The Week: How does TCS institutionalise the pursuit of excellence?
S. Ramadorai: This is a continuous process. In software delivery at our variousdevelopment centres, we are assessed by the Software Engineering Institute’s Capability Maturity Model (CMM) level assessment. Then we have almost 500 certified quality analysts and about 8,000 professionals who are members of ITPE. These are all essential to be a global organisation in search of excellence. Then the kind of growth, productivity and investments we make in technology, R&D and training, is again a continuous process of excellence in TCS.
TW: In today’s world of IPR, what is TCS’s strategy in terms of creating and owning knowledge and technology?
SR: There are three aspects here. One is property in terms of patents, second is property in terms of code and third is property in terms of branded products. We do have property which belongs to us in all these segments. To own the knowledge is, of course, one strategy. The other is to license the knowledge and capability available with somebody else, the third is to buy the intellectual assets, fourth is to incubate technologies and ideas of people, both within TCS and outside. We operate on all these dimensions. We have a mechanism to incubate start-up companies in specific areas like multimedia and wireless applications.
Regarding owning knowledge, the key is to build on it. If you have a knowledge, a patent but don’t know how to package it, brand it, market it, what use is it? Yes, you need to own knowledge, but how you market it globally, that is the challenge for Indian companies. Today the model is if you have an intellectual asset, he has another piece of knowledge and a third person yet another intellectual asset, you combine the three and create a branded product. The market is for integrated products, the market cannot be confused by saying you sign a license for my portion and another license for his portion.
TW: How do you manage change and consistently grow?
SR: We do this in a couple of ways. Change itself, we have instituted within the organisation as a way of life. That is borne out by the way we have invested in multiple technologies. We cross-train people on multiple technologies and we assimilate new technologies within the organisation as it happens and proactively invest in technologies which are needed to build the future; this is a way of life here. Second is our relationship with our technology partners and technology organisations, be it IBM, BP, Oracle or whoever. As a result they see us, one as a vehicle for absorbing the technology and demonstrating solutions around those technologies. Second, they see us as a value to release these technologies in a market like India. So there is an institutionalised process for the last 30 years.
TW: Another area where TCS is admired is for its social responsibility.
SR: Community initiatives and social responsibility is an important dimension of TCS. For example, purely at the project level, we do projects like the National Depository, the income tax computerisation, the disaster management systems we did for the Latur earthquake, things like that. We participate irrespective of the revenue from these. Another area we are heavily involved in is the community initiatives in schools, where we not only give computers but participate in curriculum development. We are also beginning to take a lot of interest in adult education; one is with the government of AP, where we are putting together programmes aimed at women and people over 40. This is having an enormous impact because we are using technology to teach people who have never learnt to read or write. We also have community initiatives outside the country.
TW: How does TCS retain its people. In your experience, how have expectations changed in the past decade?
SR: We do not have major problems with retention of people. Monetarily, we pay well and have systems of team rewards, cash rewards, etc. The non-monetary part of it is, we say what is the professional input we want to give you as an individual. One is the training. The other is the flexibility and the range of projects we have. The opportunity to learn new technologies, then membership to professional bodies, then we talk about accreditation as quality analysts, hen the opportunity to be located in any part of the world. So I think it is the type of work, the type of learning and the creation of a very challenging environment and opening up of an accelerated growth path for each individual. We have people just 30 or 32 who are CEOs in some of our joint venture initiatives. These are all very high motivators for retention.
The main difference from 10 years ago and now is that today young people no longer see this as a life long employment. Their expectation is what can I get out of the system in a couple of years. So with this expectation, we say if you are going to stay with us for only three years that is acceptable to us, but the challenge is can I stretch the three years to five years and more, where he gets a lot of value out of us, we get a lot of value out of him and the customer gets a lot value out of both; then the chances are that he will stay back.
TW: How do you see your role as the CEO today as compared to what it was in the past?
SR: I see today that the world is becoming smaller, moving faster. So it has become more accelerated in terms of what you need to learn and what you need to do. Yes, the experience one has gained means you have to perform the role of an elder statesman, an advisory role, thinking about what the future is going to be like, what are the issues the organisation will have to deal with five years from now and how to prepare to tackle those issues. So a lot of time will go to strategising, mentoring, coaching, facilitating and giving way to younger people. It is already happening, we are asking a lot our younger people to shoulder much higher responsibilities than what we were given at that age.
TW: Despite its successes and reputation, why does TCS maintain such a low profile, and is not so well known among the general public?
SR: It is a way of life for us. We have always maintained a low profile. But can we do with more visibility, with more awareness in the marketplace? Clearly yes and we are trying to address that issue.
We ran a corporate campaign these past eight months highlighting the TCS brand, what it stands for, what are the segments we are operating in. So the point is well taken that in this day and age we have to be more visible.