New Delhi: Executives of Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), the country’s biggest software maker and exporter, huddled together on Friday morning to talk strategy with wealthy Americans at a rooftop restaurant in New Delhi.
It was the first in what TCS hopes to be a series of events, as the company explores a partnership with the US professional basketball league, the National Basketball Association (NBA). The technology firm is looking to do more business with NBA in its stadiums and broadcasts, and crunching statistics, but on Friday, its executives sought more basic advice.
“How do you plot strategy?” asked one TCS manager.
“Do you do a lot of analysing?” another questioned.
How important are rivalries? queried a third.
Dominique Wilkins, a retired basketball player who scored more than 25,000 points during his NBA career and earned the nickname “the human highlight film,” fielded most questions. He offered tips that, oddly enough, resonated from the basketball court to the corner office.
Consider these gems, on dealing with the competition: “Go at him early and hard to put him on the defense.”
“Offset what he does well.”
American basketball player Dominique Wilkins with TCS’ Jayant Pendharkar at a New Delhi hotel on Friday (Photo by: Manoj Verma/ Mint)
“Before a big game, have everything on your opponent.”
“Rivalries create the game.”
TCS has related sports to consumers and the workplace before. The company hosted customer events starring sports stars in the past, including cricketers Steve Waugh in Australia and Sunil Gavaskar in the UK, and is planning on doing the same in the US.
It also promotes athletic activity among its employees, with tennis courts and other sports facilities on most of its campuses, and sponsorships in the Mumbai marathon. The company’s executives often refer to cricket analogies when talking shop, says Debashis Ghosh, who is north India head for TCS global delivery. If something is not done well, you might hear, “What are you (doing)? Only wicket-keeping?” he says.
But the new association with the basketball league aims to market to customers in the US, and offer leadership building activities for employees at one go, says the company’s marketing head Jayant Pendharkar.
“Sports sponsorship is a good way to reach out to customers, and to reach out to youngsters,” Pendharkar says. “Sports can bridge the gap.”
Around 90% of TCS employees are under 30 years old, and the average age of its 111,000 employees is 27. “These guys work very hard and have to have an outlet,” he says.
NBA has been expanding into the untapped but eager basketball markets of India and China over the past few years; it is hosting a camp this week for 200 teenagers from across Asia, called “Basketball Without Borders”, where Wilkins is also coaching.
At the session, TCS executives tried to find new ways to address the big employee problems that Indian companies are dealing with. “How important is getting new people fitted in?” asked one. “How do you build up leadership?” asked another.
A couple of the questions betrayed a sense of wistfulness. “Is it a tall man’s game?” one TCS staffer asked Wilkins.
“No, it’s a game with heart,” he tactfully replied.