In 2009, before things fell apart, Satyam Computer Services was more than twice the size of Tech Mahindra. Then among India’s top five IT firms, its strength lay in the enterprise segment. Tech Mahindra, being a niche player, derived its revenues almost entirely from the telecom sector. There was almost no overlap and no synergies. An important development, however, would pitchfork Tech Mahindra into the limelight.
Other technology firms, though, scaled up faster during this period (see box), with analysts saying Tech Mahindra had the potential to overtake HCL to the fourth spot if revenue growth had not slowed. In 2011, HCL bought Axon, a British consulting company, aggressively pursuing clients and focusing on growth at the cost of margins. The results paid off, with FY18 revenues of about $8 billion. “They (Tech Mahindra) could have scaled the enterprise business better,” says Pareekh Jain, founder, Pareekh Consulting. Even in its traditional telecom business, loss making contracts in its unit Lightbridge Communications Corp (LCC) hit Tech Mahindra, while the company also rejigged its legacy contracts in other verticals. The firm had to also face public wrath when an audio recording of a person who was being sacked went viral, forcing chairman Anand Mahindra to intervene. “Tech Mahindra was a little late to investing in and building digital capabilities, but they are trying to move faster now,” says Chirajeet Sengupta, partner, Everest Group. “Most companies are moving to a mix of a services plus IP-led business model. The company is experimenting with this approach…”