First published in AMS business magazine. Author: Hans Kops
“We’re here to stay for the long-term”
This year marks a quarter of a century since Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) opened an office in Amsterdam. In those pioneering days, the company’s objective was to test the Dutch market for business outsourcing solutions and IT services, and to see if one could service the European markets from here. Most of their effort and investments were therefore aimed at establishing a local brand name and answering the often-asked question: Why India?
“It was a time when Indian IT companies were still relatively unknown and partnering with them was considered an experiment that should be compensated with lower costs,” says Amit Kapur, who, as regional director and Head of Benelux, is currently the highest in command in TCS’s European headquarters in Amsterdam.
But as TCS’s services portfolio and client list expanded, things changed. By 2005 – the year Kapur and his family arrived in the Netherlands – an Indian heritage was considered an asset in the ICT business, and potential clients no longer asked themselves if they should select an Indian business partner, but which Indian business partner. “It’s safe to say that TCS has positively contributed to this development. We had outgrown most of our local and international competitors by then and built a convincing track record based on the quality of our services, the number and respectability of our customers, the maturity of our engagements, and – naturally – our cost-efficiency. Besides, it was clear that we are here to stay for the long term.”
Today, the European subsidiary is one of TCS’s launching platforms for what is, according to the strategists of the Mumbai-based multinational, the next evolutionary step in the digital transformation of an increasingly eastbound world. They see no future in continuing to automate existing processes. Organisations have to reinvent and re-imagine themselves in a way that appeals to the growing masses of the young digital natives that will be tomorrow’s customers. And TCS is positioned to help their European clients in all aspects of this transition: by upscaling their infrastructure and business intelligence; outsourcing and securing their data; implementing business solutions; introducing new technologies as the Internet of Things and machine learning; and by helping them to rewrite their business cases.
“It is our objective to aggregate as much value as possible for our clients, by helping them to use the current technologies that can innovate their businesses and organisational structures,” says Kapur. “I feel confident that TCS Netherlands is poised to play a poignant role in this. We want to present a showcase to the rest of continental Europe.”
What started as a small outfit in a temporary office in 1992, has grown to become one of the largest IT providers in the Netherlands, a major stepping stone to the rest of the continental European markets and a household name in the business and social networks of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. TCS’s big breakthrough was when they managed to land KLM as a prestigious launching customer. The Dutch banks ABN AMRO and ING Group soon followed, as did ASML, the world’s leading manufacturer of semiconductor machines. These and other clients ranked TCS number one in last year’s independent listing on customer satisfaction by Whitelane. ‘That we were able to expand our client list with those global brand names in such a relatively short period of time is partly due to the openness of the Dutch companies involved. They are very internationally oriented, have an open mind and choose their partners on their ability to aggregate value for them. Because of their willingness to experiment, we were given the chance to prove ourselves.’
This ever-growing strong foothold also fuels the growth of the TCS organisation in Europe. Together (excluding the UK), Europe contributed to a tenth of TCS’s global revenue last year. “Our European activities make an important contribution to our company’s net profit,” says Kapur.
The business climate's helping hand
Reflecting on TCS’s remarkable business success in its 25 years in Amsterdam, Kapur points out that the fast growth of the company’s European operation is also due to the attractiveness of the local business climate. “The Netherlands is an extremely attractive location considering the ease of settlement and its talented workforce, costs of living and vibrant multicultural environment,” he says. “When considering locations in Europe, the outcomes are predictable: the Netherlands comes out on top, closely followed by the Nordic countries.”
TCS’s European business leader can say from both his personal and his family’s experience that the high ranking of the Amsterdam metropole is justified. “My family and I have lived here now for more than 11 years and over that time, a part of our cultural and social DNA has been somewhat Dutchified. In a good way, of course. We always feel welcome, we love the work-life balance, and we have seen some good initiatives by the government and local authorities to make it work even better.”
One example Kapur cites is IN Amsterdam (International Newcomers Amsterdam, formerly called the Expatcenter Amsterdam). “Since this was started, it has significantly simplified the visa-regime by creating a one-window solution. These things make a big difference,” he says. “The sentiment of feeling welcome is often underestimated. If your family is not happy, it reflects back to you and your ability to focus on your daily tasks. What’s more, without the helping hand of organisations such as IN Amsterdam, it would be hard to attract the top talents that can boost your organisation. So, this aspect is also a major component of our success here.”
Good citizenshipBut it works two ways. As an organisation, TCS feels very strongly about being a good citizen in the communities in which it operates. “Our simple belief is that if you contribute to a healthier society, you have healthier and better motivated employees, which ultimately leads to a healthier organisation.” This company motto has made TCS highly visible in the expanded social, economic and creative networks of the Netherlands. For instance, TCS employees have initiated several IT business platforms. It is also a benefactor of sporting events, such as the annual TCS Amsterdam Marathon. “In 2011, we signed up as the title sponsor and we recently renewed our contract until 2020. This initiative reflects our intentions to be an active part of the Dutch community for a longer period and to actively contribute to the wellness of everyone involved. The initiative’s success, in terms of brand engagement and involvement in community development, inspired our global organisation to follow in our footsteps.”
Even though TCS has created a strong position for itself in the Dutch society and business community, Kapur and his staff realise that, in tomorrow’s digital world, yields from the past offer no guarantee for future performance. “We too must be able to reinvent ourselves constantly,” he says. “But we feel that we are capable of doing so. We have the drive, millennials are eager to come and work in Amsterdam, and the environment here makes it easier for us to do so. The awareness that one should adopt a digital way of thinking and working is well-developed here, and there is a startup scene that is constantly challenging us and introducing new business models that we can learn from. There is still some ground to win on the adoption-side, though. But that offers us an interesting business opportunity, of course. [Laughs] In today’s business, it’s all about relevance. If you remain relevant to your customers, to your employees and to your environment, you continue to flourish. You could call this our mantra.”
Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. Tata Consultancy Services Limited was founded in 1968 as a subsidiary of the Tata Group, and is considered to be one of India’s most innovative companies. Its global headquarters is in Mumbai (India) and it operates in 46 countries around the world. It is listed in Mumbai and has a current market capitalisation of around US$80 billion. With a revenue of US$16.5 billion (2016), it is the world’s 10th largest IT services provider.
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