Kohli, who studied a Master’s degree from MIT, returned to India joining Tata Electric Co in 1951 to set up the country’s first load dispatch centre.
In 1969, the Tata group doyen J R D Tata asked Kohli to set up TCS, after Tata Electric installed a computer system to control the electric line between Mumbai and Pune. It was the third utility in the world to adopt computers.
After computerising the Tata group companies, Kohli at TCS, signed a contract with the now extinct computer maker Burroughs Corp, which outsourced software work to the Indian company in 1972. TCS also helped Burroughs to set up its India operations
Kohli, who believed in grooming leaders, built a generation of technology professionals in India’s IT industry. He stepped down from TCS in 1999 when he was 75.
S Mahalingam who served as the CFO of TCS between 2003 to 2013 speaking on Kohli’s contributions to the Indian software industry said, “He created the industry. He developed people whether it was Ramadorai, Chandra (Natarajan Chandrasekaran)or myself, we are all products of teaching. But more importantly he created the ecosystem for India in the IT field because he had no example to start with in the 1970s when he created the conditions for TCS to grow.”
Mahalingam began his IT career as a consultant with Tata Consultancy Services in 1970, and since then worked under the guidance of Kohli. “He (Kohli) came to a very tiny company and then he set about making it into a global force. He worked with the government to ensure that the computers would come in, he worked with universities to create IT professionals and therefore it was not just a question of working with one company, he created the ecosystem for everyone to benefit from,” added Mahalingam.
Subramanian Ramadorai who had served as the CEO and MD of TCS between 1996 to 2009 and had worked alongside Kohli during his tenure said, “Having known him for so many years including the family and having worked closely with him, I would encapsulate it as – we have lost a brilliant technocrat, a great visionary business leader and a very close mentor, guide and a personal family friend. We have lost a great human being.”
Other IT industry leaders also paid tribute to the veteran. CEO and MD of Tech Mahindra CP Gurnani tweeted. “Sad day for Indian IT. He was not just the 1st CEO of @TCS but someone who laid the foundation of India’s greatest growth story. Go in peace, Kohli Sir. You leave behind a great legacy #FCKohli”
The official Twitter handle of industry body NASSCOM tweeted, “A true visionary and the father of the Indian software industry – Shri FC Kohli will always be remembered for his pioneering contributions to the sector and remarkable leadership at NASSCOM. Our condolences to his family Folded hands.”
The executive committee members of the body are believed to have held a virtual condolence meet in honour of Kohli.