Tue, 22 Sep 2009 08:23:24 GMT

Transition at TCS: How Ramadorai groomed his successor

New Delhi: Eighteen months ago, some time in the early part of 2008, speculation began to do the rounds on who would succeed S Ramadorai as the chief executive of Tata Consultancy Services, India’s largest information technology company. Ramadorai had been its public face for many years. But he was turning 65 in 2009, which is the retirement age for all Tata chief executives. A successor had to be found in time.

Transition at TCS: How Ramadorai groomed his successor

Chief Executive Officer and managing director of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) S. Ramadorai at a press meet in Mumbai early this year.

Chandra was shortlisted five years ago

Chandrasekaran was one of the best kept secrets in the TCS citadel -- he was identified for the CEO's role close to five years ago, insist analysts. "However, his public role has been apparent only in the last 18 to 24 months," says Acc-endia Consulting Principal Analyst Alok Shende. "Indeed, the transition was well planned, and we did have an inkling about it 18 months back," adds Forrester Senior Analyst Sudin Apte.

Through the paces

Chandrasekaran joined TCS on January 27, 1987, after graduating from the Regional Engineering College, Trichy. He started out with Mumbai as his base and did stints in California, Stockholm and the United Kingdom. In 1993, he moved to the US where he built a new team from scratch. It's here that he learnt about team building and customer management. He grew a telecom company into TCS' top five global customers.

Chandrasekaran cut his teeth as a programme director. In this role, he led a number of firsts, particularly in the acquisition and execution of transformation projects in verticals such as banking and telecom and in markets as diverse as the US and Australia. As programme director, Chandrasekaran had considerable scope to navigate the business in the direction which it is now following.

After this, for two full years, 1997 to 1999, he worked as Ramadorai's executive assistant. It was here, many insiders say, that Chandraskeran was silently groomed under the watchful eyes of Ramadorai. In 1999, he started the e-business unit of TCS and grew it to a business unit of over $500 million in four-and-a-half years. After this, he was made the head of global delivery at Mumbai, which was then TCS' largest delivery centre.

In 2002, Chandrasekaran got yet another leg-up when he was appointed the head of global sales. He expanded the European operations of the company, started the Latin America and China operations, and set up the TCS Global Network Delivery Model in Uruguay, Mexico, Hungary and China. In July 2005, came another promotion -- he now became the head of global sales and operations. By then, his position had become very strong. Ramadorai had walked him through all the key functions -- customer management, operations, expansions and so on. He was ready for the next level.

On September 6, 2007, Chandrasekaran was co-opted on the TCS board and named the chief operating officer of the company. This took his job to a different orbit. As the TCS COO, he drove the company's acquisition strategy -- the acquisition of Citigroup Global Services for $500 million is credited to him. Chandrasekaran, says Shende, has "also been known to be nuanced on the deals that TCS should be involved with and the one where it should not. For example, TCS had the first right of refusal on the Telenor Unitech deal. However, Chandrasekaran rejected the offer owing to the low price. The deal eventually went to Wipro."

In April 2008, TCS reorganised its global operations. The company has nearly 140,000 employees. Still, it needs a structure that allows it to build a nimble organisation to capture new growth opportunities. Not an easy task.

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