Top quotes by father of Indian IT industry, Faqir Chand Kohli
TCS changed software production from an artisan-like operation to a software factory’s industrial assembly line under FC Kohli, also represented as the Henry Ford of IT services.
‘TCS was not sure which way to go when I took over,’ recalled Faqir Chand Kohli, former TCS deputy chairman, around 1969, when on a year-long deputation, he was taken into Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
With ten consultants and 200 operators hired, their primary duty was to handle TISCO’s punch card activities (now Tata Steel). In 1951, the Tata Electric Companies (now Tata Power) joined Kohli. At TEC, his growth was meteoric. He climbed from Chief Load Dispatcher to Deputy General Manager within two decades.
In 1968, with 20 senior executives from different Tata firms, TCS and three other units were formed as operational divisions of Tata Sons. Kohli was responsible for his almost coerced deputation into TCS as GM by PM Agarwala, then director-in-charge of TCS, for his exposure to computing and commendable success at Tata Electric (the fourth utility firm in the world to use computing).
Kohli is alleged to have told JRD Tata, ‘I don’t know anything about computers,’ to resist his move to TCS. To which JRD shot back, ‘Well, no one in India knows anything either.’ Kohli’s heart was in TEC; someday, he aspired to lead the business. Getting a job cut out for him at TCS, nonetheless, he got into the act, nearly instantaneously. TCS had to build the business from scratch with no trail to follow and no benchmark to imitate. Its first breakthrough came from a deal to automate its inter-branch reconciliation mechanism from the Central Bank of India. An execution deserving of notice brought instructions from 14 other banks. It was followed by ventures from the Unit Trust of India, the Bombay Municipal Corporation, and the Delhi Transport Authority. They needed him to remain with TCS, though. He pushed it, and the rest is history. The failure of the Indian electrical sector was the benefit of India’s embryonic IT business. The travel has been far from easy.
Following the Indira Gandhi government’s nationalization in 1969, banks’ companies deteriorated as the government did not want computers. It was during this time that Kohli was elected to the respected US-based IEEE Board of Directors. He presented his worries to JRD Tata about the lack of market prospects for TCS in India before leaving and averred that it would have to be closed soon. However, for two consecutive years, he used his regular trips to IEEE, nearly every quarter, to discuss market opportunities in the USA. He would often visit Detroit, the Burroughs Corporation’s headquarters. At the time, Burroughs needed healthcare applications to be bundled with their machines. Kohli persuaded them that they should work together with BC and TCS. BC was convinced, and the two signed the first $24,000 IT outsourcing deal in India. TCS then had no single Burroughs computer. But TCS went ahead and installed the whole device on an available ICL rig. (acquired from Life Insurance Corporation when its communist unions had prevented its use perceiving a threat to jobs). (obtained from Life Insurance Corporation when its communist unions had prevented its use perceiving a threat to positions). To pass the scheme from ICL to a Burroughs computer, TCS designed an innovative filter. It impressed BC. TCS completed his first software export project. Kohli was made the director-in-charge of TCS in 1974.
India has skipped the industrial revolution and the revolution in microelectronics. Kohli predicted that India had another movement waiting for it, the IT revolution, during a function at the Computing Society of India in 1975. He assured me that he did not lose the moment. Later, he also proposed designing suitable courses for high-end chip design and testing to improve human capital. As a result, India has become home to a flourishing field of chip design and research.