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FC Kohli, TCS’ first CEO and father of Indian IT, passes away at 96

FC Kohli, TCS’ first CEO and father of Indian IT, passes away at 96
Photo Credit: TCS
26 Nov, 2020

Faqir Chand Kohli, aged 96 and widely regarded as the father of India’s information technology (IT) industry, passed away today, according to a Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) statement on Thursday.

Kohli took over as TCS Director in Charge in 1974, six years after the Tata Computer Centre became a part of TCS. He had joined TCS as general manager in 1969 to oversee its development.

Kohli first grew TCS as a management consultancy firm as the first enterprise customers in India were government organisations (like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India) at a time when computers weren’t a buzzword.

“Kohli always wanted India to be part of the computer revolution that was beginning in the West,” writes S Ramadorai in The TCS Story and Beyond (2011). Ramadorai succeeded Kohli in 1996. 

Kohli continued to play a role in promoting technology to solve the country’s social problems, the TCS statement added. He was honoured with India's third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, in 2002.

“He was a true legend, who laid the very foundations for India’s spectacular IT revolution and set the stage for the dynamic modern economy we enjoy today,” said N Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons. “Mr Kohli led innovations in areas far-ranging from adult literacy, water purification, software engineering, software automation, complex-systems and cybernetics.”

TCS CEO Rajesh Gopinathan said Kohli’s leadership for more than two decades had left an indelible mark on the organisation, particularly its culture of investing in people. “We continue to draw inspiration from Mr Kohli’s passion for technology, intellectual rigor, community spirit and his relentless drive until the very end,” Gopinathan added.

Under Kohli, TCS recruited most of the first batch of students who had completed their Masters in computer science at IIT Kanpur, which was the first to introduce computer science doctoral studies, according to The TCS Story and Beyond.  

In a statement to TechCircle, Infosys’ co-founder and its first managing director NR Narayana Murthy said, “Mr FC Kohli laid the foundation for a strong TCS. I had the privilege of working with him on the NASSCOM Executive Council during the early nineties. I pray that his soul rests in peace.”