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TCS threatens to usurp Infosys as most admired IT brand on strong numbers

MUMBAI: Besides being bested on its numbers by larger rival TCS, India's No. 2 software exporter, Infosys also appears to be losing the tag it perhaps covets the most- that of being India's most admired IT brand.

Even as it struggles to re-invent itself to tackle resurgent rivals, the Bangalore-based firm maybe losing out to India's largest firm- until recently considered the least brandconscious of India's top outsourcers.

For long, Infosys has consistently been recognized as India's most admired IT Company by business consultancies and media in India and abroad. It has, for instance, been ranked as India's most admired company by Wall Street Journal Asia for nine consecutive years.

"Infosys hasn't done what it should have (financially and strategically) and this has affected its brand," says Jessie Paul, Founder of Paul Writer, a strategic marketing advisory, and former marketing chief for Wipro Technologies . She adds that TCS' brand has also benefitted from being the largest Indian information technology company.

"The number two and three players have suffered from confused strategies," she explains.

" TCS has muscled into the vacuum their missteps have created." Infosys and TCS declined to comment. Deepak Khosla, sales and marketing head for NIIT , thinks that financial performance is the biggest contributor to building a company's brand.

TCS is expected to grow the revenue gap between itself and Infosys to nearly $3 billion by the end of this fiscal and its profits are growing faster too. Infosys' revenues had nearly matched TCS around four years ago, but the latter has since pulled away. "No branding is better than strong financial performance," says Khosla.

D-street analysts believe that TCS is ready to usurp the hallowed prefix that Infosys has owned for nearly two decades: bellwether. "Till about a year ago, Infosys used to be the benchmark for IT. But ever since TCS started outperforming Infosys regularly, we look to TCS as the leader of the pack," says Srishti Anand, IT research analyst Angel Broking.


Infosys, which was once the benchmark employer for thousands of wannabe software engineers has fallen on that scale too, as attrition levels have risen. For the last quarter, Infosys attrition was over 21% while TCS was just over 16%. "Infosys doesn't enjoy the same premium on campus or among lateral hires anymore," says the CEO of a HR consultancy in Bangalore, who requested anonymity.

Some marketers actually argue that TCS always had a fairly lackadaisical approach to brand building and only its strong financial performance alone may have helped its cause.

"The contours for Brand TCS and Infosys are quite blurred," says R Sridhar, a CEO and business coach and former chairman of OgilvyOne Worldwide , Mumbai. "Financial performance is not the only metric."

More intangible benefits such as innovation programmes need to be added to the mix before deciding on TCS' rise (or Infosys' fall) in the brand sweepstakes. YLR Moorthi, a professor of marketing at IIM , Bangalore, thinks TCS has always had the edge over Infosys by being older and a pioneer in the assembly line delivery of software code.

"But, Infosys has built a much stronger brand for years, despite being a relatively smaller firm," he contends. Some of this brand heft may have come from initiatives such as the InStep, a student internship program at Infosys, which saw American students with near-perfect academic scores eye an opportunity to work at its Bangalore campus and interact with NR Narayana Murthy .

Over three decades, Infosys has been at the vanguard of disclosures to investors and analysts with the "when in doubt, disclose" dictum coined by co-founder N R Narayana Murthy. Co-founder Nandan Nilekani has boosted the company's image by quitting at the top, opting to kick-start and help India's unique ID project now called Aadhar.

"When you want to create a bellwether, you need to have people who go out there and talk- ...and over time they themselves become brands," says Anand Halve, co-founder of Chlorophyll, a brand consultancy. "As these people like Nilekani and Pai have stepped away, the Infosys brand which has been linked with these individuals has suffered," he adds.


TCS, on the other hand, has gone through a reinvention of sorts starting with a restructuring exercise in 2008. TCS reorganised itself along 23 independent business units, each of which has its own P&L responsibilities - a move that helped TCS weather the recession better.


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