CXOs much wanted; demand likely to exceed supply in 2024

New Delhi: Corporate India has intensified hiring for leadership roles despite a slowdown in entry-level recruitment, according to search firms, which expect a possible shortage of senior executives to meet the demand in the new year.

Executives at search firms ET spoke with said they expect at least a 20-25% increase in search mandates for CXOs in 2024.

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The momentum has been building up for the past few months, said Heidrick & Struggles partner Suresh Raina. “Today, we are in conversations with senior leaders for CXO roles who have at least one more offer in hand and hence are quite selective.”

Hiring action is mostly concentrated at the senior levels due to increased confidence in the economy, said experts. The entry and middle levels are not seeing much action due to the aftereffects of over hiring in 2021 that are still being felt, they said.

The executives said their companies are conducting searches for roles such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief technology/information officer, chief business officer, chief marketing officer, chief operations officer and chief HR officer.

“Even companies that have recently downsized, they will still need leaders to reach their next growth target,” said Uday Chawla, managing partner, Transearch India.As companies scale, rescale or restructure, and reorganise, there is a growing demand for CXO-level talent. Transearch is currently seeing demand from every sector, Chawla said.Industrial, digital, consumer, healthcare, manufacturing and renewables are some of the sectors that are actively hunting senior talent. The search for independent directors is also high.

“This time around, the growth will be led by India 2, or Bharat, where we see companies are committing more investments and building capacities both in manufacturing as well as services,” said EMA Partners India managing director K Sudarshan.

EMA is looking at year-on-year growth of 25-30% in mandates for CXO hiring. “We believe there’s a big boost in our ‘country confidence index’, resulting in a positive business environment and outlook irrespective of short-term global headwinds,” he said.

Boutique search firm Insist Consulting is looking at expanding its own internal team of executives anticipating a surge in CXO search demands, chief executive R Suresh said. “Demand is phenomenally high in new-generation sectors like solar technology, green hydrogen and other sectors like pharma including medical devices, electronic manufacturing services and automotive,” he said.

Barring the technology services sector, there is demand for senior talent across all sectors, according to Navnit Singh, chairman and regional managing director of India at Korn Ferry, which is expecting a jump of at least 20% in searches in 2024 over 2023.

ABC Consultants, though, is slightly cautious. “Large sectors such as technology, consumer and retail are slow… the moment these pick up, the war for talent across sectors will resume,” managing director Shiv Agrawal said.

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