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Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. recently appointed Rajesh Nambiar as the chairman and managing director (CMD) for its India operations, replacing Ramkumar Ramamoorthy who resigned after 23 years with the company. Nambiar, who completes a month with the Nasdaq-listed firm on Wednesday, has his task cut out to build the India business and help Cognizant return to bellwether status. In an interview, Nambiar spoke about his key priorities, plans for India, and the outlook on the demand environment. Edited excerpts:

What are your three top priorities in your new role?

My focus would be on three key stakeholders —clients, employees and the larger ecosystem. How we continue the commercial momentum we already have with our clients and prospects and how we showcase our digital leadership will be among my key priorities. Employees are the backbone of everything we do. The repositioned role of India CMD now reports to the CEO and is a part of our executive committee (EC), representing our 200,000 talented associates in India. Helping our talent thrive would be a key priority as we progress towards revitalizing growth and regaining our bellwether status. I would also work towards strengthening our brand positioning in India and enhancing our relationships with relevant Indian government agencies, chambers of commerce, universities, and key policy-making bodies, including Nasscom. I would be engaging with the academia and driving better synergies and collaboration between them and Cognizant, and extending our corporate citizenship efforts led to date by Cognizant Foundation and Cognizant Outreach.

How do you plan to strengthen the India business in terms of clients?

India is a relatively small but a high-growth market for us and is as attractive today as any other market. There is a palpable initiative among Indian enterprises to attain new benchmarks in digital adoption. They are not constrained by legacy and are able to leapfrog the digital revolution much more quickly. Since we set up our India business unit in 2008-09, we have built a very strong position in India as a market with our digital solutions as well as end-to-end transformational engagements across industry sectors such as banking and financial services, insurance, retail, life sciences, manufacturing, and education. We currently have more than 90 customers in India across these industries. Our India business is growing well above the company average for the past several years. We have a fairly large opportunity and have been winning interesting deals here.

Given it is your largest talent base, what is the hiring outlook for India?

We are proud of the great work being done by our employees in India and will continue to grow in the country. India is home to nearly 70% of our global workforce. India has been and will continue to be a prized asset and a critical hub of our leading-edge global delivery, solutioning and innovation capabilities. That’s why we continue to build our operations in India. Cognizant has been and continues to be one of the top recruiters of high-quality engineering, science, management and other talent from premier campuses across India. We have hired approximately 17,000 freshers from campuses this year, which is one of the highest percentages of campus hires-to-total hires since 2016. We expect to hire around 23,000 from campuses in 2021. The emphasis will be on hiring new talent in our digital battlegrounds—cloud, data, digital engineering, and internet of things (IoT) and other strategic areas such as cybersecurity, Salesforce and business modernization technologies.

How do you see the demand environment in 2021?

We will provide a more detailed update when we provide our growth forecast for the year 2021 in a couple of months from now. Our focus will continue to be on the significant market opportunity we have and that we plan to capture. The industry is at an inflection point in digital adoption. We are seeing growing client interest in shifting to agile digital workflows. That means transforming processes to become agile, data-driven, and automated. The digital services market is evolving into the next phase where clients have already understood what digital really means to their industries. They have already implemented digital experiments and projects at the edge of their enterprises and are now looking to become software-driven enterprises. Everything we are doing as a company—from our strategy, solution portfolio, partnerships, mergers & acquisitions, branding & marketing, and talent—is focused on being one of the biggest beneficiaries of this new phase in digital.

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