N Chandrasekaran today chaired his maiden AGM as the head of Tata Group at TCS shareholders meet, has thanked the dismissed predecessor Cyrus Mistry on nudge, and denied any layoffs at the largest software exporter.
Chandrasekaran, who climbed to the top at TCS before becoming Tata Sons chairman earlier this year, also denied any impact of protectionist policies in the West saying "on the ground nothing has changed for TCS. We continue to operate successfully; we continue to recruit people in every market we operate in."
As is the convention, he thanked retired Vijay Kelkar and retiring Ishaat Hussain for their services as directors of the company. However, there was no mention of Mistry but when asked by shareholder Adil Irani, he deftly diffused the situation saying, "I thank him".
Another shareholder used the IT industry's favourite word "disruption" to illustrate the happenings at TCS, saying FY17 was a year of disruptions due to the global turmoil and also internally for the group with Mistry's dismissal.
The TCS share buyback that saw Tata Sons netting over Rs 10,000 crore seemed to have peeved many shareholders, with a shareholder saying, "Tata Sons giveth and Tata Sons taketh away".
But Chandrasekaran defended the same saying it was fully legal and said small shareholders have only 15 per cent reservation which got filled on a pro-rata basis.
With the IT sector facing difficulties due to protectionism in their largest markets like the US and automation resulting in job losses dominating the headlines, Chandrasekaran had to placate shareholders' concerns by asserting that there were no layoffs at TCS.
"TCS has not done any layoffs. We are a growing company and we have grown from 3.5 lakh to 3.87 lakh in employee count. This year, we have made around 20,000 offers and we expect this growth to continue," he said.
TCS founding chief F C Kohli was present at the thinly filled Birla Matoshree Convention Hall in downtown Mumbai, while the group patriarch Ratan Tata was conspicuously absent.
A large majority of TCS shareholders, where Tata Sons have 75 per cent holding and which is the largest profit centre for the diversified group, welcomed Chandra's elevation and on display was the most effusive colour in doing so.
The loyalty of Chandrasekaran, who has not worked any where else but with the Tatas in a over three-decade career, made one shareholder compare him to the character of Hanuman.
Another used the Bahubali-Katappa analogy to appreciate the contributions of Ishaat Hussain and Ratan Tata, respectively, for the salt-to-software group.
Chandrasekaran did all the answering by himself through the four-hour meeting, helped by his successor Rajesh Gopinathan and other top executives.
He said TCS is still bullish on about growth despite the global turmoils saying the company has come out stronger through the various cycles over the years, and exuded confidence that it will be a similar story going forward.
On the soon-to-be-implemented goods and services tax, Chandrasekaran said the company already works on projects around the biggest indirect tax reform and sees it as an opportunity saying the global business environment is increasingly adapting to the digital way and the world is transforming fast.
He said TCS has reduced the number of its subsidiaries to 58 from 62 during the year through mergers, and admitted that 11 of them are loss making at present.
With business leaders speaking of data as the new oil, the head of the salt-to-software conglomerate said data excellence will be the most important theme in the future and hold true for all the sectors beyond IT.
He said TCS has trained 2 lakh employees with 6 lakh competencies on the emerging digital technologies.
Seeking to address the concerns on the future, Chandrasekaran said TCS has seen many disruptive changes over its journey and has continued to stay relevant by being ahead of the curve. He said TCS' digital revenues grew 28 per cent to USD 3 billion in FY17.
"The future of technology is very bright and we have immense opportunities. We are working strong and hard to grow and scale new heights," he said.
Gopinathan said operational agility, cloud and automation will be his focus area in FY18.