ESTIMATED READING TIME: 7 minutes
This pandemic-propelled recession has been like few other economic downturns. Entire sectors drastically downsized. Offices shuttered and employees hunched over computers on kitchen tables and bedroom desks. Swarms of trucks dropping parcels at front doors. And, of course, most of all, the disastrous toll on the lives and health of millions.
Despite all of this, it’s also been a time of digital renewal of large companies across the world. Those that had prepared themselves over the last decade by digitizing key aspects of how they market, sell, serve customers, deliver their offerings, invent new ones and synchronize the work of their people have held their own in the downturn. Some have even thrived.
It’s to those resilient companies that we dedicate this issue of TCS Perspectives—as well as to companies that want to become resilient or become more resilient.
When the pandemic spread, C-suites were not positioned like runners at the start of a race, all at the same point. Companies that had already shifted to digital operating models were better positioned than those that had not. For example, companies that could serve up superior digital experiences for customers blew by competitors that were difficult to do business with. The fastest companies out of the gate showed customers they could do without meeting their salespeople in person, going into their stores and restaurants, visiting their bank branches and ATMs to get or deposit money and to do many other things long thought as having to be done in person.
Even before life returns to normal in and outside of work, these resilient companies have already gained an edge. They have earned a distinct advantage over other organizations whose employees have been hobbled by having to operate remotely.
Nonetheless, we believe every company can get back in this digital race, or pull further ahead if they are already in the lead. To explain how, we offer the wisdom of our own C-suite: TCS leaders who have helped our company withstand the downturn and become even stronger.
We have organized their articles into four categories.
1. Leadership and Purpose
In “The Massive Reset and Acceleration of the Digital Enterprise,” TCS CEO Rajesh Gopinathan discusses why companies need to shift from thinking in terms of age-old industry structures to cross-industry ecosystems. His article then explains how leaders can determine their company’s place in its ecosystems: its purpose for customers.
The social distancing necessitated by the pandemic has accelerated the digitization of everything. But by reducing the number of in- person connections in everyone’s lives, it forces organizations to offer something meaningful to employees, customers, shareholders, the public and other stakeholders: a purpose beyond profits. In “A New CMO Role: Leveraging an Organization’s Purpose for Strategic Advantage,” Rajashree R., chief marketing officer of TCS, explains why CMOs need to be the shapers of the narrative for their companies’ core purpose.
Along with being guided by their purpose, companies must decide whether they have all the right roles in their C-suites. K. Ananth Krishnan, TCS executive vice president and chief technology officer, explores this in his article, “Today’s Digital Imperatives Demand C-Suite Reinvention.” For example, he argues that companies need chief wellness officers to focus on employees’ physical and emotional well-being, as well as chief talent experience officers to ensure they operate in great work environments.
2. Strong Organizations, Strong Performance
While changing conditions call for refining the C-suite responsibilities, many CFOs have been key allies of CEOs in navigating the downturn. In “How the CFO Can be an Effective Partner to the CEO in Navigating the Pandemic’s Economic Storm,” TCS CFO V. Ramakrishnan explains that by digitizing a company’s finance value chain, ensuring the prompt availably of business performance data and expanding the presence of financial experts throughout the organization, finance chiefs can help their companies make major operational and bottom-line improvements.
Long after the pandemic recedes, remote work will be here to stay. In “Creating a Thriving Remote, Secure and Agile Workplace,” N. Ganapathy Subramaniam, chief operating officer and executive director, explains how TCS has redesigned where and how our nearly 500,000-person workforce works. His article examines such issues as managing agile, distributed teams and using automation to make people more productive.
Empowering the remote worker is shaping up to be a key part of that. Milind Lakkad, TCS EVP and global head of human resources, discusses what makes remote work engaging and purposeful in his article, “Building Powerful and Passionate Remote Workers.” He explains the importance of leaders who demonstrate that the company cares about people’s well-being. And he shows why they must help advance the careers of remote workers.
3. Charting the Future in Key Industries
The pandemic has had an uneven impact on industries. In this section, we look deeply at how the acceleration to digital business operations has played out in banking and financial services, retailers, communication service providers and logistics companies.
In “The Pandemic’s Digital Acceleration of the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance Sectors,” K. Krithivasan, president and global head, for TCS’ Banking, Financial Services and Insurance sectors delves into how banks and insurers have stayed open during the height of the pandemic. He also looks at how they have implemented automation wherever practicable; strengthened their workforce; and pursued growth opportunities. In a world in which the majority of citizens of countries like the U.S. have embraced touch-free payment services, these digital initiatives have proven to be crucial.
The operate-from-home phenomenon has also transformed the landscape for communications service providers—the cable TV, internet service and telecommunication companies that bring streaming services into homes. In “How to Be the Streaming Consumer’s Best Friend,” Kamal Bhadada, TCS president, Communications, Media and Information Services, argues that internet service providers have a major opportunity before them: guiding consumers through a confusing maze of options to find just the right streaming content on demand.
For logistics companies, the pandemic has sped up the rise of digital native players, as well as eroding service quality as soaring demand has strained shipping networks. In “Mastering the Post- Pandemic Logistics Revolution,” Sowmya Mullur Rajagopalan,head of TCS’ Travel, Transportation and Hospitality unit in the Americas, and Arun Pradeep Surendra Mohan, the head of our Travel and Hospitality business in Europe, explain how logistics company leaders can shore up their operations and position themselves for future growth.
The drive to expand digital capabilities is also center stage for retailers. In “The Digital Capabilities of the Most Resilient Retailers,” Shankar Narayanan, president and global head, TCS’ Retail, CPG, Travel and Hospitality practice, explains what retailers must do now to ready themselves for a post-pandemic world. At the front: creating a unified digital customer experience that makes the shopping experience exceptional. Behind the scenes: cognitive supply chains that enable both high visibility into product and delivery statuses, and customer responsiveness. And don’t forget physical stores. Their brick and mortar will become more important as order fulfilment centers and stages for intelligent merchandising.
4. Bringing Everyone Together
The mandates that we explore in this issue of Perspectives will challenge the longstanding attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of many executives about the rules of business. In the article “Leadership in the Digital Era: New Mandates, Mindsets and Mind-Melds,” Krishnan Ramanujam, president, Business and Technology Services, explains why this is an ideal moment for leaders to rethink many of these rules. He then discusses why leadership teams must adopt a collective mindset –a “mind-meld”—to produce a coherent company strategy.
We conclude this issue with a question-and-answer discussion with Natarajan Chandrasekaran, the chairman of Tata Sons and former CEO of TCS. In “Leading in the New Normal,” Chandra, as he prefers to be called, explains what leaders around the world can do to meet today’s most pressing challenges. He focuses on his home country of India, a nation that has made significant economic gains over the last two decades and that has tremendous upside ahead—if it can transform the way it operates with digital technology. He sees artificial intelligence in particular as holding tremendous potential for organizations in India and every other country—but not for eliminating jobs. “Their greatest value will come from rethinking what new work every organization should be doing, and then finding and training people to do that work,” he says.
That idea—investing in both our capabilities and our people—is at the heart of this issue of Perspectives. We hope you gain many lessons from reading it.