FC Kohli, First CEO Of TCS And Father Of Indian IT industry, Passes Away At 96


FC Kohli, first CEO of TCS and father of Indian IT industry, passes away at 96Faqir Chand Kohli, Indian software industry doyen and the first chief executive of Tata Consultancy Services, passed away in Mumbai on Thursday. He was 96.

Kohli believed in grooming leaders and built a generation of Indian information technology professionals who went on to industry-leading positions.

“He was a true legend who laid the very foundations for India’s spectacular IT revolution and set the stage for the dynamic modern economy we enjoy today,” said chairman of Tata Sons, N Chandrasekaran who was hired by Kohli in 1987. “I have had the honour and privilege of working with and learning from Mr Kohli from the day he hired me as a trainee in TCS,” he added.

India’s telecom sector, in the efforts of enabling policies including more quantum of the spectrum, is set to establish new benchmarks in the next-generation network deployments and service delivery.

Subramanian Ramadorai, who succeeded Kohli as CEO and managing director of TCS, credited the IT veteran for being “a demanding boss” and shaping him as well as the entire team.

“Having known him for so many years…and having worked closely with him, I would encapsulate it as — we have lost a brilliant technocrat, a great visionary business leader and a very close mentor, guide and a personal family friend. We have lost a great human being,” he said.

“Kohli was a demanding boss. In fact, I once said that he was a demanding boss at times and more demanding all other times, so that’s how he developed all of us,” Ramadorai said.

Peshawar-born Kohli earned his bachelor’s in English and applied Mathematics and Physics from Panjab University in Lahore. He went on to complete his bachelor’s in engineering from Queen’s University in Canada and master’s in electrical engineering from MIT.

He returned to the country after his family was displaced during the partition, wanting to contribute to a young India.

Kohli joined Tata Electric Co in 1951 to set up the country’s first load dispatch centre.

In 1969, then Tata group chairman JRD Tata asked Kohli to set up TCS after Tata Electric installed a computer system to control the electric line between Mumbai and Pune, the third utility in the world to adopt computers.

After computerising the Tata group companies, Kohli at TCS signed a contract with the now defunct computer maker Burroughs Corp, which outsourced software work to the Indian company in 1972.

Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy said Kohli laid the foundation for a strong TCS.

“Mr. F C Kohli laid the foundation for a strong TCS. I had the privilege of working with him on the NASSCOM Executive Council during the early nineties. I pray that his soul rests in peace,” Murthy said in a statement to ET.

TCS also helped Burroughs set up its India operations. Kohli stepped down as TCS chief executive in 1996. Kohli received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence in 2002.

The same year, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honour, for his contribution to the Indian software industry.

“He created the industry. He developed people, whether it was Ramadorai, Chandra (Natarajan Chandrasekaran) or myself — we are all products of teaching. But more importantly, he created the ecosystem for India in the IT field because he had no example to start with in the 1970s when he created the conditions for TCS to grow,” said S Mahalingam, who began his IT career as a consultant with TCS in 1970 working under Kohli’s guidance and later went on to serve as the chief financial officer of TCS between 2003 and 2013.

Union Minister for Communications, Electronics & IT and Law & Justice RS Prasad also paid his respects to Kohli.

“Sad to learn about the demise of Faqir Chand Kohli Ji. He was a visionary who made pioneering efforts to develop the IT industry in India. His commitment, hard work and foresight shall continue to inspire the industry forever. My sincere condolences,” Prasad wrote on the microblogging platform Twitter.

Kohli took keen interest in education, working with the Pune College of Engineering to groom young engineers and felt strongly about government involvement in various sectors.

He “was a true visionary, showing amazing foresight in harnessing the rich engineering talent available in India to create an entire new industry that defied all odds and grew to be a global powerhouse,” said Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO and Managing Director of TCS.

“As we move forward on the path he charted out for us…we continue to draw inspiration from Mr Kohli’s passion for technology, intellectual rigour, community spirit and his relentless drive until the very end,” Gopinathan added.

He led innovations in far-ranging areas from adult literacy, water purification, software engineering, software automation, complex systems and cybernetics, Chandrasekaran said.

Kohli also advocated teaching computers in Indian languages and regretted that India had not emerged as a hardware destination.

“For the hardware industry, computers have to be in Indian languages, not the 150 million people who speak in English. Your (existing) hardware industry is for 150 million people; you are more than a billion people. Hardware industry can grow only if the hardware can speak my language. In Russia, they don’t use computers in English. Computers have been there for over 60-70 years. Which computer can I use in Hindi?” Kohli had told ET in a 2018 interview.

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