How many engineers has TCS destroyed

Death of an Indian IT pioneer

At the end of November, F. C. Kohli, the father of the Indian software industry, died at the age of 96. He founded Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in 1969. In contrast to other group companies of the huge Tata group, TCS was not an independent subsidiary. As the staff organization of the Tata Sons Ltd. it should rather support these name daughters in the technical processing of their data.

It was a godsend for Tata Sons. Thirty years later, TCS was a billion-dollar company - and was still one hundred percent owned by the parent company. When the holding company urgently needed capital in 2004 to repay its legacy industrial subsidiaries - automobiles, steel, chemicals, hotels - it floated TCS on the stock exchange. For a block of shares of 25 percent, she was able to pocket two billion dollars.

But it was also a stroke of luck for F. C. Kohli. The private control of TCS - and the foresight of the company patriarch J. R. D. Tata gave him the operational freedom to develop and offer his own services for customers outside the Tata family in addition to in-house technical services.

Deficiency as an incentive

The almost insurmountable tariff walls that socialist India had built around itself at the time also came to his aid. TCS had a service contract with Burroughs Computers. The main task was to develop programs that made it possible to switch older computer models to newer ones, and to produce the so-called migration software.

However, you needed your own computer for this. But not only was the tariff for its importation 101.25 percent, which increased the final price for TCS to an unbelievable $ 800,000 at the time. In addition, the Indian government growled TCS to earn the issued foreign currency itself. Within five years it had to bring back double the dollar cost through its own exports.

Another hurdle proved to be extremely fruitful for F. C. Kohli: Burroughs did not trust the Indians and out of concern for their intellectual property, he sold the machines without detailed production plans. In addition, the import of spare parts was simply forbidden. The TCS engineers had no choice but to understand and reconstruct the construction and functionality - the software - of the computer from the inside and to manufacture their own spare parts.

Burroughs was so impressed with the performance of her Indian partner that she used their services to migrate her old computers to the next generation in the United States. This helped TCS to collect the necessary foreign currency, with which it was soon able to heave more modern computers home over the high customs barriers.

Cheap Indian Software Developers

The experience with Burroughs in the USA made it clear to Kohli that there was a great shortage of software engineers abroad - especially cheap ones like the Indian Number Crunchers. With the emergence of more and more computer companies, it was no longer just a matter of migrating between company-owned devices, but rather those from competing companies, for example from a Burroughs computer to one from IBM or ICL.

More and more complex information processes also helped TCS with the in-house development of new solutions. Coincidentally, Switzerland was an important experimental field for the company here. Together with former engineers from Burroughs Switzerland and Texas Instruments, she founded her own marketing company called Teknosoft SA.

Teknosoft helped to significantly reduce the still strong distrust of western companies towards the Indians. A service contract has now been signed with a Swiss company. Responsibilities thus remained subject to Swiss jurisdiction. The order from the Swiss stock exchange for a data-controlled clearing system (SECOM) became a milestone for the company. With this record of success, it was now able to offer the solution of complex processes with ever larger amounts of data worldwide.

Not a self-marketer

Before long, TCS was one of the country's most important export companies. However, it remained below the radar of public awareness. The services provided in India did not appear in any trade statistics. They therefore remained unmolested by the government and its nationalization and taxation desires.

It was helpful that F. C. Kohli was not the type of entrepreneur who also marketed himself with his product. His name was known nationwide, but few associated him with a facial image. If there was one thing he cared for, it was the image of a person who was curt, if not grumpy.

He stood in marked contrast to other Tata crown princes and of course to the namesake of the huge company. But as little as it appeared externally, it was able to assert itself internally.

Kohli's management philosophy of judging every employee based on their skills only made him the father of the Indian IT industry in terms of personnel. A large number of the later IT entrepreneurs went through his tough school. Most followed his example of treating employees regardless of gender, caste, or religion. What counted was first the effort, second the performance. This was good for business too. Today, TCS is Asia's largest IT company with a net present value of $ 190 billion.

As in the early years, most of the customers are still from abroad and not from India. It is one of the paradoxes - one could also say: the failures - of modern technology that it is able to assert itself in areas that are rationally organized. When it comes to social processes - administration, education, health, democracy, conflict management, etc. - suddenly she no longer has the assertiveness of a force of nature that is often ascribed to her. It is only as effective as the actors who use it allow.

However: Even if TCS earns the money abroad, most jobs are still created in India. It currently employs almost 400,000 people and recruits around 35,000 new employees every year. Fifty years ago Kohli was able to buy a brand new computer cheaply from a company in Calcutta. But the communist union did not let him unpack it because they feared it would destroy their jobs.