Cognizant Technology Solutions bucking the trend among ‘bulk’ recruiters, reported a net employee addition in the September quarter, while its peers Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, and HCL Technology reported a decline.

Total headcount at the end of the third quarter was 3,46,600; Cognizant reported an increase of 1,000 from Q2 2023.

In comparison, TCS in the September quarter reported a decline of 6,333 employees, Infosys by 7,350, Wipro by 5,054, and HCL Tech by 2,299 employees.

S Ravi Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, said this is the first quarter after many quarters where the net headcount went up though marginally by nearly 1,000 - significantly in India. This is in context to all the peers who had had a fall in the headcount in the industry - of course, Cognizant had a net drop in previous quarters. “We are very excited,” he said.

In the September quarter, Cognizant won three large deals that are more than $100 million, he said. “We have been talking about the large deals for the last three quarters. The deals are starting to ramp up, and therefore our headcount is going up,” he said.

Bookings in the third quarter grew 9 per cent year-over-year. On a trailing twelve-month basis, bookings grew 16 per cent year-over-year to $26.9 billion, which represented a book-to-bill of approximately 1.4x, says a release.

Kumar said, incidentally, attrition has reduced. Voluntary attrition - Tech Services on a trailing twelve-month basis, declined to 16.2 per cent from 19.9 per cent in Q2 2023 and 29.2 per cent in Q3 2022.

“Large deals are going up; bookings are going up and attrition is down. We are starting to see a nice trajectory in our net headcount going up. The number may be marginally up, but it is a good positive trend to start with. We are hoping to keep this trend. The teams are being ramped as the deals go to execution,” he said.

Campus hiring

When asked if Cognizant will skip the campus hiring as some of its peers have announced, Kumar said, “We will continue to visit college campuses for recruitment. We have already onboarded people who were hired in 2022 campuses and started to onboard all those hired in 2023, and will continue to do that until the middle of next year. We will go to the campuses in 2024 but cannot comment on the numbers that we will do,” said Kumar.

When asked if the positive momentum will continue in the December quarter, Kumar said the fourth quarter is a seasonal, soft quarter for hiring and ramping up, he said.