Designer as the CEO

A Balasubramaniam

This week’s TIME magazine talks about India’s biggest export to the world : the CEO. A heartening read about the growing numbers of CEOs heading operations in Unilever, MasterCard, Pepsi, amongst other major Fortune 500 companies.  What I find interesting is the attributes that Indians have that is apparently tailor-made for operating in the chaotic world today: Multi culturalism, ability to work under complex constraints, working with meagre or depleting resources and speaking the global business language : English.

Come to think of it, the designer in India almost always work under similar circumstances:

Multiculturalism: The Naga and the Kashmiri are so culturally different from the Tamil and the Bihari, but designers have been able to work with a variety of cultures.

Competition : From the hot-shot Italian house to the IDEO office in Mumbai, the designer learns to cope with competition of all kinds and sizes.

Meagre Resources : If there is one place, designers use their creativity to the full, it is in saving and working under difficult financial conditions. No problem.  We know how to eke out an html lifestyle ( html: hand-to-mouth-living).

English : The argumentative Indian argues best in English. It is therefore no surprise that designers articulate well in the Queen’s language.

With all these qualities and the ability to come up with beautiful attractive, cost-effective solutions, applying design thinking, makes the Indian designer ready and primed for the post of the global CEO.

Multi-nationals scouting for Indian CEO talent, look no further.


  1. Bala. India could start a design school that trains only CEO’s of the future. The idea of new NID’s is passe. We need schools that can incubate CEO’s for India’s social and development sectors. Rather than training wage coolies for corporate India and the world this may be an interesting and fruitful diversion. Interesting post.


    1. Interesting thought, Ranjan. I agree that there is potential for Designer CEOs School. Maybe you should take the lead.
      Thanks for your comments.


    1. Dinesh, thanks for the comments and good wishes. But more importantly, thanks for the link which so eloquently talks about what I have hurriedly put together as an idea!



  2. Great Blog! Thanks Bala for starting this.. and great thoughts on Design and Leadership.. it inspired young designers like me and is motivating to get sort of acceptance to our actions from experienced people like you.



  3. Bala,
    just finished reading all your blogs, thanks for being so articulate in design matters. owrk which ideally should have got spearheaded by the founding institutions is finally being done by its grads. great. let’s hope this does start a chain reaction and people do start seeing design for what it really is. amit.


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