How TCS boosts motorsport with IT into Super Formula’s next era
In the final installment of the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) series introducing the companies behind motorsport, we look at the partnership between TCS, a Tata Group company and a core part of India's giant conglomerate, and Nakajima Racing – its current activities and where it is going from here.
To discuss the partnership between TCS and Nakajima Racing, we spoke to Douglas Foote, Deputy Head of TCS Japan Marketing & Communications, and Satoru Nakajima, President of Nakajima Racing.
Douglas Foote of TCS and Satoru Nakajima
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
The partnership between TCS and Nakajima Racing is now in its sixth year. The relationship began in 2017 when Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan, supported by the Tata Group, came to race for Nakajima Racing in Super Formula. Is this how the relationship started?
Foote: “TCS decided to support Narain Karthikeyan, famed Indian driver who we had been supporting for some time as a group, when he decided to race in Japan. Knowing that his team was Nakajima Racing, led by famous F1 driver Satoru Nakajima, our decision to continue our support was an easy one. Hence, the decision was made to not only support Karthikeyan personally, but also to become Nakajima Racing's title sponsor and technology partner in the Super Formula championship.”
Narain Karthikeyan, Nakajima Racing
Photo by: Jun Goto
Satoru Nakajima: “To be honest, at first, I wasn’t familiar with what kind of business TCS ran. That said, for each partner we receive support from, I feel the need to give something back. More than just a financial transaction, I feel that sponsorship needs to bring mutual benefit to each party's business, and should be enjoyable for all.
“Attending the TCS Summit in Tokyo, I met their management team in person and saw firsthand guests from various major Japanese companies in attendance. It raised our expectations for doing business together, and instilled confidence that the partnership was something of value for both. To ensure TCS could make the most of things, we had to first get them to understand the racing business and help TCS’ engineers comprehend what we do. That's where it all started.”
Foote: “The starting point was to get to know each other's position. The focus was to establish what synergies we could create in the process of understanding each other. At first, we had a lot to learn. We knew the mechanics and engineering of the car, but not the racing world. This became clearer little by little as we worked with Nakajima Racing, including getting them to use Information Technology (IT), which is at the heart of TCS’ business. However, we are beginning to see how we can use IT and digital technologies to help the team win. We are happy if the team's performance improves even a little thanks to our support, and find these small contributions very rewarding.”
Nakajima: “Currently, we have several IT engineers dispatched from TCS to do data analysis. This year is the sixth year of TCS’ support and I can see a lot of progress. My concern is whether we are helping generate enough public awareness of their efforts. This is not for us to judge, though. Each engagement may be small, but we just have to keep steadily working toward our goals.”
Satoru Nakajima, TCS NAKAJIMA RACING
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
The shape of racing is changing. What used to be done using analogue methods is now facilitated by IT and digital. However, it is difficult to see the inner workings of such things.
Nakajima: “All in all, racing is a sport, so first of all it has to be inspiring. Team members, TCS employees and, most importantly, motorsport fans must be impressed. Behind each fan’s exclamations of “That’s amazing!” are hours of meticulous effort. We do what we can as a team, and ask TCS to help us where we are out of our depth. I can but hope that our efforts will inspire the fans. I think we are among the best in the Japanese domestic motorsport world in terms of sharing information, and we are extremely fast amplifying through digital media such as SNS.”
Foote: “The marathon culture is deeply rooted in TCS. As mentioned in the second article in this series, a journey into jogging by Natarajan Chandrasekaran, the third CEO of TCS, was the catalyst for a movement that now sees TCS as the title sponsor of major city marathons around the world. The aim is to foster a healthy body and a healthy mind through sport.
“At the same time, in the marathons and other sports we sponsor, we use digital technology to manage data and help make the events more accessible and exciting. The same applies to our support for Nakajima Racing. We provide not only technical support, but also support for events that team officials and fans enjoy and have fun with. Nakajima Racing is proactive in proposing ideas, discussing with us what kind of engagement we could organise next. This approach gains the kind of exposure and recognition we aim for, and is the ideal way for a sponsorship to take shape.”
Nakajima: “I believe that sponsors and teams must be equals. In the words of Soichiro Honda, 'when people are drawn together for any given purpose, they are always equal in that matter'. It is only on this premise that open dialogue can take place. It is a case of holding mutual respect, and if one has that then it should shine through in the sincerity of their actions. I have always strived to conduct myself in this spirit.”
Douglas Foote of TCS
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Foote: “This sort of belief is admirable, and something we at TCS strongly empathize with. TCS provides services to customers across a variety of industries, and in a business where we deploy digital technologies, our engineers have to embed themselves into the core of our customers’ organizations.
“We go in there to drive results. We want to help tackle their most pressing challenges, and partner to supplement their needs. To effectively do this there must be a strong rapport and relationship of trust, one where the invitation to "come take a look at our data" flows naturally. There is no greater joy than to be recognized as a partner, with the words, "Let's do this together".”
Nakajima: “The client companies in attendance at TCS’ Summit event spanned the gamut of industries, and it was clear that TCS was working hand in hand with each. We were able to see up close how they openly imparted their expertise to these clients, and could thus fully grasp their capability. We have TCS’ engineers embedded within our team, and they contribute significantly.”
Foote: “TCS is giving significant focus to Japanese customers. We have some 4,000 personnel based in Japan, and approaching 5,000 professionals at our Japan-centric Delivery Centres (JDC) in India, all working toward our Japanese business. There, we not only develop software, but also conduct digital engineering, designing car bodies and parts, so we have a wide range of services that go beyond regular IT services.”
Nakajima: “I don't know much about digital business. However, our greatest responsibility winning races, and I am convinced that TCS’ expertise and technological capabilities are now indispensable in that pursuit. Simply put, their partnership is key to competing.
Toshiki Oyu, TCS Nakajima Racing
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
With an eye on the future, Super Formula is currently undergoing a reformation project called 'NEXT50 (Next Go)'. You are also the chairman of the Japan Racing Promotion (JRP), which runs the Super Formula, so you are in a position where you must also look to the future of the series...
Nakajima: “In the NEXT50 Project, I set the main guidelines and let the practical teams work out the details. For the individual teams, race results are still the most important thing and they work tirelessly to achieve them. However, if each team simply works on its own, it will not be able to convey the greatness and fun of Super Formula to the world. That is why we launched NEXT50, to improve that.
“We are now at a turning point in the history of automotive society, especially in terms of propulsion, where there is a major shift from petrol to EVs. It is precisely because we are in such an important era that Super Formula also needs to change. We will broadcast the race on YouTube and other online channels so that we can offer a more personalized experience, not only to fans who come to the circuit, but also to those who watch the race live on TV. Of course, we've only just started, but I think it's when we're working towards these goals that we have the most energy.”
Foote: “When thinking about how one can make it more exciting as a series, I think the organizers are looking in the right direction because NEXT50 is a project with a big vision for the future. There are a lot of things that we can relate to. It's a great initiative because it's being driven from the fans' point of view - what they want to see and feel. I think it would be good if the media reach were to expand beyond the specialist motorsport media, and we need to devise ways to attract the interest and attention of new fan groups through online distribution and social media.
“As part of our own PR activities, we invite journalists from the IT industry media and industrial business newspapers to cover Super Formula. However, before we can bring them to the circuit, they sometimes express reluctance due to the geographical distance of the circuit, or because it seems distant from their usual area of coverage. So, it can be difficult to generate interest. However, when they actually witness a race up close, they feel the sonic power produced by the cars, the enthusiasm of the spectators, and the excitement of the circuit, and eventually become engrossed. I’ve seen this sort of transformation multiple times. That is why we want more people to know what TCS is doing in the world of motorsport.”
Ryunosuke Kunizawa, TCS Japan, Naoki Yamamoto, Satoru Nakajima, Toshiki Oyu, Kenji Ogawa, TCS Japan
Photo by: Tata Consultancy Services Japan
So, the NEXT50 is a great project for the prosperity of Super Formula?
Nakajima: “I hope it will be, and I feel that everyone is working together to make it happen. As a team owner, it would naturally be great if my team wins, but I want to win in a strong series. To do that, I am committed to raising the popularity of Super Formula as a series, and winning in front of packed crowds of fans.”
Foote: “I think the key to success is focusing on how we can make Super Formula more exciting as a series. As a sponsor we will naturally continue with our own amplification endeavors, but it is important that teams and sponsors work together as one to make the series more exciting. From that perspective we are also behind the NEXT50 initiative.
“It is a great pleasure to work with Nakajima Racing and we are convinced that this is a worthwhile initiative for TCS. Currently, TCS is also involved in sponsorship and technical support for the prestigious British racing team Jaguar Racing, which competes in Formula E. TCS' Global Head of Sports Sponsorships visited Super Formula in 2019 (at Fuji Speedway) and was impressed by our collaboration - without the work of TCS NAKAJIMA RACING, the Formula E project may not have about.”
Douglas Foote and Satoru Nakajima
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
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