the time he became TCS boss, I had retired. But I had contact with him when I was looking after Tata Elxsi.
People don’t realise that Tata went through the grind before he took over. It is sometimes easy to think that if you are a member of the family, you don’t have to go through the grind. When I joined, JRD Tata and Ratan Tata’s father, Naval Tata, were there. Ratan Tata was an architect. He did his education in architecture in Cornell University. I think his first job was with Tisco in Jamshedpur.
TCS started in 1969. In the initial days, apart from licence raj, the government was dead against computers. This was a socialist/communist view. The same is true about today’s clamour over FDI in multibrand retail.
Tata understands all the dimensions of the business and his biggest contribution was in turning around Jaguar and Land Rover. That makes me think of Air India, of which JRD was the first chairman.
JRD and Ratan Tata were two people with different styles. But were always willing to experiment. Let’s not forget TCS came in JRD’s time. I was shifted from Tata Power. PM Agarwala, who was my boss, died after a stroke, so I got stuck. Tata took it forward with Tata Communications and Tata Elxsi.
It was necessary for them to give a free hand to their executives who ran companies. They did what a parent would do. The parent doesn’t interfere with the child, but if the child has a problem, he comes and helps. That’s a very different relationship. They were not the ring masters.
I should say that JRD and Ratan Tata were sensitive to the companies they set up. Those were the days when you set up a computer company, but you couldn’t import a computer. But their commitment to the country is total. You don’t run away from the country.
n Faqir Chand Kohli, regarded as the father of the Indian software industry, joined Tata Consultancy Services in 1969 and charted its future over the next two decades. He was appointed deputy chairman of TCS in 1994