Come January, 46-year-old Francisco D’Souza, chief executive officer of IT major Cognizant, will complete eight years at the top, an eventful time during which he has grown the New Jersey-headquartered IT services firm from $1.42 billion in 2007 to a projected $10 billion. Without doubt, a tremendous performance.
Francisco, or Frank, as he is popularly known within Cognizant, is the Newsmaker of the Year winner at the Express IT Awards 2014, to be awarded in Bengaluru on Friday. It has been a landmark year for the firm, which completed its largest acquisition by buying out US-based healthcare software company TriZetto for $2.7 billion in September, a deal that catapulted the firm to newer heights. D’Souza, who became CEO at 38, has successfully taken on homegrown heavyweights like TCS, Infosys and Wipro by adopting a differentiated strategy. The son of an
Indian diplomat, who was born in Nairobi, D’Souza is known to be a tough taskmaster, driving himself as hard as he drives his team.
“Our success is largely driven by our differentiated financial and operational models and the meticulous delivery and execution against them.
We owe our industry-leading growth to three key aspects of our strategy: Our client-centricity, disciplined focus on core industries, services and geographies; and reinvestment of excess non-GAAP operating margins back into our business,” he said in an earlier interview.
“To us, what is most significant is that we continue to take market share and grow faster than our peers,” he added.
With a global headcount close to 200,000 with around 75% of the team in India, Cognizant has remained as agile as ever. Since 2007, the firm has consistently outperformed peers clocking a revenue growth of anywhere between 20% and 40%; 2009 was an exception when it grew just 16%, hit by the global financial crisis. D’Souza, in many ways a global citizen having been educated across three continents — Africa, Asia and North America — has used the multicultural approach while globalising his firm’s business.
A self-taught software programmer, Frank at the age of 16 sold his first inventory management system for the Trinidadian Army. D’Souza is also a risk taker, an attribute that has helped him scout for new opportunities even as he sharpened the focus on a few select verticals. The IT services major earns more than 65% of its revenue from just two vertical clusters, financial services and healthcare.
Cognizant’s core competence has always been customer-centricity and this is thanks to D’Souza’s relationship skills — he doesn’t mind travelling halfway across the globe to meet a customer even if it’s for a few hours. In February 2013, General Electric, the American conglomerate, elected D’Souza to its board of directors in a grand testimony to his skills and leadership qualities. The young lad who joined Dun & Bradstreet — Cognizant started life as the in-house technology development unit of D&B — in 1994, has certainly come a long way.