As the man responsible for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) operations in the UK and Ireland — which together contribute about 20.1 per cent (Q3 06) of the company’s overall revenues — AS Lakshminarayanan, popularly known as Lakshmi, is quite a legend in Britain’s IT world. TCS has seven offices in the UK and Ireland, and employs over 3,000 professionals,working for some of the region’s leading corporations. Lakshmi who joined TCS in 1983, has experience in IT consulting and management with clients all over the world. He has lived and worked in Australia, Hong Kong and the US, besides India and the UK.
Since 1992, Lakshmi has focused on the company’s UK clients and operations, initially helping to establish TCS in Bristol and the West County.He subsequently spearheaded the establishment of client relationships with AXA Sun Life,CMIG Bristol, British Airways and London Electricity. The AXA Sun Life migration project was awarded a British Computer Society citation in 1993. He also initiated and led TCS’s global insurance practice until 1999, when he took over as country manager in the UK.
During his tenure as country head, Lakshmi has achieved a major expansion in business by focusing the organisation on the needs and concerns of existing customers in long-term partnerships. He steered TCS’s entry into the UK public sector and has been personally involved in the company’s corporate social responsibility programme, supporting the activities of institutions such as the Confederation of British Industry, the British Computer Society, the Prince’s Trust and Business in the Community.
Lakshmi has a degree in electronics from BITS, Pilani and is a long-standing member of the IEEE Computer Society and the British Computer Society. In an interview with Christabelle Noronha, he spoke about TCS UK, on the challenges of operating an outsourcing operation internationally, and about building an IT brand in Britain. Excerpts:
Against India-based competition we have been doing very well; in fact, the lead has widened over the past few quarters. Compared to international companies, only Accenture gets more mention than us in the UK marketplace. So, from a brand perspective, there is considerable awareness being created about TCS.
Currently, the focus of our communication is ‘TCS at the forefront of innovation’. This was the theme at our customer event this year. We will also be sponsoring an innovation award as part of ‘Business in the Community’, a charitable organisation whose patron is Prince Charles. But that’s not all. We are launching our innovation lab at Peterborough, and we already have a TCS innovations blog.
How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
There is a lot of systems integration work happening which is transformational in nature and goes much beyond traditional applications in the UK. Other than Pearl, which is also transformational, one other example involves a water company. Our implementation of an ERP solution is helping them transform their customer services and helping them to move to the top quartile. Another contract was with a major telecom company, where we executed a very large, enterprise-wide programme, quite transformational in nature. More and more, we want to be associated with these kinds of challenging projects, where both our consulting and IT skills are brought to bear.
In recruitment, how is the TCS brand perceived in the UK?
Recruitment here is primarily focused on building a larger consulting presence in the UK, and the consulting team comprises people who can engage with the customer to help them achieve transformation, optimise their IT and provide a technology road map to achieve their strategy. The other focus of recruitment is on programme managers who can handle large and complex programmes.
But the bulk of our recruitments are still done in India. We bring people for specific projects, because the mobility of people is critical in our Global Networked Delivery Model. Our people come here, understand the requirements, engage with the client and help take work back to the offshore centre.
Does the bulk of your clientele continue to be from the finance and banking vertical?
What about industries like media and entertainment?
What are the challenges of the UK market? How does the government react to the setting up BPOs for instance?
Call centres are prone to such sensitivities and TCS is positioned in a way that we can clearly say: ‘Call centres are something we are not into." If we have to execute a complete business process and call centre capability is an essential part of it, then only will we take it up.
Business conditions in the UK are very favourable. The challenge is how you make the most of the opportunities that exist; how you win the kind of business that you want; how you build talent and, finally, how you continue to execute projects well for customers. Those are the essential challenges. I don’t think there are any policy barriers from the country perspective. Ireland is a different story; movement of people is still not freely allowed, and getting visas is not easy. In contrast, the UK has a favourable climate and is a buoyant market.
Are you also selling products?
What are the revenues of TCS UK and what is the percentage of new business compared to repeat business?
Tell us about your association with Pearl.
Why did they choose TCS?