March 2009

On time, within budget and with great quality

Surya Kant, president of TCS’s North American operations, talks about business conditions and growth opportunities in the company’s adopted ‘home market’ — the United States

suryakant_tcs.jpgWith a North American workforce of about 15,000, around 50 per cent of global revenues coming from the region and up to 1,000 new jobs being created in Cincinnati, TCS is more at home in the United States than ever before. Indeed, amidst the global economic turmoil, TCS sees itself as a valuable resource for American and global companies seeking to increase value and keep costs in line.

What does it mean to be part of the Tata group of companies?  What advantages does it deliver? 
As a business, being part of the group means being part of an organization with significant brand awareness around the world. Jaguar Land Rover and Corus, for example, are two Tata brands that have helped to raise the profile of the overall group enormously. The Nano from Tata Motors is another; people stand up and take notice of what you are capable of delivering because you are part of a group associated with innovation and quality. Of course being part of Tata goes much deeper than branding: Tata also represents 140 years of values and ethics which are integrated into every member of the group.

Can you describe the importance of have a strong US presence? Why not run more operations from India?
I think our value proposition continues to be the story that resonates with our customers. That means we take a project, divide it and work on it in places where we find the best talent with the best cost effectiveness for our operations to deliver excellent level of quality and within the time and budget. We pioneered the Global Network Delivery Model and our customers can work with us anywhere in the world, including here in the United States. TCS is a global company and we are focused on locations where we can deliver the highest quality of work and best value, whether that’s in India, China, Mexico or Cincinnati. For the US there a number of fundamental services that we deliver here, because doing so lowers the cost of doing business or meets the needs of our customers.

TCS is continuing to recruit locally, particularly in Cincinnati, because there are certain types of work that are best done in North America rather than anyplace else. For example, certain elements within application development and roles where the customer requires support in a nearby time zone are better suited to North America.

We consider the US our home market. That’s the mindset from which we operate here and around the world. We have a number of very long term relationships in North America, including some customers who have been with us for as long as 32 years. Of course we also have many relationships with US universities, which reflect our mission to be part of and to support local communities. We work with the computer science department at Stanford University in the area of data privacy and with the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee on new ways of building business applications. We also have similar relationships at Georgia Tech and MIT.

What about Corporate Social Responsibility efforts outside of local universities?
This is an important part of our ethos. Across North America we have a large number of volunteers, in 2007 we took part in 85 initiatives and benefited 88 local communities across the continent. The Walk for Hope for Breast Cancer, in the United States as well as the work we did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are projects of which we are very proud.

You said in an interview last year that you felt that slowdown would not harm TCS as much as other companies. Do you still stand by that?
We have felt the impact of the slowdown in some areas such as banking and financial services. But we are also still very confident that the business will come through. Life sciences and healthcare, retail, energy and utilities and a few other sectors are still growing and investing and we are strongly positioned to go after these verticals and others. As customers look at how they can cut costs, they see that we can help, so we see a positive trend in terms of new engagements, new projects and new initiatives.

In the wake of the Satyam news, have you received any feedback from clients or prospects asking about your governance / compliance guidelines?
Our focus continues to be on our customers. Of course we have robust corporate governance guidelines in place, but I think that on a more fundamental level, TCS and Tata stand for integrity and our customers know that. Again, we have very loyal customers who have been with us for a long time. After Satyam, we received inquiries, and we responded to them. I don’t think it is something that our customers are concerned with.

To repeat what I said earlier, we consider the US our home market. TCS North America contributes over 50 per cent of the revenues of the parent company, and that figure is always growing. The value proposition — efficiency and the best quality services within budget — isn’t changing, and that’s what really drives our business. As we keep doing better and better, our customers’ expectations also increase. Our objective is to exceed those expectations.

What is your outlook for the marketplace in 2009?  Do you expect that the Obama Administration will force changes in the sector?
The new administration has consistently talked about increased investment in new technologies in both government and businesses. They are focused on increased healthcare spending and upgrades to the US electricity grid apart from other areas. Commitments for more technology spending are good for our business and I think the values we bring to the market — delivering projects on time, within budget and with great quality — will be attractive in the current environment.