Wanted: Young, Digital-savvy CEOs for India Inc
Companies want CEOs in their 30s and 40s who understand their digital needs
New Delhi: Ability to handle millennials and being digitally savvy are two of the newest traits that Indian industry is increasingly looking for in top executives, as both workforce and customers are getting younger. This is driving demand for CEOs in their 30s and 40s.
Leading headhunting firms such as EMA Partners, Hunt Partners, Korn/Ferry, Global Hunt and Trans- earch have close to 20 mandates in their hands to recruit CEOs, where the preference is for young blood.
“Many leaders fall into the trap of assuming they are ‘appreciating asset’ and start living in history and soon become one. Organisations do not want to hire them; instead they prefer leaders who are working hard to invest in themselves to stay relevant,” said Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies and founder of Sampark Foundation. This is attitude bias, not age bias, he said. Executive search firm EMA Partners currently has 30 mandates for CXO-level positions — chief executives, chief financial officers, chief operating officers, etc.— where the clients want leaders in their 30s and early 40s with a strong understanding of the digital needs of
companies. One such young CEO (below 45 years) is B Gopkumar, in charge of broking and distribution business at Reliance Capital who is busy driving a change in the company by experimenting with mobility-led applications. “In our industry, this (mobility) is quite nascent. But I am taking a
risk to bring in a radical change and probably we would be the first ones to do so,” he said. His main aim is to cash in on the new opportunities available with the digitalisation.
“We are reaching a generation shift at leadership roles as more and more of the new generation of managers is entering the corpora- te world. Leaders in their 50s are slowly fading away even in traditional sectors,” said K Sudarshan, managing partner-EMA Partners India. Retaining and attracting young talent is becoming a challenge for companies as their demand has gone up, he said.
“Most of our clients are willing to take a chance on a younger CEO or No. 2 executive. This was not the case about two years ago,” said Korn/Ferry India chairman Navnit Singh.
Established companies like Infosys, KPMG, P&G and Hindustan Lever are all intentionally scouting for talent in their 30s and early 40s who also understand the digital world, another leading head hunter said. TV Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education and former director at Infosys, confirmed that the CXO talent pool is getting younger.
“Massive increase in new companies and more competition is leading rise to young leaders. These young leaders are also in tune with the digital disruption and hence valuable to most of the organisations.”
Board advisory and leadership search firm Hunt Partners is also seeing a rising demand for young leaders, predominantly in sectors like consumer, IT and financial technology, apart from new age sectors like ecommerce.
“Companies in these sectors are looking for younger CEO’s — perhaps 30-35% jump from a few years ago,” said Sunit Mehra, founder and managing partner at Hunt Partners. “The leadership age is being pushed down to now to early 40s (on an average) from 55 years about three years ago,” Singh added.