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View from India: Movers and shakers in Covid times

This unusual year has come to an end. It has been disruptive, yet there are individuals and organisations that have made a mark in this Covid-struck world

Besides expressing societal concerns and campaigning for societal causes, a petition on Change.org that stood out is the one signed by over two lakh people. Collectively, they voiced that industrialist Ratan Naval Tata should receive the Bharat Ratna Award, the highest civilian honour. “Tata has been a shining example of humility and philanthropy and has helped establish and finance numerous research educational and cultural institutes in India,” stated the petition. 

Other petitions on the same platform have voiced that Tata should occupy the post of the President of India. 

Strategic-visionary leader and innovative-determined head are thoughts that come to mind when one thinks of Ratan Tata. When he succeeded Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and helmed the Tata Group in 1991, it grew into one of India’s largest conglomerates with a global footprint. He is credited for bringing international brands like Tetley to Tata Tea, Jaguar Land Rover to Tata Motors, and Corus to Tata Steel. Understandably, the Padma Bhushan Award was bestowed upon him.   

Under Tata’s stewardship, Tata Motors shot to international fame as it got listed in the New York Stock Exchange. Nano, a miniature car, is Tata’s brainchild. 

The respected businessman has brought in an eight-hour work pattern into the Tata Group. His management skills, value system and financial transparency are among his attributes. A humble philanthropist, Tata supports education and rural development through Tata Trusts, philanthropic arm of the Tata Group. When the 26/11 attack happened in 2008, Tata went that extra mile to ensure that the families of the staff killed during the attack were given relief.  

When the pandemic broke out, Tata Trusts, along with Tata Sons, the group's holding company, pledged a sum of Rs 1,500 crore. The money is being used for personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical personnel, respiratory systems, testing kits and setting up modular treatment facilities for patients. 

The octogenarian has a contemporary appeal; he connects with today’s generation by tweeting on current issues. He has also invested in startups. A skilled pilot, Tata was the first Indian to pilot F-16 Falcon in 2007. He is the great grandson of Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata, hailed as the Father of Indian Industry.  

Shiv Nadar, founder and chairperson of HCL Technologies Ltd, has passed the mantle to his only daughter Roshni Nadar Malhotra. Nadar started the company in 1976 and now, at 75, he continues to associate with the company as the chief strategy officer. As India’s third largest IT services firm, HCL Technologies has contributed significantly towards the IT landscape of the country. Over the last four decades, it has evolved into a leading global technology organisation with a market capitalisation of $32bn. 

Malhotra was appointed CEO and executive director of HCL Corp in 2013 before stepping into her father’s shoes to take charge of HCL Technologies. As the first woman to steward an Indian publicly traded software firm, she will be responsible for strategic decisions. As reported in the media, Malhotra has chalked out a roadmap for strengthening the digital ecosystem. Since then, HCL’s expansions, tie-ups and buyouts have been ongoing. 

A start has been made with the acquisition of DWS, an Australian IT, business and management consulting group known for digital transformation and app development. The company has also linked with Google Cloud and is gearing up for an expansion.  

Along with her corporate responsibilities, Malhotra continues to be a philanthropist and is the trustee of the Shiv Nadar Foundation, the philanthropic initiative set up by Nadar with the vision to drive transformational leadership through education. As chairperson of VidyaGyan, a leadership academy for the economically underprivileged, meritorious, rural students of Uttar Pradesh, Malhotra has been working towards nurturing future leaders from rural India who can be catalysts of change for their communities, villages and the nation at large. Malhotra co-founded The Habitats Trust with her husband Shikhar Malhotra in 2018 for wildlife conservation. Now it’s a different role for Malhotra, who’s graduated from the Kellogg School of Management. 

Malhotra made it to the Forbes list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Here’s wishing her the very best.

Faqir Chand (FC) Kohli, popularly known as the father of India’s technology industry, passed away in November at the age of 96. Armed with an MS degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1950, Kohli returned to his home turf to join Tata Electric Companies in 1951. His efforts led to the usage of digital computers for power system design and control. He continued working for the Tata Group, moving from Tata Electric to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). He took the company to great heights, from management consultancy to software development. His other contributions include water purification, software engineering and software automation. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: 'Shri FC Kohli Ji will be remembered for his pioneering contributions to the world of IT. He was at the forefront of institutionalizing a culture of innovation and excellence in the tech industry. Pained by his demise. Condolences to his family and many admirers.' 

Apex body NASSCOM has saluted Kohli’s contribution to the IT industry while paying rich tribute to him. He has left behind a rich legacy and has laid the strong foundation of the $190bn IT Industry in India. 

“Mr Kohli was the visionary leader who foresaw the opportunity of India in technology services and built TCS many decades back when almost nothing existed in the tech sector in India,” a press release from NASSCOM stated. His leadership and passion over the decades played a key role in helping establish India as a trusted and quality partner for global corporations. His efforts helped evangelise the importance of technology adoption for India, push for greater research in academic institutions, and bring awareness on the importance of local language and hardware industry in India.

As chairman of NASSCOM in 1994-95, Kohli led the industry and NASSCOM to build global partnerships in key markets, showcased the opportunity for IT services from India, and built a culture of collaboration in the industry members. His engagement with NASSCOM continued through the years, providing guidance and support on key industry issues and opportunities. 

For his innovative approach towards IT and its applications, Kohli was awarded the Padma Bhushan. 

Leading IT companies were quick to realise the potential of the digital world. Strategic investments in digital technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cyber security, big data and analytics are all reaping the rewards. Solutions derived from these technologies have strengthened their ecosystem. Given their competitive edge, many of the companies have taken on global assignments while some have made global acquisitions. 

IT company Infosys began its digital investments some years ago in automation, cloud, and artificial intelligence. The momentum has continued this year with the company signing a multi-year deal with Vanguard, a US investment firm. The deal could well span over a decade and is said to expand to $2bn. About 1,300 roles in Vanguard will move to Infosys. 

Some of the earlier investments have begun to yield results, as has already been seen in the data and analytics practice, which happened five years ago. This segment of Infosys has reportedly grown into an almost $3bn service line. With a workforce of over 20,000 employees, its revenues contribute nearly a quarter of the company’s total earnings. The siloed approach has been removed. Instead, technologies such as big data and analytics have been brought under one umbrella and an interdisciplinary team works to identify problems that are solved by automated machines. 

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the flagship company of the Tata Group, has raced ahead of Accenture to become the world’s most valuable IT services company. TCS’s winning formula is its strong position in digital offerings such as cloud, data and analytics. Client adoption of these technologies, as well as cognitive business operations, has scaled up the growth, while Covid has created an increased demand for digital solutions. This new norm will help the company to further consolidate its position in the global IT industry. 

The software services firm’s growth in banking, financial services and insurance, retail and consumer packaged goods, and life sciences, is another contender. TCS’s new agreement with Prudential Financial Inc (PFI) has been reported in the media. Under the agreement, TCS will reportedly acquire over 1,500 employees. The company also plans to leverage various dimensions of Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd, a subsidiary of PFI based in Ireland. The 1,500 workforce of Pramerica will gear up to cater to TCS’s clients in Ireland, the UK and Europe. 

Digital investments result in acquisitions, improve performance levels and rake in annual profits. Aspects such as work ethic have made the world notice our corporate houses. Wipro and Tata Steel have made it to the 2020 list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. This recognition comes from Ethisphere Institute, a global organisation in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices. This year’s list comprises 132 honourees from 21 countries and 51 industries. Aspects including culture, environmental and social practices, ethics and compliance activities, governance, diversity, and initiatives to support a strong value chain are among the parameters for selection. 

Wipro is a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company. As stated in the press, Rishad Premji, chairman, Wipro Limited, has said: “We are honoured to be ranked among Ethisphere World’s Most Ethical Companies for the ninth year in succession. At Wipro, ethical and responsible conduct has been an integral part of the way we think and act, since inception. Our values articulated through the spirit of Wipro and our brand promise reflect this in full measure. In the world we live in today, a corporation that does not commit itself in letter and spirit to a more sustainable, just and equitable world, will be failing in its primary duty. At Wipro, our attempt has always been to go beyond what is required by compliance and to do the right things both at our workplace and in our communities outside.” 

Tata Steel is a geographically diversified steel producer, with operations and commercial presence across the world. This is the ninth time that Tata Steel has been conferred this coveted recognition. “Congratulations to everyone at Tata Steel for earning this recognition. This is a moment to acknowledge the leaders working to advance corporate cultures defined by integrity and affirm those companies contributing to broader societal imperatives and the greater good,” said Timothy Erblich, chief executive officer at Ethisphere.” 

The Tata Steel Group is among the top global steel companies with an annual crude steel capacity of 33 million tonnes per annum. Besides being a member of the World Steel Climate Action Programme, Tata Steel has won several awards including the Lighthouse recognition for its Kalinganagar Plant, which is a first in India. 

2020 has been an unforgettable year and will remain in people’s minds for many years to come. For some, it may be difficult to erase the thoughts of the pandemic-driven world. 

Here’s Wishing You a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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