Many executives who were once part of the outsourcing giant Cognizant are officially the most sought after leaders when hiring new CEOS across India. This denotes absolute recognition of Cognizant’s leadership talent, a crown once worn by Tata Consultancy in the IT service sector.
Former members of the Cognizant leadership team have played a key role in building a $17 billion revenue stream and are now the preferred choices of many private equity firms looking for these next-generation CEOs.
In the past two years alone, eight companies (Mindtree, Firstsource, Bristlecone, Collabera, Hitachi Vantara, Zensar, Qualitest, and Virtusa) chose former leaders from Cognizant as their CEOs. Among them, former Cognizant leaders Debashis Chatterjee took over as CEO of Mindtree, and Vipul Khanna became CEO of Firstsource in August 2019. The shares of both companies have tripled since August 2019 – Mindtree progressing to Rs 2,460+ and Firstsource to Rs 165+ this month.
The stock market’s response is a commendation of these leaders and their capacity for the organisations they lead and the complete Indian and MNC IT services sector. This may well be a turning point for the entire sector, with many businesses set to cross these thresholds, thanks to these leaders from the Cognizant stable.
Those who joined during Cognizant’s ” hyper-growth phase” will attest to the strong leadership that the company has always been proud of. Cognizant can not only attract the best talent on the market but also retains them for decades. So, what was their secret formula in building such a leadership talent bench?
Grooming “Mini-CEOs” within Cognizant: Lakshmi Narayanan, ex-CEO, said that his emphasis was to create “mini-CEOs” within the establishment to manage end-to-end business and talent tactics for their business units. These leaders were empowered with an entrepreneurial environment that aided them to “fail fast,” shake themselves up and re-start running on the way to the finish line.
Ability to attract multi-faceted, complementary talent: Cognizant initiated the “two-in-a-box” model of the “onsite account lead”, working closely with the “offshore delivery lead.” A focused consulting method also formed the exclusive “three-in-a-box approach”. These revolutionary approaches helped appeal to outsiders who wanted to join and become part of something fresh in the market.
Employee growth is always proportional to company growth: Leaders and their teams continuously look for opportunities to gratify their hunger for learning and growth. When Cognizant experienced hyper-growth, its executives too experienced enormous personal evolution.
Wealth creation for employees: Cognizant was at all times recognized for its employee-friendly stock reward plans with reward mechanisms tied to the individual’s performance. This created an interdependent and win-win partnership that helped retain leadership talent.
If one were to look at newly appointed CEOs, there are at least 50 ex Cognizant leaders who have taken global leadership roles in the past couple of years. Move over, Tata; there is a new player in town!
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