Brian Humphries became CEO of global IT leader Cognizant in April on 2019. He replaced Francisco D’Souza who had been in the post since 2007. Brian brought with him decades of exceptional leadership experience having held senior most executive roles at Vodafone, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
Recently, he was interviewed by Business Line about his thoughts on the future of Cognizant in light of the economy and the challenges of anticipating the company’s near term performance. Below are select excerpts from the interview.
There is talk about the impending global recession. Where does the IT industry figure in such a scenario?
To be honest, I don’t feel fully qualified to comment on the macro environment because I really look at the B2B world, not at the consumer world. I have actually never heard the recession word mentioned in any customer meeting in six months. So, sometimes I worry if we are talking ourselves into a recession. Having said that, even if there was a recession, services companies over the years tend to do well during such times because people tighten their belts and actually offload certain things to companies like Cognizant to do to work on their behalf.
So, at this moment of time, I look at the landscape in which we play and the opportunities ahead and I think digitisation will drive good growth for services’ companies in the years ahead. I expect Cognizant’s growth rate to accelerate in the years ahead.
Cognizant has revised its overall revenue guidance twice this year. So, how do you plan to make the company more robust?
We have not hit our stride in recent years and we need to get back to being the bellwether. I have inherited a fantastic company from Frank (former CEO and vice-chairman, Francisco D’Souza). We need to restart the engine but we can’t turn it on overnight. It takes six quarters to do that and we have to hire more people. I have just approved the hiring of 500 salespeople to get them in front of customers to build relationships eventually leading to pipeline and to total contract value which eventually shows up in revenue. On the other hand, I have been blown away by the customer loyalty to Cognizant. I have told colleagues that you are putting me in front of happy customers every time. But the fact is that customers are extremely happy with us and especially those who have been working with us for the past five, 10 years. There is this winning spirit among employees here and that spirit is not something you can create overnight. It is on the back of 25 years of success.
The employees want to win and they are used to winning and there is a bit of frustration as well because we have not been hitting our full potential in the last two, three years. So, they want to see us back in a growth trajectory. Then, there are opportunities for us in Europe and Asia. We are nowhere close to penetrating those markets yet. So, I want to go on the attack and see what we can do there. The good news about digital is that we are going faster than the market. The bad news is that our digital mix isn’t where it should be.