India Inc is aggressively scouting for talent at the top.

CXO search mandates have seen a spike of up to 20-25% compared with this quarter last year, as hiring rebounds and pent-up demand is unleashed on the back of vaccine rollout and companies reigniting growth and expansion plans.

Technology, IT and IT-enabled sectors are leading hiring, though others such as consumer, private equity, investment banking, pharma and life sciences, and industrial and manufacturing have also seen a significant jump. Senior professionals are getting hikes of 25-35% on an average while switching jobs, said seven hiring firms ET spoke to.

“While only a few far-sighted businesses in the traditional sectors continued to hire during the peak of the pandemic, digitally led businesses were the mainstay. Now there is an overall pickup in demand across sectors,” said K Sudarshan, managing director, EMA Partners India.

The firm is seeing significant traction across fintech, digital commerce, food-tech and edtech, associated areas like private equity and investment, and even traditional businesses in industrial and manufacturing.

“The floodgates have opened,” said Shiv Agrawal, managing director of ABC Consultants.
CXO-level mandates at the firm have gone up significantly in the current quarter compared with the previous one. The increase has been from 20% to as high as 100% from the October-December quarter in various sectors and up to 25% from a year earlier, except for technology where the jump has been almost 50% on year.

People who have straddled crises, and are used to ambiguity, good at handling quick changes and adaptable to new processes and lean environments are being preferred, and maturity in decision-making and understanding the bigger picture is becoming important.

There are a little over 3,000 active CXO mandates, according to Xpheno Research. Given the unprecedented business conditions that the job market weathered in 2020, the current numbers mark a strong recovery in hiring activity, said Kamal Karanth, cofounder at Xpheno. The IT and IT-Enabled Sectors remain the top contributor to C-suite jobs, he added.

Demand is strong for chief product officers (CPOs)/product heads, and chief technology officers (CTOs)/engineering heads; chief financial officers (CFOs) with emphasis on fundraising and strong investor relations background and chief strategy officers/strategy heads from the mid to mature startups, as their intent for growth through acquisition has picked up steam very recently.

Navnit Singh, chairman and managing director of India at Korn Ferry, said the company never thought that the recovery would happen so soon. “The pent-up demand for talent and push for infrastructure is leading to a demand for more CXOs, either to fill up existing positions or even start new businesses,” he said.

CXO mandates are up by 20-25%, said BTI Executive Search managing director James Agrawal. Demand is coming in across sectors including consumer markets, consumer healthcare, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, digital and technology and global capability centres in India.

Digital alignment to functional expertise is what the market is asking for and salaries are rising for such talent, said Mala Chawla, managing partner at Stanton Chase. GC Jayaprakash, founder-director, Accrete Executive Search, said besides digital leaders across industry verticals, aggressive hiring was happening in the healthcare & pharma life sciences, green energy especially electric vehicles, consumer durables/FMCG, manufacturing due to Aatmanirbhar and new technology (machine learning and artificial intelligence).

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