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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Old careers in new bottles

Himani Chandna Gurtoo, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 07, 2012
First Published: 20:51 IST(7/12/2012) | Last Updated: 23:10 IST(7/12/2012)

So you are the new CEO of a fancy company at 22 years of age? What do you do? Organise events? Oh, you are the Chief Entertainment Officer?

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You will be an administration executive pushing pen. Want to be called Change Leader?

Companies stung by the economic downturn and hobbled by modest salary budgets have taken to fancy designations to lure workers into their fold. Words that sound impressive but mean comparatively little, these designations camouflage traditional or unglamorous work profiles.

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Divya Bakshi (name changed), 23, holds a diploma in beauty cosmetology from a reputed institute. She landed a job with a popular skin clinic as 'fashion consultant'. "I was happy to get the offer but on the day of joining, I realised I am only a salesgirl selling cosmetic products," Bakshi mourned

"This merciless war for cutting corners and operating costs is forcing firms to explore new ways to attract people," says Aditya Narayan Mishra, president at human resource consulting firm Randstad.

"Our aim is to motivate individuals and make them feel proud of their work. However, we don't trade off packages for such designations," said

Kanupriya Manchanda, HR executive at software service firm InfoBeans which calls its receptionist as "first impression executive" and technical engineers as "special squad engineers" - a navy inspired title.

Most companies employing fancy designations do not want to talk about them.

Of course, some have genuine corporate philosophy. Take the Future Group that runs Big Bazaar. It has a high-profile 'Chief Belief Officer' in  mythology writer Devdutt Pattanaik.

"Chief Belief Officer was a designation created by the Future Group just to draw attention to the value of 'belief' in business. Modern Management Theory is based on the belief that objectivity and logic has all the answers to problems. Belief is subjective truth and is the cornerstone of mythology, and plays a key role in business….My role is to draw attention to this invisible cultural lever that shapes our decision," Pattanaik says on the company's website.

In some cases, the titles are a sign of a new economy. Google had named Vinton Cerf as chief internet evangelist.

The social media boom has led to the rise of chief tweeting officers (yes, you can get paid for that) and chief blogging officers. "The strategy is to create a false 'grade equivalent' but it cannot offset the value of a job profile," said Sangeeta Lala, vice-president at staffing service firm TeamLease.

"Such (fancy) designations are more prevalent at  junior to mid-level jobs. At junior levels it creates social acceptability for certain positions. So, to an extent it is good for them," she added.

The trend is active in companies involved in  knowledge process outsourcing (KPOs), business process outsourcing (BPO) and IT services. It is increasingly penetrating into the consumer goods and retail industries.

Indian companies are taking a cue from the West, where technology companies are famous for "cool" things that inspire young workers.

Jeff Taylor was better known as Chief Monster rather than co-founder and CEO of job portal Monster.com. Lately, Rovio, the maker of the hit game Angry Birds, has a Mighty Eagle for CEO and Bird Whisperer as head of corporate communications.

"Fancy designation is a crisp tablet of one's job profile.  It makes company's internal KRA reflect externally on your business card," said Canon India senior vice-president Alok Bhardwaj, who is also president of the Manufacturers' Association for Information Technology (MAIT).

Subroto Bagchi , chairman of IT firm MindTree, called himself Gardener.

"This defines his ambition to nurture the organization in every possible manner," Bhardwaj said.


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