Engineering as a field will be important and absolutely relevant: TCS COO

Venkatesh Ganesh Mumbai | Updated on July 16, 2020

N Ganapathy Subramaniam, Chief Operating Officer, TCS

What will change is the skillsets needed in an engineer: TCS’s Ganapathy Subramaniam

The June-ended quarter was one of the toughest quarters for TCS, something which it had flagged off at the end of Q4. Profits, revenues and margins were hit as a result of Covid-19. N Ganapathy Subramaniam, Chief Operating Officer, TCS, spoke to BusinessLine on the company’s plans, including whether remote working will render H1-B visas worthless, its plans to launch an India-specific NBFC platform and its M&A strategy to drive growth. Excerpts:

Where has TCS reached in its Secure Borderless Workspaces (SBWS) journey?

In the June-ended quarter, we operationalised SBWS and used it beyond (software) delivery. We used it to prospect customers, sell it to customers, remotely onboard clients, as well as new employees. This is reflected in the 37 new client wins in Q1.

On the project execution part of SBWS, we still have some customers who have not given approvals for WFH. Around 700 employees in TCS are not enabled to work remotely. Out of the 700, a small percentage of employees are unable to work due to the fact that we were not able to deliver equipment to our employees’ homes. We had business continuity strategies in place. If there was an outage in one site, we could move to another. If there was an outage in a city, we had another option. If there was an outage in a country, we had another option. But this was unforeseen as every country was hit. Also, SBWS was not thought of as a temporary measure, in reaction to Covid-19.

In many ways doesn’t SBWS and other remote working render H1-B visas meaningless?

It is very hard to say as it is a supply-constrained market. In India, we invested proactively in talent supply since the 80s. We are doing the same in markets such as the US and bringing awareness that STEM can be an important career option. Over the years, corporations in the West have leveraged talent from the East. While we can meet business demand from our localisation-related efforts globally, in the long term we have to think of our supply and software delivery ecosystem.

From management commentary in the last 2 quarters, will FY21 be focused more on execution, rather than acquiring new deals?

All the contracts need to be executed. We also need to enable clients for newer things. If we have to sustain momentum, we need newer projects. Digital sales and marketing are crucial now. Now we have to be visible remotely. In the digital world, it is easier to connect with clients. Interestingly, our client engagement in this quarter went up 3-4 times in Q1.

In pre-Covid times, outsourcing companies were letting go of contracts that had low margins or even cannibalise some of the existing offerings. Now can you afford to do that?

I don't know whether it is complicated. We need to be a lot more agile and disrupt ourselves. Else someone else will do it for you. That is the core of our business. The markets are a bit volatile and there is an economic lockdown globally. Unless the vaccine comes, people will be cautious. We are enabling our customers to repurpose their business with a new focus and listening to them.

So, there is no need to make provisions related to Covid-19 headwinds?

We didn’t have to do it. Based on the credit profile of some of our customers, if we have to take some provisions based on outstanding payments (more than the contractual agreement), we have policies in place.

Last year, TCS had spoken about launching a software platform for India. Any updates on that?

We have done a soft launch of our India-specific NBFC platform. We have piloted it and probably this quarter we will go mainstream, when some of the software-related nitty-gritty is taken care of.

In the last 3 years or so, engineering as a field was considerably impacted as jobs began to dry. However, with all this digitalisation push, do you see a renewed interest in engineering in the post-Covid world?

Engineering will be important and absolutely relevant. Even for doctors, technology has become crucial for any operation, in telemedicine, tech will be an enabler. In that sense, engineers will become the new doctors. However, what will change is the skillsets — AI, analytics, data science all this is needed in an engineer rather than mere coding skills.

Such a crisis also opens up opportunities for mergers and acquisitions. Are you looking at acquiring some of the captives of multinationals?

Firstly, any captives set up for cost arbitrage purposes will be irrelevant. We announced a deal with GM six months ago where we actually took over their captive, integrated their employees. There are some opportunities and we are aware of them and are well-positioned.

Recently, cases have come to light regarding the way companies are “benching” their employees and later asking them to resign.

We are not going through any such process. Whatever reduction happens is people who opt to move on. If you look at our deal pipeline ($6.9 billion in Q1), you will get the answer. We have also stated that we will honour all our offer letters. All this is reflective of our strength.

Published on July 16, 2020

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