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Hitachi Vantara Taps Ex-Cognizant Exec Gajen Kandiah As CEO

With Hitachi Vantara's move towards IoT, its merger with Hitachi Consulting and the coronavirus pandemic accelerating the adoption of digital tools, it makes sense that the company would bring in a services-focused CEO, one partner says of Kandiah's appointment.

Hitachi Vantara has appointed former Cognizant executive Gajen Kandiah as its new CEO, replacing Toshiaki Tokunaga, who took over the global analytics, IoT and storage vendor at the beginning of the year when the company completed a significant IoT-focused reorganization.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based subsidiary of Japanese industrial conglomerate Hitachi announced the appointment Tuesday, saying that Kandiah will become CEO July 13. Tokunaga, a 30-year Hitachi veteran who became CEO and board chairman of Hitachi Vantara in January, will phase out his CEO responsibilities by Oct. 1 and retain his chairman position.

[Related: Hitachi, Microsoft Enter Strategic Manufacturing Alliance]

Kandiah is coming to the company roughly seven months after Hitachi merged Hitachi Vantara with its Hitachi Consulting arm in a move to accelerate its IoT and data-driven solutions.

A 15-year Cognizant veteran, Kandiah is credited with helping grow Cognizant's annual revenue from $368 million to more than $16 billion, according to Hitachi Vantara. He was most recently president of the company's multibillion-dollar Digital Business that provides services for digital engineering, analytics and artificial intelligence, interactive services and IoT. As the business unit's leader, he oversaw the acquisitions of software engineering company Softvision, marketing solutions provider Netcentric and digital innovation and services provider Idea Couture.

Prior to that role, Kandiah led Cognizant's practices for Information, Media and Entertainment, Manufacturing Logistics, Consumer Goods, and Communications. Before he joined Cognizant, he co-founded system integration and management consulting firm NerveWire, which was acquired by Wipro, and served as an executive at interactive services firm Cambridge Technology Partners, which was acquired by Atos in 2014 after previously being owned by Novell.

Kandiah called Hitachi a "market leader at the intersection of innovative industrial solutions and IT services" with a global brand trusted for providing business, environmental and social benefits.

"These attributes give Hitachi Vantara an incredible set of advantages that I believe the company and its cloud and strategic go-to-market partners are only just beginning to realize," he said in a statement. "The opportunity to lead Hitachi Vantara is a thrilling one. I am confident that if we align our broad portfolio of data storage, analytics, industry-specific solutions and IT services behind a singular vision to delight our clients, we will become a true digital leader."

Tokunaga said Hitachi Vantara has made "tremendous progress" in the past year to complement its "world-class digital infrastructure with new digital solutions and service offerings."

“Thanks to strong internal development, strategic acquisitions, and the integration with Hitachi Consulting, we have added the capabilities we need to guide our customers from what’s now to what’s next," he said in a statement. "Gajen Kandiah has an impressive track record in rapidly scaling digital businesses. He is the perfect CEO to help Hitachi Vantara, its partner ecosystem and our customers further accelerate their success."

With the company's move towards IoT, its merger with Hitachi Consulting and the coronavirus pandemic accelerating the adoption of digital tools, it makes sense that Hitachi Vantara would bring in a services-focused CEO who has experience in those areas, according to a senior executive at a solution provider company that has long partnered with Hitachi Vantara and its predecessor, Hitachi Data Systems.

"I think on the face of it, it's a very good move, but it's also indicative of the nature of the changing business landscape and climate," said the executive, who asked to not be identified. "If you're selling products to companies, increasingly it looks like the right mix is not just the product sale or the software sale, but it's the subscription and services component."

However, the executive said, with Hitachi Vantara's new CEO and the company's new services business that came from the merger with Hitachi Consulting, there are big questions about what the recent developments means for the company's channel partners.

"Now that they've got a guy running it with a services mindset, how are they going to make room for partners in that? Does it change the profile of the partner they're looking for?" he said.

In an interview with CRN last week, Kimberly King, Hitachi Vantara's vice president of global partner strategy, said the channel conflict between Hitachi Vantara's services organization and partners is rare and that the company has mitigations in place, like required deal registration, to avoid it.

"We really have thought of every nuance of how do we engage partners across the sales cycle and with us, and if there is a potential challenge or an issue where we would potentially compete, we acknowledge that way up front, we communicate that and partners are respecting that, but we see very little of that," she said. "So far, we've seen mostly collaboration and coordination, not only across the [business units] and the whole partner program that spans both but also within the partner community, and they like the focus that they're getting from both sides."

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