As more and more companies become more technology driven, the role of the chief technology officer is becoming ever more important.
Roopa Kumar, Chief Operating Officer at CTO search firm Purple Quarter, which has recently been behind some big ticket CTO appointments, talks about why it chose to work in a niche field and why the CTO role will become more ubiquitous in the future.
Abhishek Goyal, founder of data intelligence firm Tracxn, and Mekin Maheshwari, former senior executive at Flipkart, are some of the prominent investors in Purple Quarter.
Edited excerpts:Q: Why did you decide to have a recruitment firm for CTOs?
A: If you look at how the industry is shaping up, everyone is going from an offline to online kind of scenario. You will see even companies, who were actually functioning, wanting to become an online set-up.
Not just age-old businesses, but also new age companies need a person to manoeuvre the company in the right direction. Who better than a CTO to do it for them?
A lot of these firms, like Reliance and Future Group, are moving towards becoming a tech company, rather than being just tech enabled.
Even new age startups, as soon as they go on to a series C, series D, and start to scale, they would need someone to perform the role of CTO for the company to go from a billion dollar to a multi-billion dollar company.
There are three different kinds of categories -- one is someone who will be able to create a company, another one will be able to scale the platform, while the third kind will look at rebuilding the entire organisation as a catalyst.
Six months into the job, we have managed to do four unicorn CTOs -- starting with InMobi. In August 2017, when we got our first assignment, we managed to get Ravi Krishnaswamy from Flipkart to InMobi. We also got Sourav Sachin to BrowserStack from WoNoBo and Amazon India CTO Dale Vaz moving to Swiggy.
Q: How do you identify these people? Is it a professional people network or do you crawl through profiles?
A: We spent close to six months just speaking to people. There aren't more than 800 people available for such roles. The CTO layer just forms 20 percent of the total talent pool. You need to speak to people, who have very good references, it is a very closed community.
We are talking to people in China, Bay Area, Koreans and Russians as well. We have detailed discussions with these guys and spend one full day on client side to understand what they are building and then we go and approach someone, so its like a perfect match.
Q: What about IT services companies? There is a huge focus on digital there. Is the CTO different from a chief digital officer?
A: IT services looks at CTO as a CIO (chief information officer), very different from how a product company visualises a CTO. The term CDO (chief digital officer) is completely different. It is also called a chief data officer who wants to create a company that moves away from doing traditional business and becomes a digital platform.
This could be very high on analytics as well. At the end of the day, can the same person become a CTO? Not necessarily.
Q: So, is this going to be a skewed demand-supply scenario?
A: There is already more demand less supply. There are several people preparing to become CTOs.
You will also see Purple Quarter shaping these guys on how to become a CTO. This is not going to go down, it will only go up. Companies that I have been talking to, have become multi billion dollars in a few months. So, things are going to move from a different perspective.
Data is becoming very important and you need a CTO to utilise this data in order to monetise it.
Q: Do you see the CTO role at the government level or state government levels? The US has in the past seen a CTO role at the government level. Will we see something like that in India?
A: Absolutely. With newer ministers coming on board, there has been a complete shift. With this government, there has been a shift on looking at how we utilise data.
They have institutes, edtech, fintech as part of the economy. I see a lot of cues being picked up from there.
In the US, CTOs are very different from how we see the role in India. CTOs there are architects. They understand total platform framework, they become CTOs. They don't have business acumen. In India and southeast Asia they are very differently described to be honest.