F C Kohli, doyen of IT industry, fades into history

F C Kohli, doyen of IT industry, fades into history

F C Kohli (1924-2020)

India’s IT services industry, which employs five million people and generates revenues in excess of $190 billion, owes a lot to the veteran from Tata Sons, Padma Bhushan Faqir Chand Kohli (F C Kohli), who passed away on Thursday, aged 96.

Kohli is widely regarded as the ‘Father of Indian IT industry’. A Tata Group veteran, Kohli was the first CEO of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India’s largest IT services exporter. 

I learnt a lot from him: NRN

Recalling his association with Kohli, Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy said he is fortunate to have been part of the IT industry group led by Kohli. “I also had the privilege of working with him at Nasscom. We used to interact a lot those days and I learnt a lot from him,” he said.

Also read — FC Kohli, father of Indian IT industry, passes away

Initially, he wanted to become a navy officer but went on a scholarship to study Electrical Engineering at Queen’s University in Canada — finding a job for himself there.

In 1950, his pursuit of a master’s degree took him to the United States. He studied at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

By early 1951, Kohli had landed himself a job at Ebasco International Corporation, New York Connecticut Valley Power Exchange, Hartford and New England Power System, Boston for training in power system operation.

However, later that year, he returned to India to work in Tata Sons.

When Kohli returned to India from the US, Tata Sons — one of the only few prominent names in the private sector back then — hired him to work on setting up the load dispatching system to manage the system operations at Tata Electric Companies, in 1951.

He rose through the ranks of Tata Electric Companies and became its director in 1970. This was not, however, what he would enter the history books for.

In 1968, Tata Sons had set up a new company called Tata Computer Systems. At the behest of J R D Tata, Kohli joined the newly formed entity as general manager — the head of the entity. In 1974, he was named the Director-In-charge of the entity — a post he would hold for the next 22 years.

Over the years, he transformed TCS into the main pillar of Tata Sons, the largest company in the Tata group. In 1996, F C Kohli stepped down from his executive role and was named the vice chairman, a post he held till 2002.

Like many other top executives at Tata Sons, he had a long-serving career spanning 51 years at the salt-to-software conglomerate.

In fact, such was his importance with the Tata family, that in 1984, when he was having heart bypass surgery in Houston, J R D Tata would personally call Kohli's surgeon to check whether he could return to India.

"He (Tata) wanted to discuss Burrough's proposal for software work in India under Tata Burroughs, which might affect TCS business," he had said in one of his statements.

IT Industry, with the demise of Kohli, has become way poorer. Amid cut-throat competition, he transcended organisational boundaries to become the Bhishma Pitamaha of an industry that became the identity of Bengaluru years later.