Is all well at TIS?

CIOL Bureau
Updated On
New Update

Shashwat Chaturvedi


MUMBAI: Something seems to be amiss as one enters the fourth floor of Leela

Business Park in Andheri (W). The artistically done reception lobby of Tata

Interactive Systems
(TIS) is unusually silent. A few months back, job

aspirants, waiting for results or interviews, took up all the seats in the

lobby. But now, there are none of those excited souls, only the receptionist and

a few security guards.

The blue board near the entrance displays the mission, vision, and value

statements of the company. The words, “changing the way the world,” stand

out. Indeed, TIS has made an impact on the way knowledge is disseminated in the

developed world. A way that substitutes a human with technology, redundancy with

imagination, information with knowledge. Simply put, it is e-learning.

In many ways, TIS can be termed as the architect of e-learning industry in

India. Sanjaya Sharma, the present CEO, established the company in 1990, a time

when the concept of e-learning was unheard off. The next few years were quite

trying for the company, first to attract the right mix of employees and the

bigger challenge to market itself in the global village. At that time, brand

India was not so coveted.


To cut the long story short, TIS crossed all those hurdles and established

itself firmly in the global space as a dominant player. Establishing quite many

offices across different geographies, working on projects for multinational

companies. Dataquest ranked the company at number 123 in India in 2005, with

revenues in the range of Rs. 98 crore and a growth rate of 18 per cent.

Everything seemed to be going the TIS way.

Then in the month of November 2005, a Tata World newsletter, quoting a

business magazine, hinted at the supposed merger of TIS with Tata Consultancy

Services (TCS). The news came as a shocker for everyone, not only because TIS

was doing reasonably well but also the e-learning industry market was growing

extremely well. TIS is now a 900-person behemoth, with a development center in

Kolkatta and offices across the globe.

The market was rife with rumors; everyone seemed to be speculating on the

future of the company. When S. Ramadorai, CEO, TCS, was queried about the

supposed merger of TIS into TCS, he just smiled and replied, “let us first

complete the merger of Tata Infotech,” he said. The sentence was loaded with

implications that could be construed either ways.


To compound matters, TIS supposedly lost a few big projects and things

started looking gloomy. People started leaving the company in significantly

large numbers. The HR policies within the organization were made stricter, for

instance, flexi-timings was relegated to history.

Suddenly, competing companies like Hurix and Lionbridge were flooded with

resumes from TIS employees looking for job opportunities and they were only

happier. The trickle turned into a torrent and yet the company refrained from

any corrective measure. Reportedly, many contracts of employees were not renewed

citing various reasons. People from middle-management were leaving every month,

even a senior manager left for competition, reportedly citing 'personal


Finally came the big shocker. TIS had missed its annual targets for the first

time in 16 years. Sanjaya Sharma, CEO, TIS, admitted the same in a forthright

manner. He puts the blame on a project that did not fructify.


“A single big order that was supposed to come in the month of December did

not turn up, skewing up all the targets,” he informs. He also does not seem to

be a person who is unduly bothered about the number of people leaving the

company. “We had taken up extra people on board for a project, which did not

happen and this is the correction happening,” says Sharma.

“The big difference right now is that we have stopped hiring. We were over

900 people; the ideal number should be around 800. So, there is really nothing

to be unduly bothered. Once the correction has taken place, we hope to start

recruiting people again in October (2006),” he adds. That should explain the

silent lobby.

Sharma also explains that since TIS is a division of the Tata Industries, it

is intricately associated with TCS. “In fact, Ramadorai is one of the

reviewers of TIS,” he adds. He also informs that TIS and TCS are currently

working on over half a dozen projects, “When it comes to external projects, we

present a unified Tata front,” he says.


Regarding the financial health of TIS, Sharma is confidence personified. “Though

we might have missed the ambitious target set by us. I am quite confident about

our performance this year. I am already sitting on a 50 per cent order backlog

for the current year. Hence, the story will be quite different,” he says.

TIS also seems to be working on its strategy real hard. To get things in

order, TIS linked all its global offices using SAP. It also restructured the

internal organization, thereby making the company poised for growth in different

sectors. In January this year, TIS also announced the acquisition of two

companies in Europe, increasing its footprint in the continent, the first for an

Indian e-learning player.

Sharma also informs that TIS would be opening up a sales office shortly in

South Africa as part of the expansion drive. The company recently received four

awards for its different projects. “We are aiming for over 30 per cent growth

this year,” says a confident Sharma.

Coming back to the main question then, is everything well at TIS? It seems to

be so at the moment.

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