Chief technology officers (CTOs), once relegated to the back office, are now in the limelight as India Inc. scrambles to navigate rapid digitalisation.

Companies across sectors, from startups and banking, financial services and insurance to technology, conglomerates, manufacturing and healthcare are scouting for experienced talent to drive technology strategy, innovation, transformation and operational efficiencies in a fast-evolving digital landscape.

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“Even traditional companies, including big business houses, which once looked at it as a support function are now upping their game, given the shift towards digital. CTOs are getting a seat at the table,” said Shiv Agrawal, managing director of executive search and talent advisory firm ABC Consultants, on the surge in such mandates.

“This is an investment and the RoI (return on investment) isn’t for here and now – it’s for the future; to navigate how businesses transform, not just internally but also in how they deal with clients,” said Agrawal. He added that for many companies, CTO roles are used interchangeably with CIOs (chief information officer) or CDOs (chief digital officer).

Agrees Pranshu Upadhyay, regional director of Michael Page India. “There has been a substantial increase in CTO mandates owing to tech continuing to evolve as more strategic function than support.”

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Demand is surging even in the startup ecosystem. “Sometimes, a founder who was acting as a de facto CTO wants to hire a professional for the role. Also, a lot of startups had engineering and product heads reporting to founders without a CTO in place because of cost concerns. However, now demand is soaring since this is at the core of product tech organisations,” said Upadhyay.

For recruiter Michael Page, demand for CTOs jumped 27% in the December quarter from a year earlier. “We expect this to grow further this year as the tech market starts to see signs of revival,” he added.

Recent hirings; pay hikes
In the last 9-10 months, there have been a slew of CTO appointments across India Inc. Aviva India, Perfios, Tata AIG General Insurance, BharatPe, Arya.Ag, Telerad Group, Medikabazaar and ElectraEV are among those that have hired CTOs.

Mandates are growing at a rapid clip, say search and recruitment executives, with annual pay packages starting at Rs 1.3 crore, reaching as much as Rs 3-5 crore plus benefits.

Data compiled for ET by Xpheno showed the publicly listed demand for CTOs is typically a third to half of the total active demand for CXO roles.

“The key sectors that have absorbed CTOs over the years are Banking & Financial Services, Information Media, IT Services & Consulting and Software Products. The current active demand for CTOs is driven by these set of sectors along with others like semiconductor, pharma & medical, electronic manufacturing etc,” said Prasadh M.S., head of workforce research at the specialist staffing firm.

In essence, a CTO’s role in an organisation currently has become on par with a chief financial officer (CFO), given the centrality of digital technologies and the critical roles they play in every part of the organisation, said Vikram Chhachhi, managing partner, India, DHR Global.

“The board is getting more involved with the technology function in companies as cyber, risk, and security issues are now front and centre in the boardroom. The CTO is at the centre of all these discussions,” said Chhacchi. “We are witnessing the combination of the technology, information and the digital functions/organisations under one leader who could be designated the CTO, CIO, CDIO or CDO,” he added.

Growing demand for CTOs

  • Why? To drive technology strategy, innovation, transformation and operational efficiencies in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.
  • Compensation: Rs 1.3 crore onwards to Rs 3-5 crore plus benefits at the high end.
  • Sectors hiring: startups, conglomerates, technology, BFSI, healthcare, manufacturing, etc.


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