August 2016 | Christabelle Noronha

'Success stems from persistence and honesty'

Soumen Roy has all things Canadian in his business hands. As the country head for Canada at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), he has in his care an operation that involves more than 100 enterprises, in a region that is a critical component of the company’s growth strategy as it is fertile ground for its services and solutions. TCS has been present in Canada for 25 years and is one of the 10 largest IT service providers in the country, serving a variety of customers out of its headquarters in downtown Toronto, with additional offices in Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. Mr Roy speaks about the TCS operation in Canada in this interview.

On Canada being a key market
TCS has identified certain markets as faster growing and Canada is one of them. It is a key market for technical innovation, technology advancement and digital evolution. The imperative for the country is to stay ahead of the curve in technology adoption, and this offers a huge opportunity for us.

If we take into account Canada’s GDP, spending pattern and the industries that have matured, it aligns with TCS’s service offerings and strategy. In Canada, much like the rest of the world, the highest expenditure on IT and digitisation is in the banking, financial services and insurance sectors, followed by retail and others. Given the country’s vastness, demographics, resources and industries, an efficient and effective technology network
is crucial.

On the digital re-imagination agenda
Digital technologies are compelling companies to re-imagine their business models, products and services, channels, customer segments, and so forth. For example, if two of the top five banks in Canada allow cheque transfers through mobile phones, then the other three will have to digitally re-imagine their processes to stay competitive in the business.

Every channel is getting customised to the individual customer level because of digitisation. TCS is investing in building digital talent. We are retraining TCS associates so that we can co-innovate with our customers and equip them to look at their business in a new way in the digital era.

TCS Canada has won multiple recognitions for its vibrant multi-cultural workforce

On the digital consumer economy
Digital solutions are disrupting current business models. Our neural automation product ignio™ has been implemented for one of our customers in Canada. As we evolve digitally, I believe that some of the business that we conduct will get disrupted by such tools, while on the other hand, they will open new opportunities for us. I don’t perceive this as a threat, because while the traditional support model may get interrupted by artificial intelligence or neural automation, the proliferation of technology consumption at the personal consumer level will open up business models and opportunities for us.

On the TCS Co-Innovation Network
Through the TCS Co-Innovation Network programme (called COIN), we are expanding our footprint in universities as well as in emerging technologies and incubators. Our association with innovation forums or hubs is essentially to facilitate the startups that would otherwise not have access to our clients.

The issue is not predominantly one of technology, but of economic sustenance. A startup has to produce results; only then does the operation get accelerated. We are contributing in our own small way by bringing startups to clients through our platform, where they can validate and reproduce in mass scale what they want to do for a successful venture. TCS Canada has also invested in dedicated space in its downtown Toronto office to facilitate innovation and collaboration.

Canada has challenges with the early exit of startups, and the government’s decision to increase federal spending on innovation clusters, university labs and research bodies may help in resolving the problem to some extent. Our investment in the COIN network will complement the Canadian government’s innovation programme.

On the new TCS facility in Toronto
We have been operating in this region for over 25 years for the last decade. It was necessary for our brand to be prominently recognised in the marketplace and our new facility in the heart of downtown Toronto helps us achieve that, with over 50,000 square feet along with a building signage atop the 25th floor.

The new centre provides space for collaboration, innovation and rapid product ideation. It will serve as a hub that deepens our relationship with our clients, and makes TCS an employer of choice and a core member of the local community. One of the centre’s floors is designated as a customer delivery centre, where our customers can get first-hand experience of how a global delivery model operates.

Customer visits were few and far between when we were on the outskirts of Toronto. Now, when I take in the panoramic sweep from our building, I can see that most of our customers’ offices are within a 1km radius. Customer proximity helps provide collaborative ideas, understand trends in different industries, and cement our relationship with the people who matter the most to us.

On TCS as an employer
We have over 3,000 employees in Canada. Of these, about two-thirds are either Canadian citizens or permanent residents. In the last three years, we have hired over 150 new college graduates and we intend to hire 100 more in 2016-2017. As business picks up in the expected manner, we plan to open two more delivery centres in the near future, in different provinces of Canada.

Recently, TCS Canada received multiple workforce awards such as ‘Canada’s Top Employer for Young Canadians’, ‘50 Most Engaged Workplaces’, etc. We have been recognised as one of the top employers in the country for the last two years.

On promoting STEM education
In line with our guiding principle of CSR impact through empowerment, we have undertaken a unique programme called ‘goIT Canada’ to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in Canada. We have partnered with the Toronto District School Board and other school boards since 2014 to train over 2,000 school students to do programming and run robots as part of their school curriculum. We expanded the programme last year to reach Calgary, Saskatchewan and will soon take it to Vancouver, British Columbia, as well.

On his career with TCS
I got my engineering degree from the University of North Bengal and master’s in business management from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, before joining TCS in 1998. Within three months of joining, I was sent to Sikkim to streamline a government project that had run off the rails. I’ve always had fond memories of that first challenging project.

I then went on to work in Australia, followed by a role in Japan, prior to moving to Connecticut in the US, where I was involved with one of the largest IT transformation projects in the world, with TCS as the technology service provider. Following that, I returned to India and, after a couple of years, headed off once again to the US in 2005.

I returned to Japan for a second time in 2010, this time as the country head. We tried to build a trusted relationship with Mitsubishi Corporation, resulting in a one-of-its-kind joint venture, which was a game changer for me personally and professionally. I am indebted to my company for all these phenomenal opportunities.

On the road to success
It is all about being persistent, adaptable, honest and aligning to the core value system. There are no shortcuts to success. At times, I feel that with the ever-dynamic technology changes, today’s generation could do even better if they converge their appetite for solutions with the root of the underlying problems.

When we grew up in this industry and in this company, we always learned to understand the root of the problem, which is the core to any customer centricity. We never provide the solution without understanding the problem. This would certainly demand stretching one’s intellectual capacity. It is imperative to understand the right balance of content and context to arrive at the solution that benefits the customer first and then us. What it boils down to is the need to exert yourself, learn and unlearn to give time to what you are doing.