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'Nadella, a perfect example of benefits of thoughtful immigration reform'

February 14, 2014 10:19 IST

America Inc tells's Aziz Haniffa that Microsoft’s new CEO validates what business leaders have long known – ‘We need more Satyas travelling to the US’.

Ron Somers, president, United States-India Business Council, believes Satya Nadella’s appointment as Microsoft chief executive officer makes a strong case for “thoughtful immigration reform.”

“Nadella is a perfect example of how appropriate, thoughtful immigration reform can benefit both our free market democracies,” he tells

“We need more Satyas travelling to the United States, setting up home here, bringing their discipline and brain power to their profession, innovating, creating, discovering, building businesses and growing enterprise.”

The USIBC’s Coalition for Jobs & Growth is working on a clean, step-by-step approach to immigration reform, and Somers hopes it will “enable more Satyas of the world to come the United States, and more Americans to travel and work in India, uniting our two dynamic economies.”

“This dynamism,” Somers says, “bound by a common entrepreneurial DNA, will help democracy and freedom and innovation to flourish for decades to come. That’s the environment we hope to help create with a clean and non discriminatory immigration bill.”

The USIBC hopes to enlist Nadella in this cause as Congress sets its 2014 agenda to take up this important immigration debate, he adds.

Aneesh Chopra, who was the first White House Chief Technology Officer before running for Lieutenant Governor in Virginia, says, “Satya’s role as immigrant executive validates what business leaders have long known -- America’s greatest strength is its people, our ability to educate the best, and attract more from around the world.”

Asked if Nadella’s selection, once again, brings to the fore the need for more progressive immigration policies, Chopra adds, “I believe the debate on high-skilled immigration is settled -- both (Democrat and Republican) parties are for it, and with the recent compromise for H1-B fees to directly aid STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, it will be part of any immigration package this year.”

Vish Mishra, a venture capitalist with Clearstone Venture Partners, says, “Think of the bigger issues -- half of the fortune 500 CEOs are immigrants and 25 percent of all the new businesses are founded by new immigrants who have made huge contributions in terms of dollars to the American economy… Not addressing the issue of huge skilled talent shortage in America is a big mistake.”

“Skilled and highly talented people should be fast tracked. The problem is not the immigration authorities, but the policy makers. There are lobbyists, and members of Congress have different agendas to push.”

“I do not think Satya’s appointment would be a wake-up call in DC at all,” Mishra said, “but people like Satya should be welcomed with open arms and given residency and it should be fast tracked.”

Somers says Nadella’s Indian-American heritage is also beneficial because “at this crucial time in US-India relations, we need more leaders who appreciate and respect both countries.”

“We just witnessed our own State of the Union Message, by President Obama, and know that mid-term elections in the United States are due in November. India heads for the polls in April for national elections, which will be the largest democratic undertaking to take place in human history,” he says.

“Having leadership of global companies who appreciate and respect the freedom inherent in our two democracies will facilitate greater collaboration and cooperation down the line.”

He cites the experience of having Ajay Banga, CEO, MasterCard, and Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO, PepsiCo, as former chairs of USIBC.

“They brought a terrific perspective to this organization in our endeavor to advance US-India commercial ties,” he says. “We need his insight.  We need people like him and Ajay Banga and Indra Nooyi and others who appreciate that it will be our businesses, but, more importantly, our two peoples, who will shape the destiny of the 21st century.”

Somers is also excited about what Nadella’s appointment means for Microsoft, a longstanding USIBC member.

“The digital economy world is growing so fast, so swiftly, it makes perfect sense to invite an insider to take the helm of the company,” he says. “He knows the heart of Microsoft, and he knows what the company is capable of, where the competition is, and what needs to be done to be successful.”

Chopra concurs: “Satya’s selection validates the new playing field on which they will be judged -- mobile and cloud. On cloud, that was among Satya’s most recent assignments, he knows the opportunities and challenges better than anyone at Microsoft and that makes him an asset and should hold him in good stead in terms of competiveness.”

“It will be a competitive journey,” he adds.

“On a personal note,” he adds that he is “proud as an Indian-American to see one from our  community rise to an executive  position capable of shaping the global economy. His appointment marks yet another milestone in this generation’s realisation of the American Dream.”

With inputs from Suman Guha Mozumder

Image: An archival photograph of a long line outside the Immigration and Naturalization center in New York. Photograph: Reuters.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC