The CIO and India’s digital economy

Sunil Rajguru
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There is a now obscure book that came out in 1981: Information Resource Management: Opportunities and Strategies for the 1980s. That is something that popularized the term CIO (Chief Information Officer). The US industry immediately latched on to it. Since then, we have had more and more CIOs with each passing year all over the world.


In India, there was a time in the 1970s and 1980s when many large companies didn’t even have an IT department. IT was an elitist term and not meant for everyone. That was felt by many even in the 1990s.

Slowly an IT dept crept into each and every organization big or small. Technology itself crept into every and every household big or small. Tech on the go has become indispensable in today’s age. Now it’s a 24X7 all-pervasive thing.

So from IT specialists to IT managers, slowly the department and IT roles themselves started expanding in India. India also caught the CIO bug.


However, from hereon we have also had an alphabet soup of tech C-Suite designations: CTO—Chief Technology Officer, CISO—Chief Information Security Officer, CDO—Chief Digital/Data Officer, CAO—Chief Analytics Officer, CDAO—Chief Data & Analytics Officer or Chief Data & AI Officer. There are even designations like Head of IT, Head of Engineering and Head of Development.

It’s all very confusing for the common man and indeed there is an overlap in many of these roles. Tech is not as simple as CMO for marketing and CFO for finance. Or even the clearly top boss CEO.

What the head honcho of ICT in any company will be called, say in 2030, is anybody’s guess, but there is no doubt that the role and importance of the CIO (or its successor designation) will keep rising. The clout that the CIO has been gaining from the 1980s to now will only grow in the future till the CIO becomes next in importance only to the CEO. The CIO world could also become a bigger training ground for CEOs. Going forward one can’t think of a single business where tech won’t be embedded into it from the very beginning.


The Covid crisis just accelerated the inevitable and India’s march as a digital economy will continue unabated. Already it could be argued that we are the most advanced digital democracy in the world and all the foundations have been laid first in the 2010s and then during the Covid lockdowns.

Maybe that’s why there has been a revision in predictions of India becoming the world’s third largest economy from 2035 to 2030 to 2027. Now the prospect India one day becoming the world’s largest economy is not a pipe dream.

Where will the Indian CIO fit in all of this?