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America's youngest Indian CEO

January 16, 2009 15:33 IST

Francisco D'SouzaAt 39 years, Francisco D'Souza, the India-origin chief executive of software firm Cognizant Technology Solutions, is one of the youngest CEOs in America, running an American public company that is worth at least $500 million.

The latest among a slew of honours for this young business honcho is a mention in business magazine Forbes' updated list of '21 youngest CEOs at USA's biggest companies.'

'Francisco D'Souza, 39, heads what is now the largest public company run by a 40-or-under CEO, though his $5.7-billion Cognizant Technology Solutions is dwarfed by the $16.9-billion Yahoo!.' Forbes said. 'D'Souza has been an officer at Cognizant for 11 years now, chief executive since 2007, and chief operating officer since 2003, when he was a mere 33.'

All the chief executives named in the list are in the age group of 34 to 40 years. 'They are the youngest people running the biggest companies in America. As they have gotten this far already, keep an eye on them in the future,' Forbes said in an accompanying report.

D'Souza took over from Lakshmi Narayanan, who became vice-chairman of the board. At the time, D'Souza was also inducted into the board.

In an interview he gave before he became CEO, he shared his views on how businesses become and remain profitable. "Cognizant choose the customer-centric, relationship-driven model right from our founding and we have built upon it. The outcome of this model is that we service a limited number of customers and provide increasing value as we grow those relationships. The fact that we serve our customers deeply is reflected in the ratio of relationship managers and client partner to be higher than our sales professionals," he said (To read more, click here).

D'Souza is a person of Indian origin, born in Nairobi, Kenya. Since his father was a diplomat with the Indian Foreign Services, he has lived in and travelled to many different countries. He has an MBA from Carnegie-Mellon University and was a 2004 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. He also won the Economic Times Entrepreneur Award in 2005.

At Cognizant, which he joined in its early days, D'Souza oversees much of the operations and business development of the company. He has earned a total compensation of $ 1,777,883.00, according to Forbes.

Forbes also noted that the most experienced and seasoned old CEOs have to make hard-nosed decisions and endure intense scrutiny during tough times.

'Young CEOs may find themselves under an even brighter spotlight, thanks to their supposed inexperience. But at least they have plenty of time ahead of them to correct any errors -- and possibly move on to even bigger things,' it added.

Text: PTI, Wikipedia, Cognizant Technology Solutions

Photograph: Rediff Archives