The Institute - March 2022 - 55

rather be a computer programmer
than a farmer, Chandra entered a
three-year postgraduate degree
program to study computer science
and its applications at the state's
Regional Engineering College in
Tiruchirappalli (now the National
Institute of Technology).
An internship was required during
" I believe very strongly that digitalphysical
integration is the way to
solve societal problems. "
the last semester. Chandra applied for an
opening at TCS, an IT services company,
which at the time was an up-and-coming
firm with about 500 employees. Two
months into the internship, the company
offered him a job as an engineer after he
graduated. He started working for TCS
in 1987 and has never left.
He rose through the ranks,
switching from engineering to
management. He has held senior-level
positions in marketing and sales, and
has helped TCS grow its business
around the world, including in China,
Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
In 2009 he was promoted to chief
executive. He held that position until
2017, when he was
appointed chairman of
Tata Sons.
" The company gave
me a lot of different
roles, and as you do
better then you get
lucky, " he says, laughing.
" Most of the knowledge
I picked up was on the
job and by taking on
different projects. "
He learned
management skills from
coworkers as well as
working with clients, he says.
" TCS not only has the smartest
people working for it, but we
also work with some of the best
companies as clients, " he says.
" When you work with smart people,
you learn. And when you work with
demanding clients, you learn. Things
rub off on you. My passion has always
been to understand deeply what
makes a difference to a customer. "
Giving back
With India's under-resourced health
care system, Chandra says, he knew
COVID-19 could have a devastating
effect on the country. Since April
2020 the Tata Group, including its
philanthropic trusts, has committed
more than US $200 million for
COVID-related activities. That money
has been used in a variety of ways,
including building hospitals and
increasing the capacity of existing ones
by setting up COVID-19 wards and
intensive-care units.
Once COVID-19 vaccines became
available, the group started a massive
campaign to inoculate its employees
and their families.
" Helping is in our DNA, " Chandra
Tata Sons
Member grade
Senior member
Alma mater
Institute of
says of the affiliate companies in the
group. " All of our CEOs
have a culture of doing
good for society. "
Chandra says he often
is asked when business
will return to normal
after the pandemic. He
says it won't.
" We are not going
back; we are going
forward, " he says.
" While many things
about COVID have
been negative, there
are many positives.
COVID has moved the world forward
in multiple dimensions. Number
one is digital adoption. Number
two: Everyone now recognizes the
importance of sustainability, because
we experienced how much we can
dramatically change things, like air
quality, in a relatively short period of
time-especially in India. "
Tech solutions
Chandra says artificial intelligence and
related technologies can help mankind
tackle societal issues such as universal
access to health care and a quality
education. He outlined his ideas in
Bridgital Nation: Solving Technology's
People Problem, a book he coauthored
with Roopa Purushothaman.
" I believe very strongly that digitalphysical
integration is the way to solve
problems, " he says. " Take a country
like India-we have a shortage of
everything. We have a shortage of
doctors, schools, hospitals, and
infrastructure. We neither have the
time nor the money to be able to build
all the capacity we need. "
For example, about two-thirds of
India's citizens live in rural areas, he
notes, but most of the doctors are in
He says the solution is to use
AI, machine learning, the Internet
of Things, and cloud computing to
create a network of services that can
be delivered where they are needed
most. That would include telehealth and
remote learning for people in rural areas.
Poverty could be reduced
dramatically, he says, by using AI
to increase the capabilities of lowskilled
workers so they could perform
higher-level jobs. In 2019 the Tata
Group unveiled the Indian Institute
of Skills, a joint initiative with the
Ministry of Skills Development and
the Indian government that provides
vocational training.
The top skill he says everyone
should have is the ability to continue
to learn. That's why he renews his
IEEE membership, he says.
Chandra became a member
in 1987 because TCS required its
professional employees to join a
society. His colleagues recommended
IEEE because, they said, he would
become more knowledgeable about
engineering and cutting-edge
technology by reading its publications.
He remains a member, he says with
a laugh, " because I still have [much]
to learn. "

The Institute - March 2022

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