TCS experimenting with robots to automate functions

Adith Charlie Mumbai | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on April 19, 2015

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is testing the use of robots to fast-track chunks of the software development process and automate some support functions. The move is being seen as TCS’ big bet in the emerging realm of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, which enables one device to talk with another machine over the Internet, without any significant human intervention. Increased automation would ultimately lower the dependence on human resources for low-end IT activities.

“We are currently doing some pilot projects in what we are calling ‘services-as-a software’. It’s a self-learning system that can train from the environment that you put it in. We will be making an announcement on this shortly,” N Chandrasekaran, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, said after announcing the quarterly numbers.

Though Chandrasekaran did not give details, in an interview with Business Line, Ajoy Mukherjee, Executive Vice-President, Head, Global Human Resources, said: “These are essentially robots or neuroscience-based programs that we are talking about. Since these robots have the capacity to think or analyse things in a specific way, it would become easier to program routine functions.”

These robots have been developed in-house, by TCS’ internal research and development teams, said Mukherjee. The teams at TCS also have access to EKA, India’s fastest supercomputer, thanks to the company’s 2012 acquisition of Computational Research Labs from Tata Sons.

If the pilot projects are successful, the process of writing basic software codes may become less time-consuming, analysts say. All indications are that TCS may also deploy these robots for streamlining support functions such as finance & accounting, document management and others.

Such initiatives will help Asia’s largest software exporter achieve non-liner growth, which refers to growing revenues faster than adding employees. Non-linear growth has been the holy-grail for Indian information technology services firms, who depend heavily on the 'per hour, per employee' billing model that forces them to hire in the tens of thousands every year to grow revenues. Global IT services firms such as IPSoft and Blue Prism that specialise in autonomics and M2M are slowly taking over several customers of traditional Indian software exporters.

TCS, which currently employs 319,656 staffers globally, made a net addition of 19,192 employees’ last fiscal.

If the experiment with neuroscience-based programmes becomes successful, will the hiring engine at TCS slow down?

“It’s a bit like how computers changed the way we do things. While robots may replace very rudimentary works, it will also open up new, high-end employment opportunities within the company,” said Mukherjee.

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Published on April 19, 2015
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