When Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) laid the foundation of its association with North America back in 1971, it was the first Indian software company to do business in the region. By the time it established an office in New York in 1979 — interestingly, with current chief executive officer and managing director S Ramadorai as the country head for operations — TCS was more than a fledgling. Today, nearly three decades later, it is one of the IT powerhouses in the country and the continent.
He helped set up, and successfully ran, TCS’s business in Japan in the late 1980s and was country manager for UK in the mid-nineties before taking over as head of operations for the northern region in India. Mr Kant, who moved to his present position in 2005 spoke to Sujata Agrawal in New York about TCS’s flourishing engagement with the North American geography, the difficulties imposed by the economic troubles in the United States and elsewhere, and the prospects of taking the company’s business to greater heights.
Innovation and differentiation have been the key to TCS’s success in North America. Could you tell us how this has come to be?
The other big differentiator is our complete, full-services play. It starts with consulting, moves into application development and maintenance and then gets into infrastructure services, engineering services and the products that we have. For many customers we are, basically, a one-stop shop.We can provide whatever type of service our customer needs in the information technology arena. The third differentiator is our people. We put a great deal of emphasis on our recruitment process, our induction and training programmes.
Coming to the innovation part, our onsite-offshore model was a disruptive innovation. Our processes and the GNDM methodology are also innovative creations. We have branded our innovation initiatives as the Co-Innovation Network (COIN) and we work in a number of different areas through alliances with companies and academia.We partner with start-up companies, choosing the ones that we believe have path-breaking ideas, and marry these ideas to the requirements of our customers. These small enterprises have the ideas but not the marketing reach or the implementation capabilities; we provide that. Our bigger customers believe in the ideas because they know that TCS would have vetted them and will help in the implementation.
We are involved with universities in addressing our customer requirements across industry segments, whether in software engineering or in areas that are out of the software ambit but applicable to customer needs. For instance, our collaboration with Stanford University is in data privacy, which is a concern for many of our customers. This is a segment that has developed significantly in the last few years and is now part of our consulting practice.
You mentioned your people as a differentiator. Could you elaborate on this and also about your efforts to bring more locals into your workforce?
It is critical for us to ensure that we attract the best people and that we take good care of them.We invest a lot in their training and development, which is why they remain with us. Our attrition, worldwide, is the lowest among our peers and this attests to our efforts. Training is crucial given that we are in a knowledge industry; so, as our people work with customers on specific assignments and projects, we ensure they stay ahead of the learning curve.
Six of the Fortune top ten companies are our customers; 49 of the Fortune top 100 are our customers.Working with such enterprises delivers a high degree of satisfaction to a TCS associate. The other factor is meritocracy. TCS has a performance-oriented culture embedded in its core: the better you do, the higher you go.
We are growing and expanding our scope of work like never before. Earlier we tended to focus on application development; today we are getting — quickly, if I may add — into segments such as infrastructure management, business process outsourcing, and consulting. This offers our people the chance to grow and develop in different spheres.
As for local recruitment, recently we opened our Cincinnati development centre. Spread over 225 acres, it is our largest delivery centre globally and it will have 1,000 people, the majority of them locals. Our centre in Buffalo also provides training for local people.
With 42 offices and 15,000 consultants across the continent, how do you knit the TCS North America family together?
Many of our people feel that Maitree [a common forum for TCS employees and their families] is a wonderful platform.While many companies get involved with their employees during office hours, Maitree goes much beyond that, encouraging interaction and bonding to a remarkable extent. In North America we have a large population of people from India who come with their
Could you tell us more about the community initiatives TCS North America is involved in?
Mr Ramadorai recently spoke about “pursuing new businesses in mature markets such as the United States”. Could you tell us a bit about these new businesses?
This approach is yielding good results because customers are in the comfort zone of having a TCS team that possesses thorough knowledge of their vertical. We have units for banking and financial services, for manufacturing, for telecom and more.
What about the issue of outsourcing?
How has the worsening economic slowdown affected TCS North America?
No cause for concern?
What kind of efforts are happening to enhance the TCS brand in North America?
Going forward what are the goals you have set for the company?
As we keep doing better and better, our customers’ expectations also increase. Our objective is to exceed those expectations. That’s what we have been doing and that is what we will continue doing.