How TCS's FC Kohli led the way for the Indian IT revolution

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on November 26, 2021

On the first death anniversary of ‘Father of India’s IT industry,’ TCS leaders share their memories

K Ananth Krishnan used to run into FC Kohli often while working out of TCS office in the Air India Building at Nariman point, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kohli would personally pour the tea for him when he visited his office even as he gave his insights on using technology for social good.

“He was amazingly updated on technology and very passionate about several things such as the Indian language, computing, hardware, electronics, using technology for social good and helping the smaller academic institutions. But there is one specific area that I would call out, which is dear to my heart — TCS Research and Innovation. He was the primary mover behind the setting up of TCS Research and Innovation,” said Krishnan who is now the Chief Technology Officer at TCS

What began in 1968 as a new management and technology consultancy in India has transformed into the IT behemoth known as Tata Consultancy Services today. This feat was achieved under the leadership of Padma Bhushan Shri Faqir Chand Kohli. 26th November 2021 marks one year since the demise of the founder and first CEO of TCS. Spanning over two decades, the visionary leader shone light to software development, earning him the epithet ‘Father of India’s IT industry.’

FC Kohli, who joined Tata Electric Co in 1951 to set up the country’s first load dispatch centre, was asked by JRD Tata to establish TCS in 1969. The brilliant technocrat saw the potential in TCS and his strategy for the evolution of TCS impacted the IT industry in India.

Surya Kant, Chairman- North America said,“Aptly called the Father of Indian Software industry, Mr. Kohli saw the potential very early on. He knew a clear differentiator was needed to create a strong foundation – and he inculcated “Excellence in everything we do”. He had a stern demeanor but underneath was a leader who loved his people immensely, exhorted them and made them proud of their accomplishments. For example, when I was deputed to Japan to start TCS operations in Tokyo, he was very proud of my ‘total immersion’ in the language and business etiquette. A few years later, he was greatly appreciative of the prestigious British Computer Society award for our transformation work for Sun Life Assurance company using our tools developed at TRDDC, Pune.”

In the first few years, TCS helped local banks with computerising inter-branch reconciliations. In 1972, TCS computerized the telephone directory of Mumbai. As the first CEO of TCS, FC Kohli has inspired many and led the way for the Indian IT revolution. His vigour and idea for what TCS could have become was strengthened by his vision for the IT sector in India, as an instrument of national development. Ever since its inception, FC Kohli supported TCS by enabling the organization to keep up with constantly evolving technology and leveraging it to suit the needs of the customers.

Ritu Anand, Chief Leadership and Diversity Officer said,“Over my three decades working in the industry, I’ve encountered a few leaders who have left a deep impression on me, my work and perhaps even my life. Few can compare to the steering force that FC Kohli was, guiding with a gentle hand or firmly pushing me, but always helping me move forward. Through my years working in HR and people management, several instances of learning have served me well, and even today, I continue to value the little lessons of life he taught me in his subtle way. Legends like Mr. Kohli leave their mark on so many lives, influencing us, enriching our minds and helping us grow in subtle but significant ways. One year on, his legacy lives on through the positive changes he influenced.”

One of the first decisions that FC Kohli took at TCS was to recruit almost the entire class of IIT-Kanpur’s MTech electrical engineering department, with specialisation in computer science. His approach and dedication to warranting that TCS rises to the top has shown results in innumerable ways. TCS, which began with a few hundred professionals under the leadership of the great FC Kohli, is today a family of 5,28,000. The life and legacy of leaders like FC Kohli explain how India has earned its place as a global IT leader.

Manoj Indulkar, Operations Head- India Business, TCS said, “As someone associated closely with the work TCS has been doing in transforming India over the last five decades, I would like to state that under Mr. Kohli’s leadership, from its inception, TCS always brought in innovative solutions and harnessed the power of IT for Indian companies. Whether it was the erstwhile Unit Trust of India or Tata Power or the various Banks, the IT adoption journey of these Indian giants started with TCS under the direction of early leaders mentored by Mr Kohli. TCS has always been embedded in executing truly transformational IT systems in India thanks to the direction set by Mr. Kohli. Mr Kohli’s legacy lives on as a part of all of us at TCS. Be it transforming micro finance in India or government systems in a developing African nation to delivering complex systems on the Wall Street, TCS can execute every challenge that has been thrown at it – thanks to the belief that we can do it – the belief that Mr Kohli nurtured in us. We will continue to develop talent and more importantly build leaders who will continue to take this legacy forward.”

Published on November 26, 2021

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