Chandra takes charge: He set the pace for others to follow

S Mahalingam | Updated on January 12, 2018

S Mahalingam, former CFO in TCS

N Chandrasekaran with S Mahalingam

The spark could be seen almost from the day that Chandra joined TCS. There were very many capable and highly qualified young minds who joined TCS in the 80s. To stand out so early as a star performer required great technological expertise and client recognition which he got without fail in every assignment that he worked.

His talents were recognised immediately and he was assigned to a project that TCS got from IBM in Washington. There were 63 other software vendors who worked on that project. Chandra again stood out and this contract , with him as the leader, grew to being one the largest projects for TCS at that time. And that project propelled TCS being declared the best software house amongst 63 competitors. The award given in recognition of this was in fact collected by Mr Palkhivala, who was the Chairman of TCS at that time.

One of the first decisions made by Ramadorai, when he took over as the CEO of TCS, was to induct Chandra as his Executive Assistant. This was of course done with the consent of Mr Kohli, the pioneer of the Indian Software Industry and the person who laid the foundation for TCS. Obviously, the grooming started then.

Comfortable with tech

Chandra was key to TCS to exploit the opportunities arising immediately after the Y2K boom. He was very comfortable with the technologies being propelled by the internet revolution. Clients saw in him as a person who could transform their enterprises into a connected one — both internally and externally. Naturally, he assisted Ram in the marketing efforts and in building intimate client contacts. The strategies of TCS as a multi-billion dollar enterprise was being articulated at that time and Chandra greatly shaped the view. IPO came along and Chandra, along with Ram, Paddy (S Padmanabhan) and me, helped write the script for the positioning of TCS — a script which has stood the test of time.

Much has been written about the manner in which he led TCS, over the last 9 years, first as the COO of TCS and thereafter as the CEO of TCS. He has broken away from all the competitors and set a pace for everyone to follow. He has done that by creating and nurturing a great team of leaders, some of whom run multi-billion dollar operations themselves. As any competitor will tell you, he has established great relationships with customers across all parts of the world.

As a person who has had a hand in his initial career, who has watched him closely as he built himself as a leader in TCS, who has been his colleague and his CFO, I would say that he brings in great many skills. He is proactive, inquisitive about developments in the technology field, building people, technology proficiency and understanding all dimensions of business.

Hard working

When TCS was seen to be trailing behind a formidable competitor at that time, he was combative, improving not just the ratio of contract wins but also of profit margins. He is hard working — continuous travel seems to rejuvenate him. He is also a family person, which is amazing when you consider the intensity that he brings to his job.

A person of proven capability takes over as the leader of Tata Sons. He has steered TCS so ably and one can confidently say that he will do the same with Tata Sons. I certainly wish him all the best as he takes over the new responsibility.

The writer is former CFO, TCS

Published on January 12, 2017

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