Our marathon tie-ups go beyond marketing, sponsorship exercises: TCS' Soumen Roy

Our marathon tie-ups go beyond marketing, sponsorship exercises: TCS' Soumen Roy

In an interview with BusinessToday.In, Roy talked about the growth in the company's business in Canada and explained the logic behind TCS' association with marathons and other sporting events.

Soumen Roy Executive Director,  Country Head, TCS Canada at the Canada Marathon event Soumen Roy Executive Director, Country Head, TCS Canada at the Canada Marathon event

If there is one thing that differentiates Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) from the its rivals and other big companies, it is more than a decade long partnership with sporting events. From Formula 1 racing to Indian Premier League, TCS has sponsored and collaborated for IT solutions with some of the top global sporting events.

According to various media reports, TCS has allocated $400 million investments towards sponsorships over the next decade. The question that arises is if the company is incurring these expenses to gain market share in key client geographies like the US, UK and, now, Canada. BusinessToday.In caught up with TCS Executive Director and Canada Country Head Soumen Roy for answers.

The IT company's Canada subsidiary is now a $1 billion company and is planning to double down on investments, hiring and sponsoring yet another marathon -- Toronto WaterFront Marathon.

Roy said the marathon sponsorships by TCS are in sync with the vision of Tata Group Chairman N Chandrasekaran, with whom he has worked closely over the last decade. However, he added that the company's business has grown over the years largely due to the core work as well as client referrals, although participation in marathons will have a visibility aspect to it. Here are the edited excerpts from an interview with Roy:

BT: What is really the idea that goes behind sponsoring events like Canada marathon and even global sporting events? Has Canada also emerged as  a key business geography besides the UK, US?

Roy: We have been in Canada since 1991 and have been able to see the evolution of our brand. We now have an annual revenue of $1,100 million, having doubled it in the past six years. Besides, our core commitment towards wellness, education and sustainability has also been core to our operations in Canada and creating an impact overall. We felt in Canada we can make a bigger impact if we pick the education to start with because that’s our forte. So marathon comes in much later. What is more important and significant impact which has been made is we created a program called 'GO IT'. It’s a unique program and the first one in the corporate history of Canada, if not for the globe.

We actually go into the school curriculum depending on how the school allows us to coach the students about things on programming. And this is done through allowing them to build a robot, robots of legos and then allow them or coach them to run the robots by programming them. You should see the delight in the eyes of the students who typically shy away from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). We have impacted over 15,000-20,000 students in Canada in the last 6-7 years. And this is, as I said, unique. It started with the Toronto School Listing Board and now it is over many cities. So having created that momentum, we have actually scaled it up because we cannot do it. It needs 1,500 volunteers in a year.

We picked up the Toronto Marathon which also helps us in positioning because in this part of the world, many of our clients run the marathon. So it aligns with the business needs also in that sense. But the pre-dominant driver has been, how we can make a difference and create an impact in anything we do?

BT: This  also comes at a time when physical events seem to have become a rarity. We do not talk so much about physical tournaments even right now. So what really makes TCS invest more in the sports tournaments and physical events at a time when the world is moving towards a hybrid model? Even in terms of sports tournaments and everything.

Roy: I personally believe that physical activity is an integral part of your mental health. And more so realised this in the last 2 years of pandemic destruction, when you are challenged in many aspects and avenues to exercise that option. So picking up a physical event which is a solo event…it’s not a team game first of all. I have seen many successful marathons run virtually, run separately, run individually than aggregate it as a marathon as an event. But the undercurrent is that mental well-being is becoming even more important. I don’t believe there is any other easier way to reach to the mental well-being without being physically active.

Like I say, wellness and well-being. Imagine, we are in an industry, which whether we say we can afford to have a balance or not, but it engages us mentally, if not physically 24 hours. So the mental well-being of the employees shows in the ecosystem or not and it’s so important that nothing can match that kind of event.

BT: This seems to have become the USP for TCS over the past 1 decade. So there has to be something really interesting about these sponsorships, partnerships which seem to have renewed year after year? And what really keeps your interest?

Roy: I would throw light upon leadership, commitment and purpose. If you see our now chairman and our ex-CEO with whom I have happened to work with directly for many years, he himself is like a change agent. Not for the company, not for the people who worked with him but also for the larger Tata group as well as for the industry. He is an example that impossibilities can be overcomed. There are many examples in terms of business strategies, it can take days if I have to write a book upon him. So leadership comes as one of the key interest level. Second is the commitment. The commitment to the community, the commitment where we belong to. How we can make a change?

There are many, innumerable ways you can make a change. But you need to pick up something which aligns with our ability, were we can make a change. So that commitment is an undercurrent. Third is, you said, what is the USP? We are just not sponsoring a marathon, we are making it the best marathon in Canada and so is the case of all the marathons that we have done. So the technology convergence and the marathon intent and the well-being intent, this is converging by means of this, itself is the purpose that we belong to. So that’s the way we look at the sports event being picked up. Can we pick up some other sport? Of course we can pick up some other sport and can make it better. But we feel that the marathon is an area where a larger impact can be made by converging technology into it. You can see it.

BT: How is the business shaping along in Canada?

Roy: Canada will have its own dimensions of accelerations or dislocation but the entire need for digitisation has become a source of huge and exponential growth opportunity for companies like us who aggregate technology for the citizens in need as well as for the corporate needs. If you just give a glimpse of...I was talking about the three phases of TCS Canada story, right, the three decades. The first decade was more of a learning, second decade was more of adapting, the third decade is more of expansion and this particular company has shown market leadership in terms of both profit growth, revenue growth, and employment generation in the last 10 years.

In fact, we got a result published by an agency, which actually calls out that we have added the maximum number of net new jobs in Canada in the preceding five years. Our recent announcement, where we opened an office in Montreal, also announces that we will be hiring 500 people over there. Now this is coming out from again...this is a composite thing. It’s the need of the digitisation. It is  the adaptation of the digitisation.

Second is, are you ready to cater to the needs at a point in time when it is required? And third is, our own ability and capability that we have invested in to match up to the needs as well as for the internal vacancies. We already have almost 2.5 times people growth in the last six years. We have added a phenomenal number of employees in the last 1.5 years. We cannot give you a future guidance but if you look into the growth trajectory, it is bound to be much better than any of the previous years.

BT: Coming back to marathons, by and large all the marathons seem to be marketing/ promotional events focused on clients and in key geographies .

Roy: So what I can tell you is our clients are our best marketers. So if you split in this way, marketing for demand creation, these events are not for marketing, for demand creation. It is not. Like I said it can create an impact. We are over a billion dollar company in Canada. There are only a handful IT companies which are of billion dollars. There are only handful. I guess it's four.

So, I do not believe that we have been doing this for visibility because most of our business comes from reference and the good work that we do with a previous client or with the same client in a different customer. These are more stemming from the spirit of wellness, making an impact. I will pick the word and the purpose of it. Yes, you can do some other things, you can do some -- you know if you ask me what can alternately I can do? I can paint the city of Toronto with TCS blue by sponsoring all the events for a season. There are possibilities. If I had to do that, I would do that, but that's not what we are going for. We are picking up the assets, which makes the most sense of it and where we can make a change and make an impact even to the event.

BT: You have also helped the marathon organisers with technology integration. Can you explain a little bit on that?

Roy: Yes, technology integration is imperative. So this particular marathon what we are saying is when you're running, your relatives and friends and dear ones will be watching how many steps you have gone, where you have been to, how much carbon footprint you have generated, what you could have done alternately, or how you can neutralise the carbon that you have generated by the virtue of donating to that. So that's how the technology brings the virtual reality together to you, where we can make an impact because it contains all the technological possibilities. We have our own technologies as well and experiences out the best for that particular thing. So making that experience and immersive experience, it is just not running solo...So that's what technology will do to the rest. Now that's the big talk that's kind of more enticing.



Published on: Jan 24, 2022, 9:55 PM IST
Posted by: Bismah Malik, Jan 24, 2022, 9:40 PM IST