“How TCS Built An Industry For India” by R Gopalakrishnan & Tulsi Jayakumar

If India is reckoned to be a growing economic power house, one of the key contributors to this transformation has been the Information Technology industry. “How TCS Built An Industry For India” authored by R Gopalakrishnan and Tulsi Jayakumar, published by Rupa Publications in 2019 details the pioneering role and subsequent leadership provided to the industry by TCS, a jewel in the Tata crown.

To begin with a word about the authors; Mr Gopalakrishnan is a reputed Corporate Executive who was the Vice Chairman of Hindustan Levers and later Director in Tata Sons while Tulsi Jayakumar is a Professor of Economics at the S P Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR) in Mumbai. This book is the first in a series to be called The Shapers of Business Institutions building on the authors’ theme that Shapers of Institutions are institution builders in the true sense of the term. They are several notches above the conventional leaders of organisations. The book lays considerable emphasis on the role of Shapers in organisational building, instilling values, and shaping careers of employees in them for the long term sustainability and growth of the institution.

Two shapers described in this book- who made TCS what it is today- are Mr F C Kohli and Mr S Ramadorai. Mr Kohli became General Manager of TCS in 1969 and led the company till he retired in 1996. He was the first CEO of TCS and is rightly called the “Father of the IT Industry in India”. He passed away in 2020 aged 96. His handpicked successor was Mr S Ramadorai who joined TCS in 1969 and held many important positions over the decades. He was responsible for setting up TCS operations in the US in 1979 . He was at the helm of affairs of the Company from 1996 till 2009.

Today all of us know TCS as a giant- with revenues of $25 billion, operating in 150 locations in 46 countries with over 600,000 employees world wide. The book traces the journey of this institution since it began in a very small scale as a division of Tata Sons in 1969. We read of the foresight shown by Mr Kohli and his team and the bold decisions they took in the initial years in an environment often hostile to private businesses. Interestingly, Mr Ramadorai had a very different management style as compared to Mr Kohli. Naturally, the challenges he faced as the head of TCS were more complex and quite different from the ones that Mr Kohli had faced years earlier.

The book would have been significantly more absorbing had there been much more insight into the personalities of Mr Kohli and Mr Ramadorai. After all, one’s management style is pretty much based on one’s personality. What made them tick? What were their strengths and weaknesses- and they would have had them being human after all? Many in India, if not in different parts of the world – would have course heard of these gentlemen. Some quotes and an assessment about them from people who worked with them and observed them at close quarters would have vastly enhanced the value of the book.ย 

Whether you are in the IT industry or not, I think this will be an educative and interesting book for all professional managers and business leaders. It will inspire them as they learn lessons from the experiences of the pioneers and builders of the IT Industry in India.