ITs awesome twosome, the perfect combination of youth and experience

Written by fe Bureau | Bangalore | Updated: Nov 30 2013, 21:25pm hrs
If Natarajan Chandrasekaran wants Tata Consultancy Services to grow at a blistering pace, NR Narayana Murthy is not one to rest on his laurels even after a lifetime spent building Infosys. Murthy has put Indian IT on the global map, and set standards that others aspire to meet. To Chandrasekaran goes the credit of turning TCS into India Incs hottest property the firm logged $10 billion in revenues in 2012. In his second innings at Infosys, Murthys hoping to steer the $7-billion IT major onto a faster track with a tenacity that belies his age. The younger Chandrasekaran is raring to go: brimming with ideas to deal with new challenges that the digital age brings.

The first-ever Express IT Awards in Bangalore on Saturday will see Murthy being honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Chandrasekaran taking home the the Newsmaker of the Year award.

Indeed, it has not been easy for Indian IT to keep up the tempo in a tough business environment. But the TCS chief has repeatedly surprised the Street, outperforming quarter after quarter; TCS became the worlds second most valuable IT services company in 2013.

If India today is a shining jewel in the global IT world, much of it is thanks to Murthy's vision. A Padma Vibhushan recipient who loves western classical music, the unassuming Murthy wears his learning lightly.

Chandrasekaran, for his part, has catapulted TCS into a different league altogether. With his extreme customer focus, in the last four years Chandra has transformed TCS, making it grow at a speed few companies can match. In 2013 he grew the company further, opening up a wider gap with all its rivals.

Heres the strike rate: TCS led Indias top-tier IT pack with a 5.4% sequential growth in dollar revenue during the July-September stretch, while it posted 4.1% growth in the first quarter this fiscal.

Chandra has been credited with spearheading several strategic new business initiatives at TCS and adding new business lines. TCS, under him, has entered new industry verticals such as media and information services, mobile and digital services. All of these have since matured into sizeable businesses.

With over 285,000 employees, TCS has become the largest private sector employer in the country with the highest retention rate in the $108-billion Indian IT industry. It is expected to have 300,000 employees on its rolls by the end of the current fiscal.

Chandra, who represents TCS at multiple global and local associations, was the chairman of the IT-BPO trade body Nasscom between 2012 and 2013. He is also a marathon runner to boot, who believes that fitness is the key to success. In 1987, he joined TCS after completing his masters in computer applications from Regional Engineering College, Trichy, Tamil Nadu.

The history of Infosys is part of corporate Indias folklore, about how Murthy and six colleagues started the company with a capital of $250 in 1981. The going was tough but the band stuck together. In 1990, before the liberalisation era, there was a $1-million offer on the table for selling Infosys. Nine years of work had not taken Infosys to any great heights and outsourcing had not still become a buzzword in India. A couple of his co-founders were in favour of selling out. Chairman Murthy turned to his colleagues and gave a small speech. This is our darkest hour before dawn. If you are all bent upon selling the company, I would buy out all of you, even if I did not have a cent in my pocket. That was probably the last time an Infosys boardroom discussed the possibility of taking a backward step.

Murthy has come out of retirement to steer Infosys through difficult times, describing the company as his middle child and promising shareholders that it would take three years to make it a desirable company once again. This second innings will call for Murthy to bring forth his imperious skills and supreme strategic thinking yet again. As a modern master of the global outsourcing delivery model, the IT czar has always wanted Infosys to transform itself into a truly multicultural organisation whose revenue model depends on non-linearity.

Infosys has traditionally loved high-margin play and has always been prepared to let go of deals that did not fall within the specified bandwidth. But the winds of change have started to blow across the organisation and he is driving those changes. It may not be possible for Infosys to continue to deliver on those high-margin promises, but even his rivals know that Murthy has another set of cards up his sleeve.