Wanted: Young, Dig­i­tal-savvy CEOs for In­dia Inc

Com­pa­nies want CEOs in their 30s and 40s who un­der­stand their dig­i­tal needs

The Economic Times - - Careers: The Fast Track - Prachi.Verma@ times­group.com

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.

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