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Designer Designations: Indian companies giving innovative titles to their key executives

Hindu mythology expert Devdutt Pattnaik is the Chief Belief Officer (CBO) of the retail giant Future Group. What do you think that title means? When quizzed by the media, Pattnaik stated that this designation was created to align the objectives and culture of the company and to form relevant strategy to drive sales. This was owing to India’s myriad nature of customers – both behaviorally and culturally.

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On his website/blog Pattnaik says "Belief is subjective truth and is the cornerstone of mythology, and plays a key role in business. Belief can be religious as well as secular. My role is to draw attention to this invisible cultural lever that shapes our decision." Future Group has similarly converted the posts of the HR Head into Chief People’s Officer and Store Manager into Store Guru. If you are already pulling your hair out, read ahead.

Following suit is MindTree, a mid tier IT firm, headed by Subroto Bagchi. In 2007, he officially became the ex Vice chairman of MindTree. No, he didn’t quit the organization, he only felt that this bland designation didn’t suit his role which aimed to nurture the growth of the company. From then on, he was officially titled Gardner. Bagchi supports these designer designations whole heartedly. He told ET that the changing economic climate, pace of innovations, changing consumer patterns and paradigm shifts brought in by technology are forcing companies to adapt their designations too.

He says "Today’s idea of structure, command and control and departmentalization are brought forward from the last century; they are extensions of a factory economy." In 2012, MindTree went on to create the post of an Agile Evangelist for its existing title of Chief Architect for product engineering and IT services.

So has India taken a cue from the West where the heads of Monster.com, Rovio and Google were christened Chief Monster, Mighty Eagle and Chief Internet Evangelist respectively?

The exact time period when this phenomenon started is difficult to trace. ET further reported that the BPOs brought this trend with them when they came to India in the 2000s. Let’s take a look at what impact these tailor made designations may have on the Indian ecosystem of business.

Advantages:

  • Fetches the company some curious publicity and attention.
  • Allows the company to create a culture of open mindedness, flexibility and innovation.
  • Empowers employees as customized title may add to their social status.
  • The employee has a defined role and targets to follow.
  • It is a conversation starter amongst stakeholders and for business networking.
  • Reduces hierarchy amongst employees and creates the foundation for flatter organizations.
  • Makes senior management more approachable.
  • Helps in looking at the workforce as a team made of individuals with unique strengths rather than a mass of people blindly working for a company.
  • PR and publicity material for the company becomes richer as designations become more glamorous.

Disadvantages:

  • May create confusion for third parties to exchange official communication.
  • The business may lose credibility for other conservative businesses.
  • Dilutes the importance and seriousness attached with traditional titles.
  • May gives rise to ethical and legal dilemmas in case of a serious public error made on the part of an employee.
  • May not attract talent in senior management.

Here is a glimpse of a few Indian companies, small to large, that have included designer nomenclatures in their company culture:

COMPANY

DESIGNER DESIGNATION

Godrej Industries

General Manager of Culture Lab

 

President Human Capital and Innovation

 

Chief Strategy Officer

PepsiCo India

Executive Director-Innovation

 

Director-Go to Market Transformation

 

Director-Sustainability

 

Director-Go To Market Solutions

Beyond Squarefeet Advisory Pvt. Ltd

Chief Mall Mechanic

The Advisory

Chief Explorer

GlobalHunt

Chief Growth Officer

Cost Kill Analyst

Teleradiology Solutions

Chief Listening Officer

Chief Enabler

Chief Pusher

Chief Dreamer

Wipro

Chief Learning Officer

Games2win India Pvt. Ltd

Chief Trafficker

2win Group

Serial Entrepreneur

Alia Group

Growth Catalyst

(References: ET and Mint)

And here’s one last designer designation that will leave you absolutely dumbfounded. Chirag Patel is the Chief Nut Officer at Ahmedabad based Net4Nuts, a value added mobile service provider. All the heads in Patel’s company have the suffix Nut after their title. Eventually, the company’s venture capitalist asked Patel to get back a more acceptable title like CEO for market reputation. Although Patel agreed, he never fails to generate a warm response when he mentions his ‘real’ designation.

India Inc will definitely need more time before it can willingly accept whacky and fun titles. Startups and innovative ventures may be able to take the liberty of adapting designer designations and adding a little more panache factor to the mundane. But other sectors like banking, manufacturing and service industries may take some more time in doing so, or may not do so at all. Organizations too will have to tread this path carefully. They need to make sure that there is just a right mix of practicality and wackiness in a title and that they don’t make the company’s reputation seem flippant and preposterous.

Chief Time-Out Officer anyone?

About Kaushambi

Kaushambi Vaishnav is a Freelancer with professional and personal interest in media, technology, business, current affairs and the internet.

3 comments

  1. Chennai Flowerplaza

    This is really interesting…. chennaiflowerplaza.com

  2. 'Chief Trafficker'! That does not sound right.

    • Arun Prabhudesai

      Yes, that designation is very much there… Chief Trafficker in a publishing company is someone who builds traffic to the site.. Arun

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