Top Indian American CEOs steering US corporates

Seven top companies headed by them earned over $530 billion in 2020, greater than the GDP of all but 40 countries

By Kiran N. Kumar

With his appointment as global coffee giant Starbucks’ next CEO, Indian-born Laxman Narasimhan, has joined a select group of Indian American CEOs heading US corporates and steering them with a huge global reach.

They include Sundar Pichai, who heads Google and its parent company Alphabet, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, IBM’s Arvind Krishna, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen, Twitter’s Parag Agrawal, Albertsons’ Vivek Sankaran, Micron Technology’s Sanjay Mehrotra, FedEx’s Raj Subramaniam, and NetApp’s George Kurian.

Read: Meet the top 7 Indian Americans CEOs in corporate America (November 30, 2021)

The demand for Indian-Americans as CEOs of multinationals has rekindled new interest in their multicultural exposure and dedication to drive the growth of a global company reflecting in several studies being undertaken in management schools.

A report stated that seven top companies currently headed by them earned over $530 billion in 2020, greater than the GDP of all but 40 countries.

The situation was different three decades ago, when there were very few Indian Americans in the top echelons of corporate America until the glass ceiling was broken in the mid-1990s, by Raj Gupta, Ramani Ayer and Rakesh Gangwal, and Sanjay Mehrotra.

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 2001, PepsiCo named Indra Nooyi as its CEO, and 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 as many US companies across a spectrum of industries.

The following is a list of ten Indian American CEOs who are leading some top US corporates.

Read: Meet the top seven Indian American CEOs (June 2, 2019)

Sundar Pichai, CEO, Alphabet Inc. and Google

Company revenue: $278.13 billion (2022)
No. of employees: 174,014 (2022)

Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai took over as the CEO of Google and its new holding company Alphabet in October 2015, replacing then-CEO and founder Larry Page.

The 49-year-old, born and brought up in Tamil Nadu, attended IIT Kharagpur in India, and got his MS from Stanford and MBA from Wharton.

Pichai joined the tech giant in 2004, and led product management for Google Chrome and Google Drive among others. In 2014, he was a contender to become CEO of Microsoft, a position that eventually went to the next person on this list.

Pichai was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2016 and 2020.

Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

Company revenue: $198.27 B (2022)
No. of employees: 221,000 (2022)

Satya Nadella (courtesy of Microsoft)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.

Raj Subramaniam, CEO, FedEx 

Rajesh SubramaniamCompany Revenue: $93.51 billion
No. of Employees: 249,000

An IIT-Mumbai graduate, Subramaniam is the President and CEO of FedEx, one of the world’s largest express transportation companies.
Subramaniam has more than 30 years of experience in key global leadership roles across the FedEx portfolio of operating companies.

 

Vivek Sankaran, President and CEO, Albertsons

Vivek SankaranCompany revenue: $73.92 billion (2022)
No. of employees: 290,000 (2022)

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 in April 2019. He gave up the president’s position in September 2021.

Sankaran, who now oversees 2,269 stores over 34 states, including over 800 Safeways, 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.

George Kurian, CEO, NetApp

Company revenue: $63.18 billion (2022)
No. of Employees: 12,000 (2022)

George Kurian is chief executive officer at NetApp and a member of the Board of Directors. He joined the company in 2011 and became its CEO in June 2015.

Previously, Kurian served as executive vice president of Product Operations, responsible for the strategy and development of NetApp’s product and solutions portfolio.

Before that, Kurian was senior vice president of the Data ONTAP Group overseeing development of the Data ONTAP operating system.

Prior to joining NetApp, Kurian was vice president and general manager of the Application Networking and Switching Technology Group at Cisco Systems, vice president at Akamai Technologies, management consultant at McKinsey & Company, and led software engineering and product management teams at Oracle.

Kurian holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University.

Arvind Krishna, Chairman & CEO, IBM

Company revenue: $50.60 billion (2022)
No. of employees: 282,100 (2022)

Arvind Krishna became IBM’s CEO in April 2020, succeeding Ginni Rometty, who had served as CEO since 2012. He took on the role of Chairman in January 2021.

Krishna,59, began his career at IBM in 1990, at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, and was promoted to Senior Vice President in 2015, managing IBM Cloud & Cognitive Software and IBM Research divisions.

Born into a Telugu-speaking family in West Godavari District in the Coastal Andhra region of Andhra Pradesh, South India, Krishna did his schooling in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, and Dehradun before receiving a BTech degree in electrical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 1985.

He subsequently moved to the US to earn a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1991. He is the recipient of distinguished alumni awards from both IIT, Kanpur and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Sanjay Mehrotra, President and CEO, Micron Technology

Company revenue: $32.38 billion (2022)
No. of employees: 45,000 (2022)

Sanjay Mehrotra

Sanjay Mehrotra, who grew up in Delhi, took over as the CEO of Micron in May 2017. 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 in 2016. 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 135 on Fortune’s list of 500 top US companies.

Mehrotra is an alumnus of University of California, Berkley, where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering and computer sciences.

He was appointed chairman of the Semiconductor Industry Association, the primary advocacy organization for the US semiconductor industry, in 2019.

Laxman Narasimhan, CEO, Starbucks

Revenue: $31.98 billion (2022)
No. of Employees: 138,000 (2021)

Narasimhan, a veteran of PepsiCo, was previously the chief executive of UK-based Reckitt, which makes Dettol, Lysol, Mucinex cold syrup, Enfamil baby formula and Durex condoms.

He is a consumer industry veteran with a strong record of rekindling growth in both mature and emerging markets, in contrast with the likes of Rajat Gupta, Indra Nooyi, Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella, who were company lifers.

Prior to PepsiCo, Narasimhan had worked for McKinsey for 19 years until 2012, rising to director and location manager for their New Delhi office.

A graduate in Mechanical Engineering from the College of Engineering, University of Pune, he pursued an MA in German and International Studies from The Lauder Institute at The University of Pennsylvania before joining The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania for an MBA in finance.

Shantanu Narayen, Chairman and CEO, Adobe Inc.

Company revenue: $16.69 billion (2022)
No. of employees: 25,988 (2022)

Shantanu Narayen replaced former Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen in December 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 with $100 billion in market cap. It also ranked No. 13 on Forbes’ Most Innovative Companies list in 2018.

Narayen was also a member of former 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.

Parag Agrawal, CEO, Twitter

Company revenue: $5.07 billion (2021)
No. of employees: 7,500 (2022)

Parag Agrawal was elevated as CEO of Twitter in November 2021 after founder CEO Jack Dorsey decided to step down. He also serves as a member of the Board.

Born in Ajmer, Rajasthan, India, Agrawal, 37, came to the US in 2005. He became Twitter’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in 2017, six years after he joined the company in 2011.

Prior to being appointed CTO, Agrawal had risen to be Twitter’s first ‘Distinguished Engineer’ due to his work across revenue and consumer engineering, including his impact on the re-acceleration of audience growth in 2016 and 2017.

Agrawal holds a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

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