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Why more India-born executives will lead tech giants

February 04, 2014 08:41 IST

Why more India-born executives will lead tech giants

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Bibhu Ranjan Mishra & Surabhi Agarwal in Bangalore/New Delhi

Experts argue that it is a sign of maturity of the industry and of Indian techies working abroad.

With speculation rife that Microsoft Corp was considering another Indian-origin executive for its top position, experts feel it signals the maturity of both, Indian techies as well as the overall industry and that an increasing number of Indians could head technology multinationals in the future. 

After reports surfaced that Satya Nadella, executive vice-president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group was leading the race for the role of chief executive officer (CEO) at the Redmond-based company, a new report has said that the company is also in negotiation with Sundar Pichai, senior vice president at Google Inc.

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Image: Satya Nadella
Photographs: Courtesy, Microsoft
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Srikanth Nadamuni, a tech entrepreneur and CEO of Khosla Labs, a start-up incubator said when he started his career in the early 80s in Silicon Valley, lots of Indians were developers, engineers or may be managers.

Gradually, they rose up the ranks to become vice presidents, chief technology officers etc, which now explains the gradual rise to the top position for some of them. “This (India-born executives being considered for the top posts) is certainly an indication that Indians are climbing up the ladder to run large global companies.” He added that expect more Indians in the top most positions at Fortune 100 or 500 companies. 

In a blog posted last week, John Furrier, founder-CEO of SiliconAngle.com, said that Pichai leads the list of external candidates that the company is talking to for the position. On being asked, a Google spokesperson declined to comment on this development. “We will not comment on speculations,” the company said.

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Image: Srikanth Nadamuni
Photographs: Courtesy, TiE

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According to Kiran Karnik, an IT industry veteran and former president of Nasscom, in the last 20 years, lots of bright, hardworking, and intelligent Indians have made their way to middle and top level management in multinational companies. 

“Many have been entrepreneurs whose companies have been bought by the biggies and they have slowly risen in the ranks.” 

Though Indians are also prominent in other sectors such as financial services and academia, the community is more dominant in technology as 20 years ago, it was a “typically an engineer who went abroad.”

Karnik added that while India's reputation as a technology powerhouse helped, Indians have a natural advantage in terms of their language as “they are more articulate in English versus, say, a Chinese, a must-have for the CEO's position.”

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Photographs: Reuters

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Even though the trend is not ‘brand new’, given the number of Indians who are at significant positions in companies such as SAP, Oracle, Google, LinkedIn, of late, India has been in the limelight as intellectual property creation culture has heated up in India, Greyhound Research chief Sanchit Vir Gogia said.

“India offers a story beyond services and so, Indian talent is being considered for the top positions not just for how they have performed locally, but also how they can help tap emerging markets like India.

Born in Chennai, Pichai, now 41, did his Bachelors from IIT Kharagpur before moving to the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University for higher education.

In March last year, Google made him the Head of Android in addition to his existing portfolio as the head of Chrome and Google Apps.

Jaideep Mehta, country general manager of IDC India said that the performance oriented and open culture of the technology sector in America has enabled Indian executives to rise to the top. “The fact that these companies have chosen to ignore the origins of these executives will set examples for other industries to follow.”


Image: Sudhir Pichai
Photographs: Courtesy, Google

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