Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Inside CEO Rajesh Gopinathan's plan for the future of Tata Consultancy Services

One of the youngest chief executives of the Tata Group, Gopinathan is effecting change from within to project a bolder TCS in line with the real capabilities it already delivers

Harichandan Arakali
Published: Sep 13, 2021 11:06:46 AM IST
Updated: Nov 2, 2021 03:53:02 PM IST

Inside CEO Rajesh Gopinathan's plan for the future of Tata Consultancy ServicesRajesh Gopinathan, CEO and managing director, Tata Consultancy Services

Image: Mexy Xavier 

Rajesh Gopinathan became CEO at TCS in February 2017, when his boss N Chandrasekaran was tapped to run the Tata Group. Gopinathan, one of the youngest CEOs in the Group, has overseen TCS’s change into an organisation that is geared to meeting the needs of customers in a world where automation and AI will play a central role.

He is credited with conceptualising TCS’s machine-first delivery model. Last year, the company also successfully implemented its ‘Agile 2020’ plan, even as Covid-19 forced the bulk of its employees to work from home. The plan is a reference to both the name of a technical framework for software development that developers have increasingly adopted, and to the idea that the company needs to be nimbler in anticipating and meeting the IT and software needs of customers.

When Covid-19 struck, no one could have anticipated it, but Agile 2020 gave the company the tech infrastructure and the collaborative mindset to come up with what TCS today calls 'secure borderless work spaces’; the company has helped customers adopt their own versions of this framework as well.

Going forward, Gopinathan sees TCS sitting at the intersection of the business and technology needs of his biggest customers, offering advice and tech know-how to help those customers choose ecosystems best suited for their needs.

One aspect is being given particular attention. On Gopinathan’s watch, TCS is learning to become its own best salesman, to showcase the sophistication it brings to the table — focusing on the complexity of the problems it solves for its clients and the value delivered therein, rather than on the engineering elegance of the solutions it provides.

TCS has a plan that it has been implementing in a systematic way to change from within, so it can change the way customers see it. Many are acknowledging it, with the more upstream mandates they are already handing the IT giant. Through it all, Gopinathan remains as down to earth as ever, even as his aspirations for the company reach for the clouds (pun intended).

Gopinathan is also systematically acquiring strong domain expertise, and local presence, in his biggest markets by buying up entire IT units from his customers — taking thousands of experienced IT engineers, consultants and programmers on to the rolls of TCS — in return for long term contracts, but also so TCS can offer the capabilities of those people to other customers in those markets.

At home, he will have to grapple with a talent war that is surely coming. Established foreign companies as well as an increasing number of Silicon Valley startups are looking to expand their engineering base in India. India’s own tech startups, flush with hundreds of millions of dollars in VC money, are looking for talent as well.

As TCS increases the share of digital tech it delivers to clients, it will have to fight for the same talent pool. Even with its highly streamlined training engine humming away, Gopinathan will have to find innovative ways of winning people and retaining them. One ambitious project, currently underway, is a talent cloud that will separate project delivery from individual resources, but focus on the best overall delivery possible.

Over the next decade, all these different, but highly-coordinated efforts, will see a TCS emerge that will be capable of heterogeneous work on two fronts: The traditional area of helping businesses run the most efficient operations, and the new frontier of growth and transformation.

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Inside CEO Rajesh Gopinathan's plan for the future of Tata Consultancy Services