5 Things To Know About Gajen Kandiah, Hitachi Vantara's New CEO

CRN looks at Gajen Kandiah's work history and accomplishments at Cognizant and how that prepared him to become CEO of a company in the midst of an evolution.

How Kandiah's Time At Cognizant Prepared Him For Hitachi Vantara

Hitachi Vantara capped the first half of 2020 with some big news: the global analytics, IoT and storage vendor is getting a new CEO, again, after only seven months under its current leader.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based subsidiary of Japanese industrial conglomerate Hitachi announced on Tuesday that it has appointed Gajen Kandiah, the former head of Cognizant's Digital Business, as its new CEO, replacing Toshiaki Tokunaga, a Hitachi veteran who had only taken the mantle in January.

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When Tokunaga became the company's CEO and board chairman, the company was already in the middle of a major transformation that began a couple years ago when Hitachi announced the merger of its Hitachi Data Systems storage and data center infrastructure business with its Hitachi Insight Group IoT business and Pentaho big data business to form the Hitachi Vantara business.

What follows are five important things to know about Kandiah, his previous work at Cognizant and how Hitachi Vantara has evolved over the past few years.

Kandiah's Most Recent Job At Cognizant

Gajen Kandiah, who becomes Hitachi Vantara's CEO on July 13, was most recently president of Cognizant's multi-billion-dollar Digital Business that provides services for digital engineering, analytics and artificial intelligence, interactive services and IoT.

A 16-year Cognizant veteran, Kandiah is credited with helping grow Cognizant's annual revenue from $368 million to more than $16 billion. And as president of Cognizant's Digital Business, he oversaw the company's acquisitions of software engineering company Softvision, marketing solutions provider Netcentric and digital innovation and services provider Idea Couture.

Kandiah had served in the president role from October 2015 to June 2019, when he left the company as one of several high-profile departures that happened following Cognizant's appointment of Brian Humphries as CEO in February 2019.

Prior to serving as president of Cognizant's Digital Business, Kandiah served in executive roles leading the company's practices for Information, Media and Entertainment, Manufacturing Logistics, Consumer Goods, and Communications. Kandiah joined Cognizant in 2003.

Kandiah's Work, Education History

Following Gajen Kandiah's departure at Cognizant, he served as a special advisor for Brighton Park Capital, a Greenwich, Conn.-based investment firm that specializes in software, information services and technology-enabled services, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Prior to his time at Cognizant, Kandiah co-founded system integration and management consulting firm NerveWire in 1999, which he said he grew to a $50 million run rate in the three years leading up to its sale to Wipro. Before that, he launched the European Interactive Services practice as a vice president at Cambridge Technology Services, for which he later served as the global leader for the company's Interactive Solutions practice. The firm was acquired by Atos in 2014 after previously being acquired by Novell in 2001, two years after Kandiah left.

Kandiah attended Northeastern University's engineering school in 1987 and participated in the Harvard University Executive Education program in 2000, according to Brighton Park Capital's website.

Kandiah's Expertise And Achievements At Cognizant

Gajen Kandiah's expertise comes down to "building teams to scale opportunities at the intersection of innovation and business" while "leveraging advances in information technology" such as artificial intelligence and industrial IoT, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Kandiah said his strengths include "identifying emerging trends" from one-on-one conversations with clients, prospects and alliance partners"; "formulating business plans, operating models and go-to-market initiatives"; " attracting, developing and retaining myriad talent"; and "driving revenue growth."

As president of Cognizant's Digital Business, Kandiah said he restructured four business units to form a new division while leading the integration of capabilities for AI, analytics, industrial IoT and cloud services. He also grew the division's run rate of 30 percent of Cognizant's overall revenue.

In addition, Kandiah founded and grew Cognizant's Digital Engineering practice and grew it to a more than $1 billion run rate in a year-and-a-half. His responsibilities for the practice included business strategy, branding, messaging and overall acquisition and integration strategy.

What Hitachi Vantara Sees In Kandiah

Toshiaki Tokunaga (pictured), Hitachi Vantara's outgoing CEO, commended Gajen Kandiah for his "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," Tokunaga said in a statement.

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."

How Hitachi Vantara Has Evolved Over The Past Few Years

Gajen Kandiah is joining Hitachi Vantara as the company continues to evolve from a disparate set of businesses to a leader in IoT and data analytics.

The evolution began when parent company, Hitachi, announced in 2017 the merger of its Hitachi Data Systems storage and data center infrastructure business with its Hitachi Insight Group IoT business and Pentaho big data business to form the Hitachi Vantara business.

It then continued in January of this year when Hitachi merged Hitachi Vantara with its Hitachi Consulting arm in a move channel partners have said will accelerate IoT and data-driven solutions in the channel. At the time, Hitachi said the goal is to create a new IT "powerhouse" by combining its consulting-led digital solutions and vertical expertise organization with Hitachi Vantara’s domain expertise with a heavy focus on the data center, data operations and digital transformation.

As part of the reorganization, Hitachi Vantara is divided into two businesses: Digital Infrastructure, which includes the company's storage and data center products and is led by former Hitachi Vantara CEO Brian Householder; and Digital Solutions, which includes the company's Lumada IoT and Pentaho data software and is led by former Chief Product and Strategy Officer Brad Surak.

"Through the integration of Hitachi Consulting, the new Hitachi Vantara will be uniquely equipped with the capabilities our customers need to guide them on their digital journeys," Toshiaki Tokunaga said in January, when he was stepping into the roles as CEO and chairman. "We’re going to be the company that helps customers navigate from what’s now to what’s next.”

With Kandiah's appointment as CEO, Tokunaga will help with the leadership transition through October and then remain as Hitachi Vantara's board chairman.