How Tata Consultancy Services Helps Businesses Adapt to Remote Work

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) sees the WFH model as a long term trend and is investing in its own workforce, services and client companies for continued success.

By Jason Lopez

By Jason Lopez July 17, 2020

COVID-19 unleashed a new normal. New ways of living and working will remain long after the pandemic has passed. This is the mindset of the one the world’s biggest IT services companies, Tata Consultancy Services also known as TCS. The company has nearly half a million workers worldwide. Before COVID-19, 20% of its employees worked, to some degree, at home. After the pandemic hit, that rose to 90%.

Like a growing chorus of others, TCS sees the work from home model as a long term trend and is making investments in its own workforce as well as in its services to client companies. In this Tech Barometer segment, Raman Venkatraman, who heads the high tech and professional services business unit at TCS, describes how the company responded to the pandemic and turned to help its customers. He talks about the idea of COVID-19 fostering a new normal and how companies can treat this not as an ongoing emergency, but as an opportunity to innovate, compete and lead.

TRANSCRIPT (unedited)

Raman Venkatraman: I think to be able to lead in this kind of an environment the company would need to see in terms of what are they serving to their end customers. To make sure that you are building in resilience, which is about how you're going to manage your capital costs along with setting in systems that is going to support you to make sure that you are able to withstand, whether it's an economic shock or a supply shock, any of those things that you're talking. How are you going to respond. And how are you going to adapt for the future and then lead. The companies focusing on this is key. And the strong company that is already invested on their digital infrastructure is going to lead in a significant way in this new world.

Jason Lopez: COVID-19 has given us a new normal. There's practically no debate that some new ways of living and working will be with us long after the pandemic has ended. This is the mindset of one of the world's biggest it services companies, Tata Consultancy Services, or TCS. The company has nearly half a million workers worldwide. And this is remarkable before COVID-19 20% of its employees worked in some degree at home. After COVID, it's been 90%. It hasn't been that cost-effective actually primarily because the coronavirus hit without warning, but TCS sees the work from home model as a long term trend and is making investments in its own workforce. As well as in its services to client companies. We spoke with Raman Venkatraman, who heads the high tech and professional services business unit at TCS. And I started by asking when TCS first learned about the threat of the virus, what did they do?

Raman Venkatraman: There are no dress rehearsals for this one. We have a very large pool of employees, right? We are 440,000 large globally across multiple countries. And each country is in a different state of lockdown. And each country has got its own set of rules and regulations in terms of how it is operating. And we have customers in all these different regions. The first thing that we were thinking about is how do we make sure that our employees are all safe? How do we make sure that we are able to support our employees and to support their customers? So the first thing is employee empathy and employee safety followed by how do we make sure that we are supporting our customers? And in this particular situation, when you look at TCS, we are in a situation where we are supporting our customers, large global customers who are in different regions, operating in different environments, and many of them are doing essential services. So from that perspective, our business is about supporting those customers who are actually providing essential services in those respective countries, whether it be in financial services, in healthcare or running some government services. So for those sorts of things, we need to be completely up and running to be able to support them. And there are several of our customers which will go into complete stress, depending upon what the situation is. So for TCS to be able to react immediately and put things in place to make sure that our employees are safe and then simultaneously taking care of business continuity for our customers at a global level. I think, uh, this is something that we were able to act upon and respond very quickly, by the way that we are structured and the way that we are operating. I think that is a first thing that we are trying to put things together to be able to support our customers in their essential services, as they are supporting their end consumers at a global level, while also making sure that we are keeping our employees safe.

Jason Lopez: Yeah. I've heard this too, that for you know, a number of tech companies out there that the pandemic sort of exposed them, but in a positive way, it kind of exposed that the systems were robust enough to handle this.

Raman Venkatraman: Yes, I think the way we responded, as I said earlier, employee safety, employee empathy, I think that is the first thing that we looked at. Second is how do we support our customers by making sure what are their mission critical systems? What does it mean to provide business continuity to our customers? Third thing is also the societal impact, right? Our chairman announced that we'll make sure that all the contingent labor, whether they're coming or not coming with contributing or not coming, we are going to make sure that they are not going to have an impact because the this pandemic and will continue to serve them during this particular time. And also the tail end that we have. How do you make sure that we are going to support those tail end suppliers who are helping us out, right. And then also contribution. I there's a $200 million contribution that we did to the government to make sure that we're able to take care of. But beyond that, there are lots of other things that we have done from a societal perspective. I think it goes beyond any core set of contribution that we would make. And we are also focusing in terms of how do we contribute to the research and also how do you collaborate to make sure from a vaccine perspective. There's a very strong arm within TCS that focuses on genomic research in all those areas, which works very closely with government in those things assets. So if you are going to come out as a humane company in the way that we are able to take care of our people, take care of our customers and come out strong after this, I think that would be a good thing for us, right?

Jason Lopez: I guess if you look at this in terms of just pure users, regardless of whether they work for TCS or for your customers, what would you say the ballpark figure is of the number of users who are on TCS

Raman Venkatraman: That would be, that would be really large. If you look at the size of TCS as a company, we are more than 20 million. And we are, I think, 23 million, big, global operating in multiple countries. And we are serving different industries, ranging from banking and financial services to technology, communications. Each one of those things that you can talk about, life sciences, government, manufacturing. So there are all those different industries that we can think about in terms of how we are operating. All of them are really large industries and we have very large global customers as part of our customer portfolio. And some of them are consumer companies. Some of them are communication companies reaching out to their end consumer supporting their end consumers business. So just B to B and B to B, to C in many of those areas. So I will not be able to estimate in terms of how many of those consumers that you are reaching to, but it could possibly be in billions, not in million, but billions in terms of how many people that we are reaching out to, how many people actually touch on a day to day basis.

Jason Lopez: Wow. When you talk about all the things that your customers do, the various kinds of businesses and verticals and whatever you're dealing with so much variety out there in terms of how people are using technology.

Raman Venkatraman: Today, we have global corporations operating in multiple geographies and their supply chains are in different countries in terms of where the manufacturer, where they procure and where they supply. The scale of impact for each one of those companies are very different. There might be a company which is based in the U S but the company itself would have say manufacturing facilities in , which in turn will source materials say from Vietnam or any other countries. And then they will distribute and sell it in maybe in Latin America and in those kinds of things. So the impact for the companies very, very global, it is not about this particular geography, which means that you have orders that you need to supply. Your customers are working, but you are not able to source at that point because that particular country is in a lockdown, a situation there. As you move the timescale along, you'll find that those countries which have been impacted are recovered, and now they are manufacturing. So you are getting your stuff in warehouses, because there are certain carriers are working, but you are not able to supply now, mainly because there are other countries where you are supplying, those things are closed. Those countries are closed, or those companies are not receiving anymore. So from that perspective, the impact is on both sides for those larger global corporations. And depending upon what that industry is, the impact is different for different companies. And from a technology company perspective, the high tech vertical is always impacted by the way, different customers in other verticals are consuming their products. So if any other industry gets impacted, the technology customers also get impacted because they're consuming it differently or they're not consuming. Right? So our response to make sure that we are supporting them also has to be different in terms of how we are. How we really need to find what is essential for each one of them. Where do we need to support, how do we need to support? I think that's what we need to look at.

Jason Lopez: In our conversation, we started by discussing the response to the pandemic and its impact on TCS and customers, but then moved on to this idea of COVID-19 and a new normal, how companies can treat this, not as an ongoing emergency, but how to innovate, compete, and lead. And the way to do that is to really understand what all the factors are. If you think about what TCS does, they have access to hundreds of millions of devices and have deep insights into how people are responding and how they are working. There's a lot of data there.

Raman Venkatraman: As we said earlier, we have a set of very, very diversified set of customers across different geographies. With many of our customers, we have been working with very, very, very long time. So contextual knowledge of their businesses is extremely rich. We also learning very different things about each one of our customers as to how their particular set of customers are reacting to a situation to another set of customers. So what kind of opportunities there are that we are right in defining, to closely work with them and see them take advantage of those opportunities. And what kind of learnings that we can bring in, so that as an ecosystem, we are able to learn several sets of things. We're looking at different sorts of customers in terms of what is happening and we'll be able to bring them together. So there are lots of these things that we are doing. So, as you rightly said, as an organization, we are learning more and more about our customers. We are also leveraging the significant contextual knowledge that we have gained, where working with our customers we'll be able to help our customers much better in the current situation at this point of time. 

Jason Lopez: Right? You know one the thing that comes to mind is that with this pandemic, as you said, there's no dress rehearsal for this. It has sort of forced a major change in the way people behave and the way they work in their companies. How are businesses adapting to this crisis and preparing to lead in the new normal?

Raman Venkatraman: Very interesting question. If you look at, in terms of companies that are heavily invested in the digital roadmap, which is about embracing risk, personalization, leveraging the ecosystem and all of those different characteristics, which allow them to lead in the marketplace, these companies have already invested heavily in a digital architecture, they have the core systems intact. Now, I think to be able to lead in this kind of an environment, the company would need to see in terms of what are they serving to their end customers? Is it about a certain set of service? Are they becoming a total solutions company as we call it, instead of being an energy company that produces power are they being a responsible company that is providing power in a better way, right? Second is, to make sure that you are building in resilience, which is about how you are going to manage your key capital costs, all of those things together, along with setting in systems that is going to support you, to make sure that you are able to withstand whether it's an economic shock or the supply shock. And each one of those things that you're talking about. The third is covertly going to respond and how are you going to adapt for the future and then , right? The companies focusing on this, is key. And a strong company that has already invested in digital infrastructure is, I think, is going to lead in a significant way in this new world.

Jason Lopez: It's kind of like this idea of, if you can, if you can handle the COVID-19 pandemic, then you can, you can meet anything. Is it kind of along those lines?

Raman Venkatraman: Yeah. I can give you two examples in this two examples, and this are two different sets of industries that can take in terms of what can happen. Take the staffing industry, the staffing industry pretty much works on very low margins, and it is serving more people industries in different geographies. And it is the first industry that gets impacted by the situation, because if there is a lock down in a particular country, then there is a massive impact of unemployment that happens. So all the contingent labor that is serving a particular industry, whether it is travel transportation at this point or time hospitality, or you are high end retailers. So most of those contingent labor are not able to build anything anymore, right? So there's a massive unemployment that happens. The industry company leaders in this industry could actually say that, look, let me wait out and see us to how things are improving, and let me get back to the business once it improves. Leaders can also look at, in terms of let me accelerate on my transformation roadmap. Let me make sure that all the systems that I have in various countries are all going to be connected into a single system by which I have complete visibility in terms of what is happening everywhere. So it make my a systems more agile, double down on the both the business and technology investments, and make sure that I am going to create a robust set of systems so that when this is over, I'm going to come out extremely strong. The second thing is how do I make sure that I go to invest during this particular time and make sure that the people, that unemployment that is happening in one particular set of industry, how do I rescale them very quickly? See, on the one hand, you've got people coming in from high end retailers. On the other hand, there is a massive demand that comes in... e-commerce, there is a massive demand that comes in in groceries, in those cases, they also require a significant amount of contingent labor that needs to get into those industries. So how do we retrain them? How do we make sure that they make people available? Similarly, if I look at certain equipment industries, right? Equipment industries, which has traditionally been only hardware based, I can also use this opportunity to see software definition is becoming a significant part of any hardware company. So software definition now can actually accelerate. I'll invest more on cloud. I can actually look at in terms of what services I can provide. And then most many of the elements in hardware I can try to see in terms of how we can make it software defined, whether it be networks whether it be instrumentation, create some predictability of services, revenue, and then drive the specification roadmap.

Raman Venkatraman: Because the changes that you do at this point of time is not just unique for this particular situation. Once the pandemic goes, you are bringing in a steady revenue stream, you are making your business more, what we call a future proof baby, to have accelerated on your complete technology investments, you future proof, your business, and you're redefining customer experience, you're acting with more agility. And I think these are all the characteristics that help define in terms of how we are building resiliency and how you're are going to be adaptable and how you're going to lead in the new normal.

Jason Lopez: Yeah, sometimes it does take a crisis in order to have something to build against, right. To develop against.

Raman Venkatraman: Well, yes, absolutely. Because if you ask various CEOs at this point of time, in terms of what is the lead driver for them to accelerate on this cloud transformation. So there are, there are the digital and digital transformation roadmap has just got accelerated significantly. People are investing more on learning, and learning and development at this point of time, right? There is a significant acceleration to cloud on foundational infrastructure. So there is a significant focus on improving collaboration. So these are all the things that people have accelerated during this time. And many of them are going to stay.

Jason Lopez: Right. Hey, I want to ask you a question from one of the things that I read from your company, and that was talking about something that's kind of the opposite of the pandemic, I believe. But still something that drives or inspires change. And that is the butterfly effect.

Raman Venkatraman: If look at regional supply chains, the way it has been designed, we had this just in time, and also there were, specific parts of the supply chain. If we look at a traditional manufacturing company, there are parts that are getting manufactured in a certain low cost locations specifically maybe in only one country. And if there is a specific part that goes as part of a larger bomb, it comes in only from one particular place, which is logged on, then your entire supply chain gets impacted. This we call the company butterfly effect. One specific area of impact completely multiplies significantly. So the key thing is about how are you going to diversify your supply chain? How are you going to make sure that the supply chain is now becoming more resilient? I think these are all the strategies that many customers are already looking at. And TCS is also very closely working with our customers and looking at how do we redesign those supply chains. How do we, for certain parts, how do we identify alternate locations or alternate areas where it can be manufactured? So using this as an opportunity, look at all those areas to see as to how we can prepare for the future.

Jason Lopez: One of the main things Raman points to in the response to the coronavirus pandemic is resilience. TCS has to not only keep themselves afloat, they have to keep their customers afloat. He says the it world is becoming software defined, which is an important reason that the TCS partnership with Nutanix has supported the company's ability to respond quickly.

Raman Venkatraman: If you look at Nutanix as a company as well, I have been interacting with Nutanix for a very long time, right? Right from the time when it there as a storage appliance, that's that's how it started. And then from there to move on to a complete hyperconverged infrastructure platform, and then from hyperconverged infrastructure platform to be a complete solutions company as an end to end solutions company for a cloud platform, and then integrating with security, UC, and all of these different things. So, being more software defined in terms of building resilience, to services, being a total solutions company, adapting to the future. If you can break down in terms of what I look at Nutanix in this particular scenario. Purpose, I would say is being more a cloud software, a total solutions to cloud software company. If you look at resilience in terms of more and more software driven and ability to support your customers wherever they are. And then if they look at adaptability adapting to the future in being able to work with an ecosystem, which has from the earlier time, Nutanix used to work with only a few ecosystem partners, now it wants to see as to how it can be independent to work with any liberated ecosystem so that they can plug and play and fit into any customer infrastructure. So I can break down all those characteristics. And I think that's the right way in terms of how Nutanix is planning. 

Jason Lopez: Like to ask this question from the user's point of view, you're a technologist, you're a company that's supplying a lot of the platforms that people will be using in the future of work as well. So I'm wondering what your view is on the pandemic and how this will affect the future of work. Especially people working from home, going forward.

Raman Venkatraman: In fact, again, it's going to be very different because there are certain industries where work from home will have a significant impact. There are certain industries in which the work from home will have a very minimal part, because still people need to go to the factories, people need to do some certain things from the factories, right? So from a consulting and services industry perspective, it has made a significant impact for us in terms of how work can be done and what can be delivered. So from a TCS perspective, and we have articulated a strategy already--we call it the 25 x 25 strategy, right? By 2025, 25% of our workforce will need to be there in the office, only 25% of their time, so that we are able to deliver to our customers in the way that we are delivering today, which means that the amount of the things that we need to do, you know, infrastructure security and all of those things together will have a completely different dimension. And we also feel that there will be a significant impact on productivity, a significant impact in terms of employee experience, because they're able to spend more time with their families and they are able to save lots of commute time. So there are multiple sets of things that are there, but what we truly believe in is the world that was their pre COVID is not going to be the same afterwards.

Jason Lopez: Right. It used to be that work from home was sort of a reward where you just took stuff you were doing in the office home to work on. Now it's a strategy.

Raman Venkatraman: I would say that it does make a significant impact for many customers. There is a massive transformation in many customers because of the change management always used to be huge in many sorts of customers who believe that all the things that need to be done in their premises now work still gets done. And in some cases it gets done much better when people are collaborating more across different locations, they don't need to come to the same place. So which means that they need to invest on tools to collaborate. And there are various other ways that a collaboration happens when people are connecting together from different locations, the entire part of hierarchy completely breaks down, right? You don't have levels of hierarchy. It's about more and more people are contributing more and more and across through various channels. I think that becomes a significant impact. It gives a different dimension to collaboration. The second day is your learning and development, also a talent transformation as we call as a significant impact. It is also in terms of content that you are going to share. So there are certain areas which is going to get a huge acceleration in terms of enabling field services, which is going to be different for different industries as well. How do you enable your field services? How do you make sure that the field services has got the latest sets of data and knowledge and everything at their devices that they have. Which means more smart devices, right? Which also means investing on the kind of infrastructure, productivity, collaboration, all of those things now comes in and how all these things ties in together to deliver a different set of an experience, because we are not talking about an experience, which is the similar set of experience that you want to give to a consumer. You also want to know your internal consumer as well for every company. Many of these things will have a lasting impact and not just a temporary one. And that's where I believe that the entire gamut of working from home will be significantly changed as we go forward.

Jason Lopez: You know, I've been seeing that one of the terms people are throwing around now for the new normal, although I don't know that it's a one to one thing, but I do think it's a good reference is this idea of business 4.0, can you describe what business 4.0 means?

Raman Venkatraman: Yeah. So your business 4.0 essentially means that you are able to look at every customer in terms of their preferences and customer experience becomes a key driver, right? Because if customer experience is good, then pretty much any product that you are going to sell is going to find it’s reach, it’s going to be acceptable. If the experience is not good, irrespective of how good the product is, I think it will be difficult for people to consume that. The customer experience is one. The second base, the ecosystems are able to liberate, are able to create an ecosystem by which you are able to bring the entire power of the ecosystem to the consumer. Third is, in terms of are you going to look at risk as an area that you are going to say, look, this is risky, this is something that I don't want to do. Or, are you going to risk as another element and say, how am I going to embrace risk? And also going to look at, not scarcity of labor, but scarcity of resources, but look at, in terms of abundance, how do you harness abundance where liberating the cost? So these are all the different facets or things that are deben as a business 4.0 company. And all of those things are possible. If the companies are significantly invested on their digital infrastructure, which is going to look at the cloud as a key theme, is going to look at automation, which is going to look at intelligence, which is going to back with agility. These are all the characteristics that I would call as a 4.0 company, which is going to help them to lead in a particular way.

Jason Lopez: Raman Venkatraman is vice president at TCS heading up the high tech and professional services business unit. This is the tech barometer podcast. I'm Jason Lopez. Tech Barometer is produced by The Forecast and you can find us at www.theforecastbynutanix.com.

COVID-19 Expediting IT Modernization as Remote Work, Tech Resiliency Become Imperative

Jason Lopez is executive producer of Tech Barometer, the podcast outlet for The Forecast. He’s the founder of Connected Social Media. Previously, he was executive producer at PodTech and a reporter at NPR.

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