Whatever vicissitudes of fortune may have come the way of the larger Tata Group owing to global or local cycles, one part of its operations has been standing like a rock in recent years—Tata Consultancy Services, a sentinel shoring up the averages, immunising the group from greater flux. And manning that rampart was a figure not as effusively feted as other corporate glitterati, but someone who makes the cream of Outlook’s list on solid grounds. S. Ramadorai, or Ram, as he is popularly known, joined TCS as a trainee engineer. And when he relinquished charge as the managing director 37 years later, TCS was one of the world’s largest software and services companies. When Ramadorai took over the CEO mantle from F.C. Kohli in ’96, company revenues were at Rs 600 crore. And 13 years later, he left a Rs 36,000-crore global IT giant. Kohli had already identified and laid down the building-blocks, but the scale at which the strategy and business model grew under Ramadorai was unimaginable.
Born in Nagpur, Ramadorai finished his schooling and graduation in Delhi, before leaving for the University of California for a master’s in science. The TCS innings began soon thereafter, in 1969. The early years were typical, filled with sustained diligence and nimbleness with ideas. Heading US operations a decade later gave him a ringside view of business evolving in sync with constant upgradations in technology. This held him in good stead during his leadership years. “He built the edifice on which TCS grew rapidly,” says T.V. Mohandas Pai, chairman, Manipal Global Education. “He globalised TCS, built a very strong sales and delivery engine, and created leaders like Chandra (N. Chandrasekaran), who made TCS the star that it is.” In 2002, he was the only Indian CEO to make it to the list of the top 25 most influential consultants in the world by the Consulting magazine. Plenty other honours followed, including the Padma Bhushan. It was at the end of his 42-year journey with TCS that he was named an advisor to the Prime Minister in the National Council on Skill Development, with the rank of a Cabinet minister.