India’s struggle for independence was led byMahatma Gandhi, while Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel took it up to lead the country’s post-Independence progress. Dr B R Ambedkar, made an extraordinary contribution to this process by writing our constitution.
And there are still others such as Dr Verghese Kurian, India’s milkman, whose white revolution turned India from a milk-deficient nation into a milk surfeit one. No longer do we need crates of milk powder from overseas or ration our daily requirement.
Dr S Swaminathan is credited with the green revolution. It changed the scenario for staple crops and increased production so significantly that India was no longer on the PL 480 bucket list.
Bindeshwar Pathak, spearheaded the ‘cheap and clean’ toilet revolution (Sulabh Sauchalaya toilets) and is now internationally recognized as an authority on the subject, which is so relevant to much of Asia and the whole of Africa and Latin America.
Dr Vikram Sarabhai put India on the world map by setting up the satellite institute in Ahmedabad, which became the precursor to ISRO. Dr Homi Bhabha pioneered the project to bring atomic energy into India and is remembered by the institute named after him – the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) .
But there are others who have not received their due for a great contribution. Faqir Chand Kohli is one.
F C Kohli is widely accepted as the father of the information technology industry in India and even Asia, by circumstances, rather than by design. Mr Kohli was put into the slot to prevent the slide of Tata Consulting Services (TCS) into oblivion in 1972. He not only prevented the slide, but grew the company from a small band of computer engineers to a force of 30,000employees. By the time he retired in 2016, the market cap of TCS was more than the market cap of Infosys and Wipro put together (the next two largest IT companies in India) and TCS was operating in 63 countries with a total of 3,50,000 employees worldwide.
But FC Kohli did not just build a company successfully as many CEOs do; he went beyond that to work on several issues, pertaining to:
• How India can increase trained man power for the IT industry and do it fast
• How and why India should also focus on developing hardware, rather than concentrating only on software
• How IT can be used to increase literacy levels in India at a rapid pace
• How IT can be used for improved agricultural production
• Working out a model for increased R& D in India , to improve the quality of lives of the people
• How to improve operations in government and semi- government offices with e-governance
• How to improve the quality of training of software specialists and their motivation
Kohli could work out the frameworks and sometimes even do the test runs (as in the literacy project), but he could not bring about the changes alone, or even with the help of only his company. Most often, he needed government support, which was either late in coming, or did not come at all.
This explains why the 93 year old, fit and trim, mentally agile and still active FCK, keeps muttering under his breath, with a combined air of desperation and exasperation: India has no damned business to remain poor.
But FCK kept going, in the hope that something will happen sometime, somewhere, and on the scale that he had envisioned.
FCK was a ‘one company’ man, through his long and distinguished career at the Tatas. The combination could not have been better. Tatas have always been known for being ‘trustees of wealth’. The vision of the founding father, Jamshedji Tata, continues down to the fourth generation.
Tatas did not just found companies. They concurrently founded non-income generating institutions that would have a positive impact on India and Indians. Tatas were not just in the business of making, buying and selling. They always had a greater purpose – and thus were born the (Tata) Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore; Tata Institute of Social Sciences; Tata Institute for Fundamental Research; National Centre for the Performing Arts and many others.
FCK was born into a family where ‘giving’ was a ‘practised virtue’ by his father, his uncles and his elder brother, who was his mentor. He was then lucky to have spent his life with a corporate group which also practised this virtue on a much bigger scale. Therefore a Tata was never on the list of the 20 richest men in India and never will be. The profits go to trusts, and they in turn, finance causes.
Thus, the idea of this book was born. It was not to be a detailed personal life story – which perhaps, can be found elsewhere. It is to be a collection of plans that FCK had made, to fulfil his VISION FOR INDIA. This could be a handbook for the central and state governments, and other institutions, to use as a guideline, even without having to get in touch with FCK.
The reader should be able to gain from the many years of thinking, planning and doing that FCK had done. To be a guideline or a prototype; to help take India forward from the low literacy levels and the low per capita gross domestic product (GDP), that we have at present: the real goals of a self-reliant India. We seem to forget this, in our preoccupation with national GDP growth and in the quest for a seat in the security council.
This is the right way to ensure that FCK will not have to mutter under his breath, with pain, anger and anguish:
“India has no damned business to remain poor.”
(Walter Vieira is a Certified Management Consultant; and a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India (FIMC). He was a corporate executive for 14 years and pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across the globe in four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books; a business columnist; visiting professor on marketing in the US, Europe and Asia. He now spends most of the time in NGO wor