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Home/ F.C. Kohli: The Grandsire of Indian IT

L.C. Singh, Founder, Director & Executive Vice Chairman, Nihilent Limited, reflects on his long association with F.C.Kohli that spans across four decades.

Corporate Tycoons, December 2020

Only those who will risk going too far can find out how far one can go”, said the famed American-British poet T.S.Eliot. True to this saying, the legendary founding CEO of TCS, F.C.Kohli, who passed away recently, lived a life that teaches us how willpower, character, stubbornness, and resilience calibrate one’s moral compass to achieve greatness. In this world of preachers, some walk the talk, and F.C.Kohli happens to be one. No wonder he was referred to as the Bhishma Pitamaha of the Indian Software Industry.

VISIONARY PAR EXCELLENCE

No doubt his passing has created a deep void. But I believe the best form of tribute one can offer is to celebrate his life and carry forward his noble vision. He is no more with us, but his legacy will continue and will continue to inspire us to achieve bigger things as we move forward. F.C.Kohli’s death should not be a cause for mourning but a celebration. He lived an outstanding life for others to emulate.

That the Indian information technology industry today is firmly entrenched in the global map and found its terra firma was primarily due to the pioneering efforts made by legends like F.C.Kohli, who chalked out a larger vision for the industry, rather than working in the perimeter of their comfort zones. He was the pioneer of the country’s ‘Technology Revolution’ and helped India build its multibillion-dollar IT industry. F.C. Kohli practically visualized the IT industry. Others were just carrying out his vision
and executing it.

AN ETERNAL OPTIMIST

He challenged the conventions, broke barriers, raised the bar, and redefined the status quo. Much before anyone had a clue on how IT can empower organizations, he foresaw an impending revolution in which India will play a significant role. For instance, when he took over the reins in TCS in the late 1960s, it was providing computing services using technologically antiquated computers. Foreign exchange was tightly controlled by the Government and computers were not the priority. These hurdles did not dampen the spirit of F.C. Kohli. He faced the challenges head-on and created new benchmarks in providing state of the art technology services with a blended model- marrying the latest software and hardware. A master strategist way ahead of times. One can say, he was one of the pioneers of the Global Delivery Model, which later on made India into the world’s back office – a fulcrum on which offshore IT services being delivered remotely today.

A PERFECTIONIST

F.C. Kohli was a perfectionist and a nononsense person who could never tolerate mediocrity. He believed that excellence has to be an ingrained trait and should reflect on our work. Often he was branded as stoic in his approach but to me, it’s a misnomer. He wanted the best from the individual and once you gain his trust, you will realize that it becomes mutual, gained, as you demonstrate your excellence.
I have had my immense learnings. He was not just my boss at TCS, but a mentor, who shaped my career, vision, and thought process. Our association continued even after I left TCS. I started Nihilent in the year 2000. I gained the confidence to start my venture, only because of him. He had taught me when you believe in something firmly, just go and get it. He also taught us to be the crucible of innovation and that is what Nihilent does. To keep learning and experimenting – that was his motto and, he inspired others to do likewise. At Nihilent, we do not call ourselves a technology company. We are problem solvers, and technology is one part of it. We enable systemic change management for enterprises to thrive and keep customers happy.

As I write this, I realize how fortunate I was to be associated with a legend called F.C.Kohli. As an industry, we will continue to work for progress and keep the light lit by him shining bright and keep the lights on. In parting, I would like to quote Ecclesiastes, which says, “Generations come, generations go, but the earth remains forever.” And F.C.Kohli will remain in our hearts forever, inspiring the generations to come.

RIP Sir. We all miss you very much