How Cognizant sees the future of offshoring

"We are living through an age of the great decoupling..."

Cognizant's Lakshmi Narayanan: In outsourcing, growth is driven by talent alone, so Cognizant's main focus is getting and creating the best talent

Cognizant's Lakshmi Narayanan: The main focus has to be on getting and creating the best talentPhoto: Saritha Rai/

...year of the model but the mileage on the odometer. We recognise that the market is always smarter than us. We live in cycles of continuous change.

We constantly ask ourselves, what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong, how do we change? Unlike technology product firms, the response of the marketplace to services is not instantaneous. Are we changing at least as fast as the market?

Lakshmi Narayanan, Cognizant's vice chairman, on talent

Q: What is different in your approach to acquiring and retaining talent?
A: In this industry, growth is driven by talent alone. So our main focal point is, how do we get the best talent, how do we create talent? We go all out to build relationships with India's best engineering and management schools. Last year, for instance, we had 800 campus events to build relationships. These were quite apart from campus interviews.

We are trying to make our managers masters of the domain, and not just the technology. Our past efforts to teach business to engineers were not successful. So we have started hiring MBAs as business analysts and teaching them domain focus. We have paired our top consultants with bright MBA hires, they are partners so that there is constant learning and training.

How do you keep employees happy?
We empower employees by keeping them close to the customer. There are three levels of managers - those who interact with the customer, those who report to someone interacting with the customer, and those who report to a manager who is reporting to someone interacting with the customer.

The incentive or bonus comes only when the customer relationship grows. Are you being innovative, are you wowing the customer, is he buying more from you? Those are the performance yardsticks at Cognizant.

Do you think you have a high ratio of consultants compared with your Indian peers?
We have 2,800 core business consultants. For every 20 software engineers on our rolls, we have one MBA. We are turning into a global recruiting machine and have started hiring in...