Pune: The subject was Tata Consultancy Services, the students were 80 executives from a wide spectrum of Indian industry, and the classroom was the Tata Research Development and Design Centre (TRDDC) in Pune.
The upshot was a daylong learning process whose objective was to familiarise the visitors with the TCS saga, from the organisation's modest beginnings to how it has grown to become Asia's largest software enterprise.
TCS was the 'live case study' that capped off a six-day 'strategic leadership-training programme' organised by the All-India Management Association and conducted by faculty from the Harvard Business School at the Tata Management Training Centre, Pune, between 6 and 11 January 2003.
The final day of the event, which attracted talent from across the managerial hierarchy, gave TCS the opportunity to showcase the vision, skills, reach and business acumen that have made it a byword for excellence in the IT universe.
The day began with the 'trainees' being divided into groups of 10 and taken through a multimedia exhibition by TCS ambassadors. The exhibition recounted and explained the organisation's evolution and the integral part it played in India's rise to the status of global software superpower.
Various facets of the TCS story were brought alive: its path-breaking products and technological capabilities, its partnerships with academia and business leaders, and how it had sown the seeds of the country's IT industry and determined and defined the direction it took.
This was followed by a presentation where S Ramadorai, the CEO of TCS, gave an overview of the organisation's progress, its ambitions for the future, and how it intended to get there.
Ramadorai outlined the road less travelled that TCS had traversed to carve a niche for itself, and its pioneering role in creating and developing methodologies, processes and systems to take advantage of the opportunities sprouting in the wake of the worldwide computing revolution in the 1980s and 1990s.
He then elaborated on the requirements the organisation would have to fulfil, and the challenges it would have to surmount, to realise its goal of being among the world's top 10 in the IT consulting space by 2010.
''Different parts of TCS come together to deliver value to the customer,'' said Ramadorai. ''The need for collaboration on a global scale within TCS and with our alliance partners is clear. The need for a varied set of competencies and people management skills of the highest order across the spectrum is critical.''
Among the challenges that Ramadorai talked about were:
- Aligning employees to the organisation's vision, mission and values.
- Building a culture of ownership and empowerment.
- Integrating internal processes.
- Transforming the organisation to make it a global, market-focused entity.
- Sustaining revenue growth and profitability over the long term.
- Improving the perception and image of TCS in the public eye.
''The overall outlook for TCS and the Indian IT services industry is positive,'' added Ramadorai. ''The opportunity to grow by an order of magnitude is very tangible.''
Once Ramadorai completed his introduction the visitors were broken up into four batches:
- Group 1 looked at how TCS had created value for its clients by investing in research and development in technology, specifically by establishing the trailblazing TRDDC in 1981. The Centre, India's first - and still the largest - software R&D hub is credited with crafting outstanding products such as MasterCraft, the first fully indigenous and integrated system for software development.
- Group 2 analysed a business case study that explored how TCS had built synergies in engineering software services for the chemicals and petrochemical sectors. The venue for this study was the Tata Honeywell complex at Hadapsar, Pune.
- Group 3 examined another business case study, this one being about TCS's contribution in constructing synergies in engineering software services for the automobile sector.
- Group 4, which comprised senior executives, tracked an ongoing enterprise resource planning assignment that TCS has been deeply involved in. Elucidating the comprehensive project, for a South India-based textile machinery company, was Ravi Gopinath, who heads the manufacturing industry practice at TCS.
Rounding off the serious stuff was an interactive session where the participants posed questions to senior members of team TCS: executive vice presidents S Mahalingam and Mathai Joseph, vice presidents S Padmanabhan and N Chandrasekaran, TCS America president Arup Gupta, and senior architect and corporate think-tank member K Ananth Krishnan, besides Ramadorai and Gopinath.
It was an appropriate end to a day on which TCS, its successes and its dreams were shared by an audience less than well versed with India's greatest success story in the most competitive industry in the world. And it marked another chapter in the organisation opening up to embrace a wider constituency.