Indian Leaders of Global IT Giants

The appointment of the new CEO of the $78-billion Microsoft made many Indians proud.

After all, Satya Nadella, the 46 year old India-born techie is only the third CEO to head the global, path-breaking, multi-billion dollar company.

This computer geek and suave executive now faces the daunting task of fitting into the over-sized shoes of his two previous chiefs, Steve Ballmer and founder Bill Gates.

He must now captain a ship past its prime. With overall market on the decline, he is likely to reshape Microsoft to adopt to the changing ‘Mobile first, Cloud-first’ strategy.

And the world will be watching this new Indian on the block – as he joins the ranks of global IT Leaders.

“13 Indians holding key positions at IT giants” was the title of an article I came across in the Times of India, this week.

I was surprised to learn, from this timely article, that the number of Indians in executive-leadership positions of IT companies has steadily grown, and that they are having tremendous impact and influence on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry today.

Even at the cost of using up some of my editorial-opinion space for just information, let me first mention some Indians leading global IT companies below. And then analyse why Indians are making it big in the IT sector.

At Google is Nikesh Arora as senior vice president and chief business officer. He oversees all revenue and customer operations, as well as marketing and partnerships at Google. He received $46.7 million in total compensation in 2012, becoming the company’s highest-paid executive, as per a regulatory filing.

At Global Foundries is Sanjay Jha who took over as CEO. His is a semiconductor foundry that produces chips for giants like AMD, Broadcom, Qualcomm, and STMicroelectronics. He was the CEO and chairman of Motorola till May 2012 – when Google took over that company.

At Cisco is Padmasree Warrior as its chief technology and strategy officer. Born and raised in India, she had joined Motorola in 1984, but had switched to Cisco in 2007.

At ScanDisk Corporation is its co-founder Sanjay Mehrotra as the president and CEO. His company develops flash memory storage solutions and software.

At Nokia Solutions and Networks (earlier called Nokia Siemens Networks) is Rajeev Suri as its CEO.

At Google again is Sundar Pichai as senior vice president. He leads the Android, Chrome, and Google Apps teams. He has played a key role in teams responsible for products like Google Chrome, Chrome OS and Google Drive.

And the list goes on – with Arvind Sodhani of Intel, Pankaj Patel of Cisco, Rajan Naik of AMD, Suresh Vaswani of Dell and Kelly Ahuja of Cisco’s Mobility Business Group.

What made these people tick?

It is found that most of them studied computer science and engineering in Indian Universities, but went to the US for their Master’s and doctoral programmes. They excelled in academics there too, and were picked up by the IT giants to serve in their companies.

I believe that the key reasons for this Indian leadership in IT are educational advantage, governmental planning and also global corporate environment made conducive for Indians.

Proficiency in the English language gives Indians an edge over the competition, thanks to the education that is still imparted on the lines of British systems. Therefore, SAT, TOEFL and IELTS scores from urban India often stun the US and UK universities when, many times, Indians outdo the natives.

Realizing that Information Technology is an emerging force, India’s Ministry of Human Resources Development HRD had made efficient Manpower Planning some 30 years ago. Along with Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), hundreds of universities started computer engineering programmes in a phased manner, and churned out the best graduates in computer engineering over the last three decades.

India can lament on brain-drain, but that is the truth. Thousands of supremely-talented and well-educated IT students have always aimed to study in the USA. The greater scope for research and greater number of companies that offer high pay-packages being there, along with a better quality of life, are offers one can’t refuse.

So, even though some Indian entrepreneurs like Narayana Murthy who co-founded Infosys, stuck to India and transformed the IT sector of India within India itself, the attraction to work abroad was always greater than the attraction to work within India.

There could, therefore, be many more Satya Nadellas out there – just waiting to come into the limelight. But with India changing fast, watch out for some home-grown techies to come out from India itself!