cxo hiring: CXO hiring on steroids as India Inc steps on the gas

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“At this point, we’d like each of our consultants to have four hands and 10 heads just to be able to cope,” laughs K Sudarshan, managing director of EMA Partners India, referring to the rush of CXO hiring mandates that have been coming the executive search firm’s way.

Navnit Singh agrees. The chairman and country head of another leading search firm Korn Ferry sayd, “The market is on steroids; that will continue for some time.”

C-suite hiring is seeing a record surge across India Inc as the second Covid wave abates, with companies now geared up to carry on with business as usual even if the dreaded third wave hits.

Executive search firms that expect not just a 50-100% growth over last year, but also to surpass pre-Covid 2019 levels by 20-40%, say that senior management hiring is being driven by several factors: pick-up in domestic demand, rapid digitalisation, expansion and capacity augmentation plans of companies, an improved investment environment and unleashing of pent-up demand.

While technology and ecommerce are by far the frontrunners followed by pharmaceuticals and life sciences and financial services, demand is also back in sectors such as manufacturing and industrials. From conglomerates, IT firms, captives, banks, private equity players to consumer companies, unicorns and smaller startups, almost everyone is hiring for their top deck, say search firms including Korn Ferry, EMA, Transearch, Page Executive and Insist Consulting.

“Mandates are double that of last year and 50% more than pre-Covid,” says R Suresh, founder of boutique executive search firm Insist. Ecommerce, traditional IT software companies, pharma industrial, food players are among those hiring aggressively.

Compensation is shooting up, and getting final closure is becoming more challenging because of the competition, he says.

Tech Adoption Ability

According to Page Executive India managing director Nicolas Dumoulin, this is one of the most buoyant markets India has seen in several years.

“There’s been a shift in the way companies want to be technology focused and want leaders that can adopt tech in the organisation. More organisations want to invest in new businesses. Even stalled recruitments are back,” he says.

The boom in demand has been one of the factors behind the UK-headquartered recruitment firm rolling out its executive search brand Page Executive in India last month, Domoulin adds.

EMA expects to see a 70-80% growth from the year earlier. At Transearch India, the uptick in CXO mandates is nearly 40% higher than pre-Covid levels, says managing partner Atul Vohra.

“The unprecedented demand for CXO talent is a lead indictor of where we are headed. Companies feel the next 18-24 months look extremely promising. They are making investments, looking to consolidate and build on the momentum building in the economy. Hiring is at the forefront of that,” he says.

Companies are bullish on senior leadership hiring.

“We believe high calibre talent is a key lever for business growth and continuity. Our businesses have demonstrated resilience and we remain bullish both on business and hiring sentiment,” says S Venkatesh, group president, RPG Enterprises.

Korn Ferry’s Singh says that, given the shortage of talent, in many cases there’s no choice but to overpay. “A 25-35% jump has become the norm. There is also an increasing focus on stocks and long-term incentives,” Singh adds.

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