The Peshawar Born Man Who Was The First CEO Of TCS

Today, Tata Consultancy Services is the crown jewel of the Tata Empire. The multinational IT giant is valued at over ₹13.78 lakh crore. And the man behind the start of it was Faqir Chand Kohli, fondly remembered as the father of the Indian IT industry.

Born in 1924 in Peshawar, Kohli’s life and legacy are a testament to his extraordinary contributions to the information technology sector.

Kohli’s academic journey began with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) from the University of Punjab, Lahore in then-undivided India. His academic excellence earned him a scholarship to Queen’s University in Canada, where he completed a BSc (Honors) in Electrical Engineering in 1948. He then pursued a Masters in Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1950.

Kohli’s professional career began with Tata Electric in 1951. In 1969, with some encouragement from JRD Tata, Kohli joined the young Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a division of Tata Sons established on April 1, 1968, by JRD Tata and Nani Palkhivala. Despite his initial reluctance, Kohli's pioneering use of computers in power engineering made him the perfect candidate to lead TCS.

Kohli's vision for TCS was clear: to bring the benefits of computers to Indian society and economy. Under his leadership, TCS grew exponentially, laying the groundwork for the company to become one of the world’s most valuable IT firms. Kohli’s influence extended to the development of methods, processes, human resources, and the ecosystem of the IT industry, transforming TCS into a global powerhouse synonymous with Indian IT services.

See Also: Tata Power’s CEO Made ₹10.25 Cr In FY24, Chairman N Chandrasekaran Was Paid…

One of Kohli's significant contributions was his push for TCS to grow at an exponential rate of 100% over five years, a blueprint for its future success. Kohli sought potential clients in Mumbai and across India, automating processes for banks, universities, utilities, and businesses, laying the foundation for TCS's reputation in offering comprehensive solutions.

Kohli's strategic visit to the United States led to TCS's first large global exposure. His unscheduled visit to Burroughs, a major hardware manufacturer, secured crucial software assignments, marking the beginning of TCS’s international presence. This led to significant orders from American Express and the prestigious Sega project, positioning TCS as an established custom software solution provider.

In the early 1990s, Kohli identified the Y2K crisis as a significant opportunity for TCS. The company was the first Indian IT firm to address this issue and rectify its code, leading to significant growth and hitting $1 billion in revenue by 2003.

The Lighter Side Of Kohli

Kohli also had a witty side to him, he was known for delivering sharp remarks and quips from time to time.

In one instance, he was introduced to a Chinese lady as the “Father of the Indian IT Industry.” Without missing a beat, Kohli responded, “I have fathered three sons but doubt about the IT thing.”

When a lady attempted to flatter him by asking for the secrets of his success, he quipped saying, “This is the first time in my life anyone has accused me of being successful.”

Kohli recalled a funny incident from the early days of the software industry in India. He received a late-night call from the customs office regarding a crate worth around $2,500. Officials told him, “Sir, because of our respect for you, we called. We would have booked a case if it was anyone else. This document says you have imported hardware and software items. We can see the hardware… but where is the software?” Kohli laughed, and after some time, the officer joined him in the laughter, realizing his folly.

Kohli passed away on November 26, 2020, following a cardiac arrest.

Read Next: Tata Steel’s IIM-Graduated CEO’s Salary Was ₹17.45 Cr In FY24, Here’s How Much Vice-Chairman Noel Tata Was Paid…

Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of Benzinga Neuro and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Source: Sands of Time Newsletter VOL XVIII, Issue 2, 2021 from Tata Central Archives.


Don't miss a beat on the share market. Get real-time updates on top stock movers and trading ideas on Benzinga India Telegram channel.

Posted In: NewsSuccess StoriesGeneralBenzinga InspireFaqir Chand KohliTata GroupTCSThe House Of Tata