Navin Manaswi, the chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of Bengaluru-based augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) startup, WowExp, identifies himself as the ‘chief metaverse officer (CMO)’ at the firm on his LinkedIn profile. The startup, which was founded in 2019, is building virtual spaces that will allow users to experience art galleries, recreational clubs, education hubs, and even cinema halls by simply putting on AR and VR (virtual reality) headsets.
Manaswi’s designation on LinkedIn might be unofficial right now, but the role of the CMO is quickly gaining ground among corporates across the world. These individuals lead corporate strategies for building a future metaverse, a continuous virtual economy driven by VR and AR and allows commerce through blockchain-based digital currencies.
India has eight to 10 CMOs already, some officially titled as such, while others are working in similar roles and overseeing the metaverse strategy of their firms, according to Manaswi. “The person in the role of CMO will need to understand both creative and technical aspects. He/she will be responsible for helping create seamless products, adoption and user experience,” he said.
Ninad Chhaya, co-founder and chief operating officer of Mumbai-based GoPhygital, a startup that offers digital products, including those using AR, VR and AI, said the firm’s focus is on emerging technologies such as VR and AR with an emphasis on gamification. Chhaya was the co-founder and creative director of IndiaGames, which was acquired by Disney in 2013.
Firms “entering the metaverse” have mostly relied on external partnerships but may soon hire internal experts to lead such strategies, Chhaya said. Companies are looking for chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs) with experience and knowhow in computer gaming, Web3 environments and more, who can eventually be upskilled to take on the CMO role, Chhaya said.
Web3 refers to the third generation of the internet, which moves away from centralised servers and is driven by blockchain-based technologies such as decentralised finance and non-fungible tokens. The metaverse is essentially a way for users to experience web3, the way we experience the current world wide web through websites.
Manaswi and Chhaya will have company in this space very soon. Neeti Sharma, senior vice president of staffing firm TeamLease, said that 15-18% of CIO, CTO roles being sought today need individuals equipped to lead teams building metaverse products and hiring activities for C-suite individuals equipped in this space is growing.
“By 2025, 8-10% of companies in India should ideally have a CMO, or a person with a similar role, to lead the metaverse strategy to thrive in the super-digital era,” she said.
The trend will be pronounced in the IT/ITeS, gaming, fashion, retail, communication, and design industries, which have initiated hiring of such leaders for their businesses, according to Sharma. CIOs, CTOs and other digital officers with a creative bent of mind will be best suited for the role, she said. Even traditional chief marketing officers can be upskilled for a metaverse role by training them in cloud computing, blockchain, gaming, and cryptocurrency.