Tata group’s Harish Bhat is among the top ten of Forbes’ world’s most influential CMOs (chief marketing officers) 2022. Bhat, who is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons, is ranked number 9 on the list. The global top CMO list was announced at a special luncheon event hosted by Forbes on the sidelines of the Cannes Lions festival on June 23.

Apart from being the only Indian on the list, Bhat, along with Bettina Fetzer, Head, Marketing, Mercedes-Benz, are from the only two companies which are not from the US. Tata is the only Indian brand in the top 10 and the top 50. Two other Asian brands on the list are Alibaba at no. 15 and Hyundai at no. 35.

Writing about Bhat, Forbes says, “As brand custodian for this Indian conglomerate, which controls over 30 companies, Bhat is careful to connect the history and legacy of the Tata brand to its current and diverse business interests across media and markets. The author of multiple books on Tata’s history, which he sees as inextricably linked to its future, he’s been a key part of the group’s transition to marketing that is more customer and consumer-focused. Essential to Bhat’s approach is seeing the future through the eyes of those to whom you’re marketing. “While digital and data can be part of the picture, nothing,” he recently shared, “replaces interaction with consumers. They give you ideas on how to build your next campaign and build your next product.””

Other CMOs

Topping the list is Dara Treseder, SVP, Global Head of Marketing, Communications, Peloton Interactive. Others on the list in order of ranking are William White, SVP & CMO, Walmart; Fernando Machado, CMO, Activision Blizzard; Greg Joswiak, SVP, Worldwide Marketing, Apple; Morgan Flatley, Global CMO, McDonald’s; Sarah Franklin, President & CMO, Salesforce; Manuel Arroyo, Global CMO, The Coca-Cola Co; Bettina Fetzer, Head, Marketing, Mercedes-Benz; and number 10 on the list is Alex Schultz, CMO & VP, Analytics, Meta.

At number 11 is another Indian, Vandita Pant, Chief Commercial Officer, BHP, the Australian commodities company.

In its cover article, Forbes says, “Today, we consider “influence” less astrologically and more practically, focusing on the chief marketers who wield it to shape the character and destinies of the brands and businesses they help steward. The link between marketing and influence has always been inextricable. After all, a chief marketer’s job is about nothing more than it is the influencing of attitudes and behaviours in service of growth.

"Still, there’s no doubt that how CMOs gain and exercise influence has become increasingly challenged and complicated in the decade since our first Forbes World’s Most Influential CMOs List, all combining to make the effective deployment of a chief marketer’s influence ever harder, and the achievement of being recognised on a list measuring it even greater.”

Bhat, a graduate of BITS Pilani and a co-gold medallist from IIMA with Raghuram Rajan, has spent over 35 years with the Tatas, selected straight out of B-school to the Tata Administrative Service. He spent many years with Titan Co Ltd as its head of marketing. A prolific author, Bhat is also a regular columnist for BusinessLine.

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