Get it right in the first instance: TCS mantra for government orders

India as a market for IT services is different, unlike markets like the US and Europe, India is skewed towards projects (led by government) rather than accounts. Hence when working on large mission mode government projects, for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) the focus is always on getting it right in first instance. This means that the systems architect has to be spot on, and critical focus has to be given on user interface design and testing, because any project in India has to cater to scale that is unheard of anywhere else. “The strategy for us has been to to get it first.....
India as a market for IT services is different, unlike markets like the US and Europe, India is skewed towards projects (led by government) rather than accounts. Hence when working on large mission mode government projects, for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) the focus is always on getting it right in first instance.

This means that the systems architect has to be spot on, and critical focus has to be given on user interface design and testing, because any project in India has to cater to scale that is unheard of anywhere else.

“The strategy for us has been to to get it first time right. When you look at these projects, this is critical as most of the systems will be used by citizens at large and hence scale will be huge,” said Tej Bhatla, business unit head, TCS to Business Standard. 

Bhatla believes that while the large projects started by the government of India are core transformative,t the real digitization of the government services ecosystem is yet to begin. “By real digitization we mean use of AI/ML, IoT, data analytics. So far it has been about getting the data. Since we have that foundation, the big tech initiatives will begin. This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he added. TCS is already working with various government departments (Central and State) on proof-of-concepts on the use of IoT and analytics.

The firm is among the earliest IT services players to be working on large mission mode projects such as digitizing the Department of Post, e-Passport, first generation income-tax portal, Ayushman Bharat, National Stock Exchange and many more.

However, questions have been raised on the perceived difference in Indian IT firms handling of global projects and Indian ones.

Bhatla disagrees with the comparison. “It is challenging not because of working with government departments, but because of the scale. One fundamental issue that differentiates the Indian market is that these large projects are systems integration (SI) projects. It is not just about doing a piece of work, estimating and implementing it. It typically involves going through the entire set up (hardware and software), the data centres, people management, implementing the solution, training the people and also run the project for the stipulated time,” he added.

He gives the example of Department of Post digitization efforts, which pulled together 155,000 post offi­ces into a cohesive inter-linked system that operates on a single platform. As part of the India Post digital solution, mobile POS devices placed in the hands of postal delivery workers mean that if a rural resident can’t get to a post offi­ce, the post offi­ce will go to them. The technology platform has enabled payroll and pension disbursement for over 860,000 people within one year. India Post has given online retail a boost in India’s interiors. There have been 2.7 billion retail and about 35 million money transfer transactions carried out in one year

One of the constant complain in the recent times that Indian IT services has faced is that several of these mission mode projects are swapped with glitches. In case of TCS, during the initial days of e-passport implementation or creation of the MCA-21 portal had seen glitches. When asked if there is a solution to this, Bhatla said: “Scale is a challenge but if you get the central pieces right-- architecture, UI, right set of performance tests-- you will get it right. E-Passport, Ayushman Bharat are successful examples. I think because we have been an early player in this segment we have the right experience to take on such projects but there is learning in each project.”

For TCS, India is 5 per cent of its revenue for fiscal 2021, other than the public sector the small and medium enterprises is a big focus. “SMEs have been a huge focus of TCS in India and this segment is going to grow in future. But to be successful in India pricing has to be correct. In that context we have seen the subscription model catching up in a big way,” said Ujjwal Mathur, VP and Country head-India Business, TCS.

TCS has been saying that because project-driven market revenue from the region has been cyclical. “Indian business is a portfolio of projects rather than a portfolio of accounts. And once a project comes to an end the business also comes to an end and you need to rebid,” said Mathur.

But does agree that working on such large projects has its advantages as these can be easily replicated in other geographies. “What you build in India can be replicated across the globe, the build-up of skills that happen due to these large projects can be taken global. Working on these projects has been learning for TCS,” said Mathur.


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