MANY OF THE world’s multinationals claim to be technology companies. In fact, their increasingly digitised operations often rely on a handful of Indian firms. Few people outside their home country have heard of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, Wipro, HCL Technologies or Tech Mahindra, India’s five biggest information technology (IT) consultancies. Yet even when enterprise software to manage marketing, production, inventory and the like comes from Oracle of America or Germany’s SAP, it is often the Indian companies that install and maintain software for clients. They create the ledgers, transaction platforms and risk controls that enable financial firms to operate. They build and run websites. When Rajesh Gopinathan, TCS’s chief executive, noted recently that his firm helps manage the world’s big banks, retailers, manufacturers and telecoms companies, it was not an empty boast.
The IT consultancies have been India Inc’s rare global success story. Except Infosys, which was born as an IT consultancy in 1981, all of the big firms were spun out of their parent conglomerates, beginning with TCS in the 1960s, which was hived off to work out how to optimise electrical output for Tata’s power companies. They won acclaim after patching the “Y2K” bug, which threatened to crash the world’s computer systems flummoxed by the zeroes...
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