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He's got chemistry

A veritable who's who of the American chemical industry graced the Society of Chemical Industry's annual black-tie banquet in March, 2007. They had gathered to celebrate Raj Gupta being bestowed the Chemical Industry Medal. What their presence also manifested clearly, however, was the influence this senior-most Fortune 500 CEO among Indian Americans has had on this particular industry.

Gupta, Chairman, President and CEO, Rohm & Haas -- pictured here with wife Kamla
in his words
'People all over the world want the same thing, regardless of nationality or ethnic origin. They want to have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their talent.'
Photo: Paresh Gandhi
and Salman Rushdie at the India Abroad Person of the Year event -- was not just the first Indian American but the first Asian American to receive the prestigious industry award. The proclamation with this award said it all: 'Throughout his career, during which he worked on three continents, Raj Gupta has encouraged both his company and others to hire the best possible people, to always believe in an ethical and responsible manner, and to promote a wider understanding of the benefits the industry’s technology brings to everyday life.'

Dennis Reilley, chairman, Praxair, Inc who introduced Gupta, during this most recent recognition of this humble and unassuming individual said that since Gupta was elected chairman and CEO of Rohm & Haas in 1999, 'He has done many things to turn Rohm & Haas into what it is today.' Perhaps the best measure of his leadership at Rohm & Haas, Reilley added, could be found in the numbers. 'When Raj took the helm in September 1999, the company had a market capitalization of less than $8 billion. Today, it stands at over $11 billion, a 45 percent increase, one of the better performances in our industry.'

Born in Muzzaffarnagar, he holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from IIT (1967), a master's in operations research from Cornell (1969), and an MBA in finance from Drexel (1972). He joined Rohm and Haas in 1971 as a financial analyst, and held positions of increasing responsibility during the decade.

Describing Gupta's as one of the most unique stories, Reilley said that to him the CEO encompassed a rare blend of skills seldom found in one individual. 'He has an extremely sharp mind and tremendous intellectual curiosity. He feels perfectly comfortable talking about chemical compounds, double bonds or the latest thinking in financial analysis. To me, Raj is the perfect example of people Tom Friedman wrote about in his bestselling book, The World is Flat.'