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BENGALURU : Faqir Chand Kohli, fondly called the father of India’s IT industry, died on Thursday at the age of 96. Born on 19 March 1924, Kohli was the first chief executive officer (CEO) of Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), India’s largest IT services company.

As a pioneer of India’s IT revolution, Kohli laid the foundation for the country’s IT-ITeS services industry, which has since grown to $191 billion.

Nasscom, in a tribute to Kohli who once headed the industry body, said he was a visionary leader who foresaw the opportunity for India in technology services and started building TCS many decades back when almost nothing existed in the tech sector in India.

“His leadership and passion over the decades played a key role in helping establish India as a trusted and quality partner for global corporations, evangelise the importance of technology adoption for India, push for greater research in academic institutions, bring awareness on the importance of local language and hardware industry in India," Nasscom said. “F.C. Kohli will always be remembered for his pioneering contributions to the sector and remarkable leadership at Nasscom."

As chairman of Nasscom in 1994-95, Kohli led the industry and Nasscom to build global partnerships in key markets, showcase the opportunity for IT services from India and build a culture of collaboration among industry members.

Born and raised in Peshawar, Kohli graduated in Physics from Punjab University. With a Government of India scholarship, in 1946, he left for Canada where he pursued a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Queen’s University in Kingston, followed by a Masters in electrical engineering in 1951 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.

Kohli’s career with the Tata Group began when he joined Tata Electric (now Tata Power) in 1951. He helped set up the load despatching system to manage the system operations and went on to become director of Tata Electric Companies in 1970.

After an illustrious career, Kohli retired from TCS in 1999 although he remained with it in a consulting capacity. For his pioneering work, he was honoured with numerous national and international awards, including the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour, in 2002.

TCS said in a statement that Kohli had joined the company in 1969 at the behest of JRD Tata. “He pivoted first into management consultancy, and then over the next two decades, into software development, helping the organization navigate multiple technology waves over two and a half decades by continually investing in people and staying relevant to customers," the company said in a statement.

N. Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Sons said he had the privilege of working with and learning from Mr. Kohli from the day he hired him as a trainee in TCS. “He was a true legend, who laid the very foundations for India’s spectacular IT revolution and set the stage for the dynamic modern economy we enjoy today," Chandrasekaran said.

“A pioneer who saw the future and built the IT industry in India…has many admirers in the industry. We were fortunate to capture his thoughts on building the industry and TCS through itihaasa app. Will miss his thoughts and advice for the industry," said Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder, Infosys Ltd.

“Sad day for Indian IT. He was not just the first CEO of TCS but someone who laid the foundation of India’s greatest growth story," C.P. Gurnani, CEO, Tech Mahindra tweeted.

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