An enthralling story by an 'unlikely writer'
TCS Story... and beyond by S Ramadorai is significant on many counts. While the book provides a deep insight into the evolution of IT industry, it traces transformation of economy that took place to suit the needs of modern India
When a person sets out to tell the story of an organization he headed and was part of for more than four decades, it unavoidably becomes his life story. So, 'The TCS Story ...and beyond' is also the story of S Ramadorai.
And he doesn't deny it. "This book is autobiographical because my own life and that of The TCS Story have been inextricably linked," says Ramadorai.
What strikes you, while reading the book, is that there is an enthralling story teller in the garb of a star CEO and the trait helped Ramadorai build a loyal core team around him, while for the work force, at large, he was a charmer. And he says attrition was never a problem for The TCS Story when the rivals were finding talent retention an imperative challenge.
This skill of story telling is evident in the book by an 'unlikely author', as his self-description goes, and makes for an absorbing reading, which otherwise would have been a retired business executive's self-congratulatory autobiography.
While a lucid and intimate style of writing takes you through a great journey of a conglomerate pioneering a significant domain like IT that changed the face of new India, it will have you so engrossed that you will forget wondering if there was a flipside of the success story.
If there was any, in reality, the book gives no hint. Ramadoaria suffers from a lifetime disappointment that he could not convince his management to take up hardware business though.
While it is autobiographical, the book is an authentic document of the contemporary history as it outlines shaping up of IT industry and modern Indian economy that steered the change in governance and policy making as a result of which the country ushered in the era liberalisation.
Early steps taken by a fledgling The TCS Story in the late 1970s were historical as they seeded the IT industry. And we find a visionary in Ramadorai, who was at the forefront of it. The first real 'outsourcing' contract that The TCS Story signed for Burroughs was with an amount of $ 24,000 and involved converting a hospital accounting package called the Hospital Information System.
Following this, the company began to establish itself with IBM and work onsite. Recounting those moments, Ramdorai writes, "Even so, winning just one client was a big thing. It was very tough, but somewhere deep down I believed that we were not building a mere business but a new industry for India, and that was a dream worth working towards."
Further, a management meeting at IISC in Bangalore that gave a vision to the company to become 'Top 10 by 2010', the way it opened to Y2K challenge and tackled it to spearhead Indian industry through the IT boom, and going public through IPO are the footprints of the modern history and the book traces them in an endearing manner.
Computerisation of National Stock Exchange (NSE) by CS gave rise to dematerialisation that revolutionised investment market and turned stock trading into a household affair. The Tatas fought against the nightmarish license raj participating in the strife that ultimately uprooted it is an absorbing episode of a thrilling saga.
The narration of the book unwittingly adopts the language spoken by the IT world and it is interesting to note how the country got to speak in a new idiom with the evolution of the new domain.
Although it is an insider account of an industry leader that provides a deep insight into the Indian IT industry, you will be disappointed if you are expecting to get details of the strategy that made The TCS Story the market leader as the wily CEO does not spill beans on that count. And he is conspicuously silent on contemporaries like Infosys and Wipro.
Towards the end of the book, Ramadorai has expressed his thoughts on the education system in India and how vocational training has to be brought in and strengthened as that would open up more avenues of. It would give a different means to livelihood to the millions who today strive to find a job and then to find satisfaction in it rather than being able to select a job as per their abilities and likes.
Although, by his own admission, he is "an unlikely candidate for writing a book", Ramadorai finds writing consuming and is happy with his "first-time writer" role. As there is a next time for any debutante, we can expect a lot more from his pen. And he is welcome because the new generation is ready for the benefit.
Publisher, portfolio to Publisher, Portfolio, Penguin Books India.