For a man at the heart of the relentless quest for knowledge about customers, Natarajan Chandrasekaran has just made a crucial correction mid-sentence. “Information is the new oil. No, rather, insights are the new oil,” he says. “So building a business based on the insights, you can get out of information, is going to be more common. Customer experience is going to be the key thing in the systems of the future,” he adds, with the precision of a man dedicated to applying cutting-edge technology to business.
What customers want
Chandra says research is clearly important, especially if it is based on large-scale data about customer experience. But in the modern world, customers who come to TCS for help want to go to market faster, so they want solutions that will let them know what is going on with customers – even instantaneously. “Design, customer experience, agility, business model innovation: all of this is critical,” Chandra says of the top global corporations he refers to as partners rather than customers of TCS.
The company is looking into establishing a Canberra office to develop a government client base, something it has done more of in countries such as India and Britain but less so in Australia, where it has corporate-focused offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. “Today’s digital technology can have a powerful impact in every sector – including government,” Chandra says. “There are big opportunities in government, in looking into what cloud [computing] can do, what analytics can do. We have the capability, so it’s important for us to try.”
Chandra says this is now reversing to some extent. On one hand the new growth and business oriented government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes to embrace more technology in government functions at home; on the other hand, Modi wants to drive more companies from other sectors – especially manufacturing – into global markets to improve domestic competitiveness. Expectations about change in Modi’s first year were too high but concedes, the Prime Minister has taken the right steps in trying to build growth infrastructure by embracing technology, introducing a consumption tax, simplifying processes and initiating much-needed infrastructure development.
“Twelve months is such a short period when a government is in a transformative phase. But I look at India as a big opportunity. It has a big opportunity from a demographic point of view, with a huge pool of educated youth. There are many capable entrepreneurs in this country if the government has the right policies.”
Disrupting the disruptors
But while opportunities at home welcome new business for the local IT success stories, Chandra acknowledges that the real task he faces is making sure his company survives the same digital disruption it executes for its partner customers in their sectors. Industry observers say the big broad-based IT consultancies face greater competition from new specialist boutique firms which take tailor-made solutions to potential customers while the big firms offer the standard fare. Not surprisingly, Chandra disputes this analysis: “Every time there is a technology evolution there are a lot of new players who come in with the technology. This is a part of the game.”
This means he is continually building internal expertise in the company, including via technology incubation such as a neuroscience-based automation platform that will be launched soon. But Chandra has also introduced TCS’s own partnership model, in which it collaborates with a network of smaller companies to create new solutions.
One of the main challenges Chandra faces in the fast-changing tech industry is holding onto talent. Although he comes from a computing background, he has broadened the TCS gene pool by bringing designers and artists into teams that provide customer solutions.
“We have a workforce which is very young. We have a very good retention rate at TCS but that’s something that we have to think of always. You can never say it’s a job done. We have got to constantly think about employee engagement practices, opportunities and empowerment.”
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