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  • The Merge

The Rise of Indian-Origin CEOs in Tech: Breaking Barriers and Making History

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

Indian-Origin CEOs in Tech

Following the resignation of long-time Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki on February 16th 2023, Neal Mohan is set to take over as the new CEO of YouTube. Following this elevation, Mohan will join the elite list of global tech heads of Indian origin. The new YouTube CEO had previously worked under Wojcicki as the chief product officer. Mohan first joined Google in 2007 with the DoubleClick Acquisition and eventually rose to become Senior Vice President of Display and Video Ads. He eventually became YouTube’s Chief Product Officer in 2015 and has led YouTube’s Trust and Safety team.

In recent years, a growing number of Indian-origin CEOs have been making waves in the tech industry, with their innovative ideas, exceptional leadership skills, and dynamic management styles. From Satya Nadella at Microsoft to Sundar Pichai at Google, Indian-origin CEOs are taking the tech world by storm, and their success stories are an inspiration to many.

Today, many of the world's leading tech companies are led by Indian-origin CEOs, including Microsoft, Google, Adobe, and IBM, to name just a few.

Indian-origin businesspeople have also taken over as CEOs of a lot of companies from other industries of iconic US companies, such as Laxman Narasimhan who is the CEO of the coffee chain Starbucks; Raj Subramaniam, the CEO of FedEx, one of the world’s biggest transportation services companies; Leena Nair, CEO of the French fashion luxury brand Chanel, and many more.

India is also renowned for producing some of the most talented engineers and computer scientists worldwide. A significant number of Indian tech CEOs have graduated from prestigious universities such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, and other IITs throughout the country. Most Indian-origin executives have attended an IIT at some point in their academic careers.

Admission to the IITs is highly competitive, akin to Ivy League admissions on steroids, and the students who attend have a reputation for having excellent work ethics.

Parag Agarwal, former CEO of Twitter, for example, earned a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Bombay and a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University. In 2011, he joined Twitter and quickly climbed the ranks to become the company's Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in 2018. (Agrawal was fired as CEO once Elon Musk completed his acquisition of the company on October 27, 2022.)

Sundar Pichai was introduced as Google CEO in 2015 and later took charge of the parent company Alphabet Inc. in 2019. He is a B. Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and joined Google in 2004. He has enthusiastically uplifted several businesses like Android, Chrome, Maps, etc., and acquired several companies. Since taking over as CEO in 2015, Pichai has overseen the growth of Google's advertising and search businesses, as well as the development of new products like Google Home and Google Assistant. He has also been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, both within Google and in the broader tech industry.

The Impact of Indian-Origin CEOs on the Tech Industry:

Indian-origin CEOs have had a significant impact on the tech industry, both in terms of innovation and diversity. For example, Satya Nadella, who became CEO of Microsoft in 2014, has led the company through a major transformation, with a renewed focus on cloud computing and artificial intelligence. Under his leadership, Microsoft has become one of the most valuable companies in the world, with a market capitalization of over $2 trillion.

Indian-origin CEOs have brought a unique perspective to the tech industry. Their cultural background and experiences have influenced their management and leadership styles, leading to more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Vinod Dham, the father of Intel’s Pentium chip, told writer Chidananda Rajghatta: “In India, a public transport bus never stops at a bus stop. It is always full, and therefore the driver stops many yards before or after the stop only to disgorge passengers already overflowing. So, to get on the bus, you are attuned to dash 50 metres on either side and get perhaps a toehold on the footboard of the bus. Then you come to America, and what do you see? The bus comes on time, it is almost empty, and the driver even lowers the footboard for you to get in. Life is a piece of cake. India prepares you to succeed."

Indian-origin CEOs have demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities. Their ability to inspire and motivate their teams to achieve challenging goals has been a key factor in their companies' success. These executives have a track record of creating diverse and inclusive workplaces that foster creativity and innovation. Moreover, their leadership styles have been recognized as being ethical and socially responsible, setting a positive example for the tech industry as a whole.

So, what are the factors that have contributed to the success of Indian-origin CEOs in the tech industry?

One key factor is their strong work ethic and dedication. Many Indian professionals are known for their hard work and willingness to put in long hours to achieve their goals. This work ethic has helped many Indian-origin CEOs to succeed in the competitive world of tech.

Another factor is the strong focus on education in the Indian community. Indian parents place a high value on education, and many Indian-American students excel in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. This focus on education has produced a talented pool of professionals who are well-equipped to take on leadership roles in the tech industry.

An important factor is their cultural background, which has instilled in them a strong sense of community and family values. This has helped them to build strong teams and foster a collaborative work environment. It has also helped them to develop a global perspective, which is essential in today's interconnected world.

They always have a Plan B - “No other nation in the world ‘trains’ so many citizens in such a gladiatorial manner as India does," writes R. Gopalakrishnan of Tata Sons. There is always a Plan B, “in case there is suddenly no electricity, or the water runs out". Things never worked smoothly in India and rarely followed a logical process, so one is always prepared. In times when uncertain events like covid or global warming are hitting us, these inborn skills matter greatly.

India is a culture that values resilience and perseverance.

With a population of over a billion, many of whom are underprivileged, individuals in India often face significant challenges.

However, they are taught to be courageous in the face of adversity, resulting in a population that is determined to succeed despite obstacles. This attitude is reflected in their strong convictions, persistence, and ability to maximize the resources at their disposal.

Indians are known for their willingness to work hard and take on difficult challenges. Their positive mindset has propelled many to great success in their careers, leading them to become some of the world's most accomplished business leaders. It's no surprise that Indian-origin individuals currently hold leadership positions in some of the world's largest and most successful companies.


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