are, for us, the way forward in business. At Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), we have always believed that if you want to drive on the highway, you have to first clear the forest. When somebody asks us why we took 35 years to reach a billion dollars in revenue, we explain that we had to clear the forest and create an industry and an ecosystem.
It takes time to build something new, to build a nation. You cannot compress this timeframe because people may not be ready for it, the country may not be ready, its policies may not be ready, customers may not be ready and the technology may not be accessible.
TCS was certain about the technology imperative from its very inception. We were convinced that unless we could build our technology capabilities, we would flounder when it came to delivering value, to individuals, to the company and to the country.
Beyond technology was the people equation, always the critical element for an enterprise such as ours. There are a million advantages to being a people-centric organisation, but there are plenty of challenges on the road to managing a rapidly growing organisation, especially in terms of the number of employees.
The issues involved in dealing with 1,00,000 people are radically different from what they are when we were dealing with 100, 1,000 or even 10,000 people. The downsides show up quickly: not enough professional managers, leaders or systems. If these problems persist, your employees will definitely get frustrated. We’ve always guarded against that.
The people-centric nature of the Tata group will continue, simply because it is a vital tenet of the Tata way, but there will be changes in the details. That will happen as we become more and more of a globalised entity and we reorder our business priorities.
The Tata group already has people from different countries and ethnicities in its fold; this trend will gather momentum as we expand into new geographies. These people will necessarily have to be integrated into the Tata culture, but we can also learn from them. It can, and has to be a two-way process. We have to also consider intellectual ability, leadership ability, programme management ability, project management ability, the ability to mentor people and craft excellence in them.
A multicultural work environment is a relatively new phenomenon. Today, the reality is that we collaborate as an integrated team: some people are from your side, some people are from ours, and some may be from a third organisation. When you put such a team together, you are particularly concerned about integration, about creating a sense of oneness.
At TCS, the integration agenda gets going right at the start, at our initial learning programme. This training programme has a set of common processes, procedures, faculty, content, etc. It began in India but has now been extended to other
What this does is help new entrants imbibe the TCS ethos — in terms of soft skills and technology capabilities — no matter where the training location is.
About 90 per cent of the TCS workforce is Indian, the rest are from a wide variety of nationalities. The latter part will keep getting bigger, so the diversity will be much more pronounced five years from now. We hope to create a whole new world of professional development opportunities for our people, irrespective of the nationality. If an American wants to work in India, a Brazilian in Hungary or a Hungarian in China, we should be able to create the openings.
Workforce diversity, and the challenges thereof, is fine but at day’s end the most important factor is that every individual be treated as a professional. In return, every individual must understand the limitations and the capabilities he or she possesses.
Organisations can only enhance the capability of their people if there is a willingness on the part of the individual to shape his or her future. The organisation is, at this level, only an enabler.
The thinking behind all this is that we have to find future leaders with capabilities to transform the organisation quickly. The kind of responsibilities they will have to discharge will be a lot different from what they are today.
The one big positive we at the Tata group have going for us, in this context, is our reputation as a caring and humane organisation. We are considered, from the people dimension, one of the best business groups around, not just in India but also globally.
When I say I am from TCS, from the Tatas, the immediate connection I repeatedly see made is this: these are worthwhile professionals, they believe in the community, they take human capital seriously, they are fair and ethical, their value systems are strong.
There are plenty of challenges ahead for the Tata group, and that is to be expected as you grow and become a serious player in certain areas. However, I believe that if you stay true to your values, you can face up to, contain and even conquer these challenges. It will be difficult in the beginning, but eventually you are going to succeed because the country needs it, the region needs it, the community needs it.
At the same time, though, we have to ensure that we have cleared the smallest of doubts. We have to understand the problem and address it before we move to the next step. I think the Tata group is capable of doing this, because we have the conviction to say that we care for the community, we care for the country, we care for the environment and, most importantly, we care about people. That’s what we are about.