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Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp.’s revenue for the fourth quarter ended December declined 3% from a year ago to $4.2 billion, primarily due to the impact of the exit of a large financial services client as well as its decision to close some of its content moderation businesses. The Teaneck, New Jersey-based firm expects its first quarter revenue to grow 1-2% in constant currency to $4.34-4.38 billion. In the past few months, the company has gone through some major leadership changes, including the appointment of a new head for India. In an interview, Brian Humphries, CEO, Cognizant, spoke about the outlook on client spending, the India focus and expectations from the new US government. Edited excerpts:

What is the outlook on client spending in 2021?

We enter 2021 with growing confidence given our strategic, operational and commercial progress, and a strengthening demand environment. Right now, we are 100% focused on recruiting talent. We anticipate significant revenue acceleration in 2021 following our mid-teens bookings growth this year. The macro trends are consistent from late last year—clients are making investment decisions and they know they must become agile, innovative software-driven enterprises. There is a continued focus on customer and employee experience initiatives, customer 360, cloud acceleration, packaged applications, platform capabilities and automation. Hyper-personalization and the need for intelligent decision-making are fuelling significant demand in analytics, AI and machine learning.

How are you strengthening the India market?

India continues to be a high-growth market for us, and we are well-positioned to enable Indian enterprises to attain new benchmarks in digital adoption. We work with more than 90 customers in India across industry sectors including banking and financial services, insurance, retail, life sciences, manufacturing and education. Our India business has been growing well above the company average for the past several years, and we are pleased with the growing digital and end-to-end transformational opportunities in India. One of the focus areas of Rajesh Nambiar (Cognizant’s India chairman and managing director) is to continue to strengthen our commercial momentum in the country.

What are the plans for hiring and promotions for employees in India?

Cognizant has been and continues to be one of the top recruiters of high-quality engineering, science, management talent from premier campuses across India. We have big hiring plans this year. We hired more than 17,000 campus hires in calendar year 2020 and expect to hire more than 23,000 campus hires in 2021, a 35% increase year-on-year. They will complement our lateral hires. We are also proud to be promoting tens of thousands of employees to new levels and rewarding the majority of our employee base with merit-based salary increases. We are completing our merit-based promotion and salary increase cycles now, and performance reviews are underway.

How do you perceive the new Joe Biden administration in terms of ease of doing business and visa regulations?

The Biden administration has yet to specifically address the prior administration’s multiple H-1B rules on high-skilled immigration. That said, we remain committed to reducing our visa dependency and continue to move ahead with core initiatives aimed at further globalizing Cognizant. These include building a global delivery network that will have centres throughout the world that will complement India, which will always remain our major delivery centre, increased college hiring and driving more automation within delivery.

As an American-headquartered company with more than 200,000 Indian employees, we have always believed that fair immigration policies are vital to keep the US competitive and look forward to collaborating with the new administration in making further progress towards that goal.

What is the rationale behind Cognizant making as many as 12 acquisitions in the past year?

One of our strategic priorities is accelerating digital, and over the last 18 months, we have done exactly that, by sharpening our ability to support clients as they transform into software-driven enterprises. As part of that strategy, we have announced approximately $1.6 billion in acquisitions since January 2020, all focused on our strategic priorities of digital engineering, data and AI, cloud and IoT, which together enable clients to compete as modern digital businesses. We are thrilled to have a world-class portfolio of solutions and capabilities to bring to bear for our clients.

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