Cognizant is a true hybrid: headquartered and run from the US, but Indian in origin, culture and execution model.

Formed in 1996, a spin out of an offshoring joint venture between information services giant Dun & Bradstreet and India’s Satyam Computer Services, Cognizant chose from the start to position itself close to the bulk of its potential customers – both physically, through the location of its senior teams in the US, and strategically, by adopting a consultancy-led approach that demonstrated a deep understanding of customers’ challenges.

It has only reinforced that approach in recent years, ramping up the ratio of customer-facing MBAs to back-office software engineers to 1:20. “Our differentiation is all focused on the depth of our relationship with the customer,” says Sanjiv Gossain, head of Cognizant in the UK. Being seen as a US company “gives us a lot of mindshare” with customers, he says, while “we have a very good brand among Indian IT workers,” with many viewing the high proportion of US and European assignments as highly attractive.

The Cognizant formula has had spectacular success. Revenue growth in recent quarters has risen to a turbocharged 65% (almost double the growth of many of its India-based rivals), bringing annual revenues for 2006 to $1.42 billion. It added 14,500 people last year, and it plans to add another 17,200 this year.

It targets select areas of business process outsourcing, as well, with domains including clinical data management, royalty payment processing and equities research.

Although very strong in the US (where it derives around 86% of its revenues), Cognizant has been growing at over 80% in Europe, establishing flagship deals with HBOS, Orange, Vauxhall, Marks & Spencer and Royal & Sun Alliance.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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