All of us do not have equal talent. But, all of us have an equal opportunity to develop our talents – The Late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Azad
These words by the former India President find meaning when Indians from the smallest villages of the country rise up to become a CEO of a major multinational. In recent years, many Indians have found themselves leading tech giants around the world and the latest to join the club are computing giant IBM and coworking company WeWork.
From Google, and then parent company Alphabet, appointing Sundar Pichai as the CEO to Satya Nadella becoming the chief executive at Microsoft, the trend of giving leadership roles to Indians is following tech companies into the new decade.
IBM and WeWork are the latest companies to join the rush — appointing Arvind Krishna and Sandeep Mathrani as the CEO of the respective companies. The new appointments fuel the narrative that Indians are shaping the global tech world at large, even though there have been some serious doubts about WeWork being a tech company. Perhaps due to these concerns, WeWork went with real estate veteran Mathrani to solidify its positioning in the market.
One of the key reasons suggested for the trend is that Indian CEOs tend to have the patience to learn, grow, and slowly rise within the company. For instance, Krishna has never worked for any other company besides IBM in his 29-year long career. Nadella too worked at Microsoft for over two decades before being handed the reins. Similarly, Pichai was a product manager and then an executive for 10 years at Google before being elevated to CEO.
While this is great news for Indian techies looking at jobs abroad, many Indian startup entrepreneurs and investors have blamed the brain drain for India lagging behind the western counterparts in the tech economy. A 2015 report by the US National Science Foundation had stated that the migration of Indian scientists and engineers to the US has increased by 85% in the last 10 years. While the brain drain is a serious issue, Indians still celebrate whenever a fellow Indian reaches the CEO position.
Indian CEOs At Tech Giants
Born in July 1972 in Madurai, Sundar Pichai excelled in studies at his school — the Jawahar Vidyalaya in Chennai — and earned a seat at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, where he completed his B.Tech in metallurgical engineering.
During the course he won a scholarship to study materials science and semiconductor physics from Stanford University from where he went on to complete his M.S. While he had planned to pursue a PhD from Stanford, he dropped out and joined Applied Materials as an engineer and product manager. He eventually quit and pursued an MBA from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2002.
Pichai joined Google as the President of product management in 2004. He was entrusted initially with Google Search toolbar and also went on to work on many other important products such as Google Gears, Gadgets, Google Pack, all of which are no longer available.
Interestingly, Pichai was also the one at Google who came up with the idea of developing Google’s own browser. He also went on and took charge of the search, Maps, research, Google+, Android, Chrome, infrastructure, commerce and ads, and Google Apps. In 2015, he was made the CEO of Google just when the company restructured to create Alphabet as the umbrella organisation.
On December 3, 2019, Pichai was finally named the CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and stepped in to take over from Google cofounder Larry Page.
Born on August 19, 1967, Satya Nadella grew up in Hyderabad. He then went to earn his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology before heading to the US for higher education.
In the US, Nadella completed his master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and then earned an MBA degree from Chicago Booth School of Business.
After completing his college journey, Nadella got his first job at Sun Microsystems, an information technology service provider which was acquired by Oracle Corporation for $7.4 Bn in 2010.
The current Microsoft CEO joined the company as a young engineer in 1992. At that time, Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates was the CEO of the company. Initially, Nadella worked with Microsoft’s television projects and Windows NT operating system.
It was in 2000 when Nadella finally got an executive post when he was appointed as vice president of Microsoft bCentral. The next year Nadella was promoted to the vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions wherein he spearheaded numerous acquisitions for the company.
In 2007, he became the senior vice president of Microsoft Online Services where he was given the responsibility of heading Microsoft’s search engine Bing, gaming device Xbox Live, and enterprise tool Microsoft Office.
Finally, in February 2014, Nadella was appointed as the CEO of Microsoft after the then CEO Steve Ballmer had announced his resignation in August 2013.
Earlier this year, Nadella made headlines for his strongly-worded statement on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act which earned him some praise but also a lot of criticism on Indian social media.
Arvind Krishna was born in a small town of Elaru in Andhra Pradesh. The 57-year old CEO of IBM is an alumnus of IIT Kanpur where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. After moving to the US, Krishna also completed his PhD from the University of Illinois in electrical engineering. Krishna, who joined IBM 29 years back, hasn’t worked in any other company In his entire lifetime, according to his LinkedIn.
He was appointed the CEO of IBM in January 2019 and replaced Ginni Rometty who is taking an exit from IBM after working for eight years. On Krishna’s appointment, Rometty said, “Arvind is the right CEO for the next era at IBM.”
Prior to becoming the CEO, Krishna was the senior vice president of Cloud and Cognitive Software at IBM. He also holds numerous distinguished alumni awards from IIT-K and the University of Illinois. Additionally, he is also a co-author of around 15 patents.
Shantanu Narayen also joins the list of Indian-origin CEOs from Hyderabad. Completing his schooling in the city, Narayen aspired to become a journalist one day. However, things took a sharp turn in his life as he finally decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering from the city’s renowned Osmania University.
After completing his graduation, Narayen moved to the US to complete his master’s degree in computer science from Bowling Green State University and MBA from the University of California’s HaaS Business School.
Shantanu started his career by holding product development roles at Apple and Silicon Graphics, before cofounding photo-sharing startup Pictra. It was in 1998 when he joined Adobe as the vice president and general manager of its engineering technology group.
In 2005, Narayen became the president and COO of Adobe and was finally promoted to the role of CEO in 2007, thereby joining the list of Indian CEOs at major tech companies.
Ajaypal Singh Banga
Born in Khadki, Maharashtra, Ajaypal Singh Banga originally hailed from Jalandhar, Punjab. As his father was an army professional, he had to frequently move to various parts of the country and therefore he had got the opportunity to spend his early schooling days in Secunderabad, Jalandhar, Delhi, Hyderabad and Shimla.
After excelling in studies at school, Banga went to the St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University to complete his bachelor’s in economics. He then completed his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad before joining Nestle India as his first job as a management trainee in 1981.
After Nestle India, Banga went on to join the India operations of Pizza Hut and KFC, wherein he played a key role in their expansion around the country in the 1990s.
It was in 1996 where he joined the financial services industry when he became the Indian marketing head of Citibank. After numerous years at CitiBank, Banga joined Mastercard in 2009, where his sole responsibility was to outpace competitor Visa’s network. In July 2010, Banga was finally appointed as the CEO of Mastercard.
Born in New Delhi in 1967, Suri completed his bachelor’s in electronics and communication engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology in 1989 and got his first job as a production engineer at Calcom Electronics.
Before joining Nokia in 1995, Suri had worked as a national account manager of strategic planning at ICL India (ICIM) and the head of group procurement of imports/special projects, Churchgate Group, Nigeria.
At Nokia, he started his career as the system marketing manager of cellular transmission, Nokia Networks India. Since then, he has worked at numerous positions in the company. Prior to becoming the CEO of Nokia in 2014, Suri was the CEO of Nokia Solutions and Networks, where he helped the company to reach the valuation of 10 Bn euros.
Born in 1968 in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, Nikesh Arora completed his engineering from IIT-BHU, Varanasi before starting his first job at Wipro, where he used to sell computers to government departments, which he quit before going to the US at the age of 21.
In the US, he completed his MBA from Northeastern University, Boston. In 1992, Arora got his first job at Fidelity Investments where he got the opportunity to lead the finance team. After leaving Fidelity Investments as the vice president of finance, Arora joined T-Mobile in 1994 where he worked for four years before joining Google as the chief business officer. Notably, during his time at Google, Arora was the highest-paid employee of the company.
After working for more than nine years at Google, Arora then joined Japenese investment firm Softbank as the president and COO.
In June 2018, Palo Alto Networks snatched Arora from Softbank and appointed him as the CEO of the company. At that time, media reports highlighted that Arora got a paycheck of $128 Mn at Palo Alto Networks.
Sandeep Mathrani is an Indian-origin real estate veteran who has held several positions at several companies in the US before joining Softbank-owned WeWork. Mathrani will take over as the CEO of the company from February 18, 2020, SoftBank confirmed.
Mathrani completed his bachelor’s of engineering, master of management sciences, and master of engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in the US. A real estate veteran, Mathrani has previously served as the CEO of the US-based property management company Brookfield Properties Retail. Prior to that, he was the CEO of General Growth Properties (GGP) for eight years. GGP was bought by Brookfield in August 2018. Mathrani has also worked as an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner.
Moreover, Mathrani is also a part of the executive board and the board of trustees for the International Council of Shopping Centers, the executive board and 2019 chair of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, and the board of directors for Host Hotels & Resorts.