MUMBAI - Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, India's top software services firm by sales, sees flat business growth in its fiscal first quarter that ended on Tuesday as economic downturn crimped outsourcing, its chairman said.

Our view for the immediate future is slow growth or no growth, Ratan Tata told the company's annual shareholders meeting. The first three months will continue to be reasonably flat.

Tata Consultancy, which provides services such as consulting, system integration and managing call centres, has to aggressively protect its profit margins, he said, adding the company would transfer more jobs to its low-cost facilities in India.

An army of low-cost English-speaking engineers has driven an outsourcing boom in India, but turmoil in global markets and a recession in the United States, which accounts for more than half the sector's revenue, have halted the scorching pace of growth.

Earlier this month, Tata Consultancy's chief financial officer, S. Mahalingam, said a slowdown in global demand for outsourcing had been halted but customers were still demanding lower prices.

Tata Consultancy, which counts General Electric, Lloyds TSB Group, General Motors and French insurer AXA SA among its clients, posted a 4.6 percent rise in Jan-March net profit.

This was the fifth consecutive quarter of single-digit year-on-year quarterly profit growth for the Tata Group firm, after seeing a rise of more than 20 percent in the previous quarters. (Reporting by Janaki Krishnan; Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan)