Headhunter with a difference: Search for CEOs ends here

Headhunter with a difference: Search for CEOs ends here

She loves networking and interacting with people. Armed with an USP in building relationships, it was but natural to make “people search” her career.

Saraswathi Venkateshwaran launched a headhunter’s company, the CEO Search India, in 2004. Ever since, she has not looked back.

There are several players in the field, but Saraswathi’s company is different – it is run by an all-woman team of 16, including eight research consultants. Perhaps, they have stormed another predominantly male bastion.

“When I was setting up the company and was looking for people, it was not a conscious decision to have an all-woman team. It just happened. I found that women have a better understanding, empathy and ability to work compared to men. Before I knew it, we were an all-woman team,” Saraswathi said.

So far they have been instrumental in placing 270 CEOs in various organisations, including Intel, Reliance and Arvind Mills. “The main aspect of the job is to understand the needs of the organisation as well as that of the candidates.”  

The task is quite challenging. At times, it takes around three to six months to find the right candidate for a particular senior-executive post before the person is hired. It involves a lot of groundwork and negotiations, she added.

CEO Search India is active in many countries across the globe, including the US, Britain, Kenya, Vietnam and Bangladesh. 

The team comprises women with either an MBA or engineering background and have a good business acumen.  

“When we handle mandates globally, we need to study the local environment and culture of the organisation before we begin to search for the right candidate. At times, the team has to take customer calls at odd hours,” Saraswathi said.

Being an all-woman team, do companies respond differently?

“As long as we deliver quality work with commitment and transparency, we don’t consider gender a handicap. On several occasions, we have been referred to new clients by our old ones,” Saraswathi said.

Atul Nishar, chairman of Hexaware Technologies, said: “The team has an in-depth understanding of industry practices and needs, and has always given us favourable results.”

Ganesh Natrajan, vice-chairman and CEO of Zensar Technologies, agreed. “They provide right combination of professional competence and personal contact, which is the secret of a successful CEO search.”

Saraswathi’s next challenge is to put more women in the boardrooms of top corporate entities. 

“Women are good decision-makers because they think differently and are multi-tasking all the time. In India, women have, no doubt, broken several glass ceilings, but they are still under-represented in the boardrooms. I hope the next generation will fill the gap,” she said.

“If I have to start another company tomorrow, I will not hesitate to staff it with only women,” she added.

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