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If attrition comes down, we will grow even more: Cognizant India MD


CHENNAI/BENGALURU: For the second time in six months, Cognizant CEO Brian Humphries called out how Cognizant had to let go of business, or couldn’t fulfil demand, because of talent related concerns. The company’s attrition is at an all-time high at 33%. In an interview with TOI, Rajesh Nambiar, chairman & MD of Cognizant India, and president of its digital business & technology, spoke about how Cognizant is trying to deal with this, and how digital is a key growth driver. Excerpts: Your revenue growth is 11.8% in the quarter, a little better than HCL, but way below that of TCS, Infosys and Wipro. How do you see yourself stacked up against them?Our organic growth is as good as our peers. We grew 18% in digital, but we are conservative in how we report those numbers. The growth is broad-based. We have four digital battlegrounds within our portfolio – digital engineering, cloud, data, and IoT. Our ability to walk our clients through the digital transformation journeys is phenomenal, and our acquisitions add to the capabilities they drive. Your employee strength went up by 17,000, but CEO Brian Humphries said on the investor call that “the reality is we don’t have enough headcount to fulfil our potential.” How do you see the talent crunch?I don’t know whether he said the exact words, but the industry is going through higher attrition and we are not unique. There is unprecedented demand for talent and everyone in the industry is impacted. Today, our hiring engine is performing well. Our bookings have seen a 24% growth year-on-year. If attrition comes down, it will help us grow even more. While we are undertaking a lot of interventions for the right set of hiring, we have been able to deliver all our commitments to our clients. The whole industry is waiting for some balance. Cognizant’s attrition is at an all-time high at 33%, compared to 11% in the same period last year. Including involuntary attrition, it is 37%. This is despite several measures you’ve taken to retain talent…Attrition is an industry-wide concern. We had our own share of attrition and I’m not denying it. I believe we have a much stronger brand than ever before. If we don’t have a strong brand, we won’t be able to hire the 100,000 people that we are hiring today. We are the number 1 brand today on campus. We have hired 30,000 people and we have given offers for 45,000 for next year. The actions we have taken are bearing fruit. Attrition comparisons are also not apple to apple. These are unprecedented times. Our total headcount is the highest employee count ever. We have turned a corner and executed well. Involuntary attrition was 4%, compared to 1% in the quarter before…We don’t want to get into the specifics. It’s important to know that managing a workforce of over 300,000 is an art. There are areas where we have significant opportunities to grow. There are many aspects of how we manage the broader talent pool. We have become a fertile ground for digital talent. We don’t have employment bonds and we don’t keep people artificially tied up to certain service agreements. Others have these bonds. It’s easy for employers to poach from us. We are a really caring employer for our associates. But we would like to have much lower attrition.


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