Tata's TCS President Krishnan Ramanujam On Sustainability … – Forbes

Krishnan Ramanujam, President, Enterprise Growth Business at Tata Consultancy Services
Krishnan Ramanujam is the President, Enterprise Growth Group at TCS. We recently spoke about his vision, direction and go-to-market strategy with enterprise customers.

Karen Walker: For those who aren’t familiar, can you give a brief overview of how Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) fits within Tata Charter Group?
Krishnan Ramanujam: The parent body, Tata Charter Group, is about a 150 year old company. It was founded in 1868, and it is synonymous with the heritage and growth of India as a country.
It’s the most trusted and respected business group within India, and that is because many generations have lived by the credo that the purpose of business is to give back to society. They have practiced this by creating a product group of about 90 for-profit companies.
These companies are held by our parent group, which is a philanthropic trust and holds about 66% interest in the for-profit groups.
When the businesses make their profits and send the dividends to the parent body, in some form those dividends go to philanthropy activities, not just India, but all over the world in every country where the group has business interests. This is one of the very unique things that define the Tata Group.

Walker: I love this underlying purpose tying the organization together no matter how large or how far apart they are.
One of the key areas that you are focused on is driving growth and transformation. I’ve heard you say that you are leading toward a more customer-centric model rather than an IT-centric model. What does that mean to you?
Ramanujam: Customer centricity is actually what defines TCS and it is not only a core belief, but strategy for the company. Over the last 50 years, we have grown to be a global leader in the technology industry.
Being a major technology provider allows TCS a great opportunity, not only to drive efficiencies in our customers, but helping our customers try to reimagine their businesses with technology being at the forefront of that reimagination.
It puts TCS in a very advantageous position because we are able to play in the growth and transformation of our customers.
Cost and optimization, growth and transformation – for any major enterprise these are equally important. TCS is already a global leader in the cost and optimization space, and now we have a very valuable opportunity to participate in the growth and transformation agenda for our customers as well.
It is important to note that we are not moving from one to the other. We are going to keep enhancing our previous focus, and at the same time, add another engine to the strategy.
Walker: Earlier this year you were appointed as the chairperson for NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies), which is the Indian trade association for business process management. From a global standpoint, what trends are you seeing in the industry?
Ramanujam: I would say that perhaps the single most important agenda that’s relevant at the CEO and boardroom levels is sustainability. Every industry is now bringing sustainability as a priority to the forefront. We are increasingly seeing companies put sustainability as a key criteria, not just as a matter of responsibility, but also as a key growth driver for reimagining their own enterprises.

Walker: Would you expand a little more about how you’re able to impact sustainability?
Ramanujam: We help our customers starting from the front end strategy. We help them understand and quantify their carbon footprint as part of their enterprise operations.
What do they need to do in their supply chain? What do they need to do with their suppliers and vendors? What do they need to do in their customer-related operations? We are able to provide them advice in defining a strategy and then following it through with execution.

Walker: Are there any additional trends you’d like to highlight?
Ramanujam: What’s becoming a very powerful business influence is the convergence of multiple technologies. For example, the combination of artificial intelligence, data analytics, IoT and blockchain. These are the technologies that are creating a lot of magic.
Practically every industry is reimagining their future, which is made possible by these digital technologies, which was not possible five years ago.

Walker: Which brings to mind the move to the cloud. I think about two thirds of the world is not yet on the cloud. What do you think the barriers are for people adopting cloud technologies?
Ramanujam: Cloud is perhaps one of the most transformative phenomena on the technology front to impact the enterprises. The barriers are really in the form of, “How we build a business case around it. How do we execute and deliver value?”
Obviously, as with any new technology with a lot of promise and potential, there is a lot of exuberance. Practically every enterprise has made cloud a core part of their IT strategy.
However, most of the issues begin with execution, strategy and planning. We have to be realistic in terms of what is possible. If the world was perfect and everything worked exactly as it should, the moment we say ‘let’s all move to the cloud’, everyone in the enterprise would align and get behind this transformation.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. Enterprises are finding out that their initial business cases are far too aggressive. A lot of the focus today is shifting to execution and it’s going to be a reasonably tough job.
This is where companies like TCS come into play, because that is where we have excelled. We have proven ourselves in terms of our execution capability. Almost every customer of ours across every industry is putting the focus on execution and actually moving workflows to the cloud.

Walker: I recently saw a study from McKinsey stating that roughly 18 million Indians will need to find new occupations by 2030. The good part of that was that the study indicated the emergence of new jobs with increased application of digitization, automation and application of AI machine learning. How are Tata and TCS in particular upskilling their digital talent?
Ramanujam: The McKinsey report predicted about 18 million jobs being lost. That’s one side of the equation, the other side is that technology will transform the country and can produce roughly 36 million jobs. That’s the transformative power of technology. Over the last few decades, that has always been the fear that automation is coming so people are going to lose their jobs.
One of my favorite quotes from Chandra (Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Chairman of the Board at Tata Sons) is that there are only legacy technologies, no legacy people. That the human spirit is so powerful that for the person with the right attitude and the willingness to work, they can learn any new skill and make themselves relevant for the future.

TCS is in the business of technology and consulting and making the two come together to solve our customers’ problems.
The best thing about this industry and this company in particular is that technology is ever-changing and is a learning experience. People who work for TCS rarely do the same job for more than a few years at a given time, and that includes me as well. This requires all of us to be constant learners.
In fact, many of their career progressions and even salary goals are all linked to their ability to upskill themselves, getting the certifications and getting practical experience. We are a company that crucially depends on learning new skills and prioritizing education.

Walker: How do you go about leading such a large and diverse global organization group successfully?
Ramanujam: The good thing about a company like TCS is that we are very strong on culture.
I’ve been with this company for 31 years. I joined TCS in 1991 when there were less than 2,000 employees, and today there are 600,000. So what that brings about is a set of values practice. More importantly, what binds these values, practices, and culture is the fact that the top management team of TCS have been friends for 25 to 30 years.
You can put any kind of organizational structure or strategy in place , but at the end of the day, if there is a strong culture and bonding among the top management team, that is the most important force because you can truly make things happen when you work as a team.
Management acting as one team is so crucial, and that is what we focus on rather than anyone’s individual style. That’s what defines TCS, and perhaps the single most important reason why TCS is so successful.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.