The combined 2018 revenue of the seven companies these Indian American CEOs are heading was more than $360 billion, greater than the GDP of all but 34 countries.
(Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 7, 2019)
Until the 1990s, there were very few Indian Americans in the top echelons of corporate America. The glass ceiling was broken in the mid-1990s, with the rise of executives such as Raj Gupta, Ramani Ayer and Rakesh Gangwal. Gupta served as the Chairman and CEO of Rohm & Haas, which was later acquired by Dow Chemicals, for more than a decade. Ayer served as the CEO and Chairman of The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. from 1997 to 2009. Gangwal was the president and CEO of the US Airways Group from 1998 to 2001.
Then in the 2000s, more Indian Americans would join the rank of the CEOs. In 2001, when PepsiCo named Indra Nooyi as its CEO, she became the first Indian American woman to head a Fortune 100 company. Six years later, Vikram Pandit would start his tenure as CEO at Citigroup. Today, Indian Americans hold top-level positions in US companies across a spectrum of industries.
The following is a list of seven Indian American CEOs who lead US companies that generated at least $7 billion in revenue last year. The first six are Fortune 500 US companies, while the seventh — Harman International Industries — is no longer a Fortune 500 firm, as it became part of Samsung in 2017. However, in 2018, Harman had enough revenue to be part of the Fortune 500 club, if it were an independent company. In 2018, the combined revenue of the companies these CEOs head was nearly $360 billion, greater than the GDP of all but 34 countries.
Company revenue: $136.8 billion (2018)
Number of employees: Nearly 99,000 (2018)
Sundar Pichai took over as the chief executive officer for Google in October 2015, replacing then-CEO and founder Larry Page. The 46-year-old was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, but grew up and completed schooling in Ashok Nagar, Chennai. He attended IIT Kharagpur in India, and got his MS from Stanford and MBA from Wharton. Pichai joined the tech giant in 2004, where he led product management for several products, including Google Chrome and Google Drive. In 2014, he was a contender to become CEO of Microsoft, a position that eventually went to the next person on this list.
Company revenue: $110.36 billion (2018)
Number of employees: Nearly 135,000 (2018)
Satya Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer as the CEO of Microsoft in 2014. He served as Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Group, prior to becoming CEO. Born in Hyderabad, India, Nadella worked at Sun Microsystems before joining Microsoft in 1992. The 22-year Microsoft veteran received his bachelor’s degree from the Manipal Institute of Technology in India, his MS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Under the leadership of Nadella, Microsoft acquired Mojang, LinkedIn, and Github.
President and CEO, Albertsons
Company revenue: $60.53 billion (2018)
Number of employees: 267,000 (2018)
Having previously served as the CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America, Sankaran became the president and CEO of Albertsons Companies, the largest food and drug retail chain in the United States earlier this year. Sankaran, who now oversees 2269 stores over 34 states, including over 800 Safeway’s, earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and a master’s in industrial engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
President and CEO, Micron Technology
Company revenue: $30.4 billion (2018)
Number of employees: 36,000 (2018)
Sanjay Mehrotra, who grew up in Delhi, took over as the CEO of Micron last year. A 30-year veteran of the semiconductor memory industry, he has more than 70 patents in the field. In 1988, he cofounded SanDisk, which was acquired by Western Digital for $19 billion three years ago. At the time of the sale, Mehrotra was the President and CEO of SanDisk.
Micron, based in Boise, Idaho, which manufactures semiconductor devices such as RAMs (random access memory) and flash drives, is ranked 150 on Fortune’s list of 500 top US companies.
Mehrotra is an alumnus of University of California, Berkley, having earned both his bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering and computer sciences. At the moment, he is also the chair of the Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group.
Ajaypal Singh Banga
President and CEO, MasterCard
Company revenue: $15 billion (2018)
Number of employees: 13,400 (2017)
Ajay Banga became the CEO of MasterCard in 2010, replacing former CEO Robert W. Selander, who had held the title since 1997. Prior to becoming CEO, Banga served as Mastercard’s president and chief operating officer. Born in Maharashtra, India, Banga was awarded the Padma Shri civilian award in 2016. The business executive graduated with a BA in economics from St. Stephen’s College and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management.
Chairman and CEO, Adobe Inc.
Company revenue: $9 billion (2018)
Number of employees: More than 21,000
Shantanu Narayan replaced former Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen in 2007, prior to which he had been serving as the company’s president and COO. Under his leadership the company became a Fortune 400 company in 2018. Narayan was also a member of former US President Barack Obama’s Management Advisory Board. He received his bachelors in electronics and communication engineering from the University College of Engineering, Osmania University, an MBA from UC Berkeley and his master’s in computer science from Bowling Green State University.
President and CEO, Harman International Industries
Company revenue: $7.44 billion (2018)
Number of employees: 26,000 (2016)
Paliwal took over as CEO and president of Harman International Industries in 2007 at a low point in the company’s history. Paliwal turned the struggling business around as under his leadership, the company experienced double digit growth and doubled its share price in one year. In addition to serving as Harman’s CEO and president, the Indian American businessman is a member on the boards of Nestlé, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Raytheon Company. Harman was acquired by Samsung in 2017, with Paliwal still leading the company.