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R Ramkumar to take CTS into next growth phase
Tuesday marked a milestone for Ramkumar Ramamoorthy, the former Executive Director of Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS). A two-decade veteran of the USD 16 billion global tech giant, he was elevated to the rile of CMD on Sept 17.
In the late 90s, Ramkumar (fondly known as Ram) bid adieu to a two-year stint at TCS in Mumbai after “gravitating” towards CTS to join the wave of senior professionals, including CTS Co-Founder Lakshmi Narayanan and R Chandrasekhar (former CTS India MD). From the time it was a $50 mn entity with 1,000 employees, Ram has borne witness to CTS’ gigantic strides.
In an exclusive to DTNext, Ram traces his steady ascent in the company, where he was groomed and nurtured by his mentor Lakshmi Narayanan, who stepped down from the Board two years ago. He begins by telling us, “I had joined the company owing to my background in teaching for about 5-6 years. The company was founded as an in-house tech unit of Dun & Bradstreet. Cognizant had at that time won a major deal with Gartner Group Learning. They wanted a Programme Director to build a team that would develop learning course-ware using technology. This was also the same time when Cognizant decided to go public.”
Recalling the weeks spent during the company’s preparation of its Red Herring prospectus and pitches to investment bankers, prior to CTS getting listed on Nasdaq, Ram says, “Back then, no IT company might have gone public in less than four years of founding. In May 1998, when India carried out its Pokhran-II nuclear bomb tests, the US slapped sanctions on the nation. For a US headquartered firm, with a significant presence in India, we had to recalibrate our offer price, before going public in June that same year.”
He adds, “Almost at the same time, Gartner Group Learning got sold out and the new owner decided to get all the work done in-house. That’s when a colleague and I put up a presentation for the leadership of that company, that we will build out the marketing and communication portfolio in the company while simultaneously running a new business for content design services (which morphed into Cognizant Interactive and has 10,000 people). We attracted talent from the likes of National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and the School of Arts and Crafts in Chennai.”
Ram remembers scouting for vis-comm professionals and resources in content and instructional design. This was also the period when e-commerce became a catalyst for CTS’ growth. Websites, portals, e-commerce deals triggered the need to hire resources with a background in humanities, design and content. The era of knowledge management had begun, with Ram given the envious task of incubating and nurturing several start-ups based on the service contracts bagged.
During his stint as Chief Knowledge Officer, he saw Cognizant transform into a $1 billion company over a 12-year span in 2006. Ram’s diverse exposure at Cognizant peaked when CTS turned into the largest MNC employer in the country. “We have around 2.90 lakh people globally of which 66,000 are in Chennai while 14,000 staff are in Coimbatore. This makes us the largest single private employer in TN. We are also a Fortune 500 company (CTS is ranked 193) incubated in India,” he points out.
Post the Lehman Brothers crisis, CTS witnessed an incremental growth of $1 billion every year, with 78 per cent of the revenues coming from North America through 63 per cent key contributions from financial services and healthcare verticals. “Strategy is not only about what you do, it is also about what you don’t do,” Ram tells us, explaining the rationale of targeting limited geographies but emerging as leaders in every segment.
On restructuring and lay-offs, Ram says, “This year’s slower growth comes as healthcare sector is in consolidation mode and clients have postponed their decisions. Consider the investment in digital transformation today. There are tremendous opportunities in every business owing to this paradigm shift. Business models are also being redefined to encompass strategy, consulting and interactivity. Hiring too, has undergone tremendous change.
“Recruiting profiles are no longer confined to engineers. We have as many as 500 doctors, pharmacists, paramedics, anthropologists and sociologists too. Business must understand human behaviour besides capabilities. These are the best times to be in the tech industry and we are looking at many monetising opportunities. We are increasing our focus on futuristic technologies such as AI, VR and AR. Cyber security and tech ethics are also gaining prominence in CTS’ agenda,” he signs off.