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India's world-class business leaders and their responsibility to India

The recent times have seen a rise of Indian origin representation in senior leadership in multinational organizations.

India's world-class business leaders and their responsibility to India

The recent times have seen a rise of Indian origin representation in senior leadership in multinational organizations.

India's world-class business leaders and their responsibility to India

The recent times have seen a rise of Indian origin representation in senior leadership in multinational organizations.

India's world-class business leaders and their responsibility to India

The recent times have seen a rise of Indian origin representation in senior leadership in multinational organizations.

The CEOs of some of the most powerful multinationals, including Google and Microsoft, are Indian. They can use their power to advocate for a better India. But will they?
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Despite all the problems surrounding leadership in India today, several international leaders are of Indian origin – and not just Kamala Harris, now the vice-president of the United States. In the world of technology, in particular, Indians have risen to the top in global companies, including Microsoft, Adobe, and Google.

Take the career of Sundar Pichai, included in Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people of 2020. Born in Madurai, in Tamil Nadu, Pichai graduated from IIT Kharagpur with an engineering degree, then went on to do Masters degrees in both engineering and business in the US. After completing his studies, Pichai took a job at Google, and over the next decade was responsible for the development of much of the software that people all over the world use every day: Google Drive, Maps, Chrome, and Gmail. In 2015 he became the new CEO of Google.

This position, by any standards, makes Pichai one of the most successful people in the world, and he is uniquely talented. Yet the foundations for his success stretch back into Indian history, long before his birth. As part of the British Empire, India was unified into a single nation with one language that was shared between educated people throughout the vast and diverse country. And this foundation was built upon after independence, as the government made increasing efforts to make education accessible to all and continued to promote English as the language used in schools.

Fluency in English has been essential to the success of high-flying Indians around the world, making the leap to university education in America or the UK far easier. Satya Nadella, now CEO of Microsoft, followed a similar path to Sundar Pichai, following a Bachelor’s degree in India with a move to the States to focus on business and technology at Masters level. Feeling at home in English is essential for anyone who aspires to join the international corporate world, or is part of technological innovation in Silicon Valley.

Being part of the British Empire and then the Commonwealth has meant that Indians have established communities far beyond India. Travelling around the world today, Indians are everywhere – from East Africa to Australia – and often form communities that have existed for several generations. Indians seem to have a talent for balancing multiple identities, for creating a sense of home wherever they are, and for retaining an understanding of what it means to be Indian - even if they spend their lives in Europe, Africa, or the Middle East.

Rajeev Suri is perhaps the most thoroughly global citizen you could imagine. Now the CEO of Nokia, Suri, was born in New Delhi but grew up in Kuwait. After years working for multinational corporations and living everywhere from Nigeria to India, today he has Singaporean citizenship and lives between the UK, Finland, and Singapore. This is what it means to be truly international.

Such remarkable business talent – independent thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset, combined with ambition, hard work, and the ability to thrive in international contexts - is uniquely Indian. You see it in Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe Inc.; in Ajaypal Singh Banga, CEO of Mastercard; in Nikesh Arora, CEO of Palo Alto Networks; in Jayshree Ullal, CEO of Arista Networks; and many more. Through leaders like these, India is making its mark on the world.

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