How Many Indian CEOs Are in the Fortune 500? Of the 10 South Asian CEOs currently heading Fortune 500 companies, five come from India.
They have made important contributions to the evolution of technology, particularly when cloud-based and security technologies. Noticeably, all five of these CEOs are now United States citizens.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google
Sundar Pichai has been the CEO of Google since 2015 and its parent company, Alphabet, since 2019. Born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Pichai moved to the United States to study material science and engineering at Stanford University. He later earned an MBA from the Wharton School.
He started his career at McKinsey & Co., but he quickly found a position at Google, where he began working in 2004. At Google, he oversaw several high-profile projects, including those that developed Google Chrome, Chrome OS, Google Drive, Google Maps, and Gmail.
By 2010, Pichai had become a popular, highly visible leader at Google, responsible for presenting new products to the public. He led a demonstration of Chrome OS and, later, the Chromebook.
In 2013, Pichai became the product manager of Android. Rumors began circulating that Microsoft would offer him the position of CEO. He stayed at Google, where his prominence continued growing. After the formation of Alphabet as Google’s parent company, the corporate board chose Pichai as Google’s CEO.
Larry Page decided to leave his CEO position at Alphabet in 2019. Pichai replaced him while retaining his position at Google.
When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the tech industry in 2020, Pichai emphasized that the tragedy also created innumerable opportunities for technology’s role in society. He maintains that the disease created a moment for people to rethink and rebuild the world in positive ways.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
Satya Nadella was born in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, which is currently known as Telangana, India. Nadella attended public school in Hyderabad and earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology.
Immediately after finishing his undergraduate education, Nadella traveled to the United States to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he studied computer science and completed a master’s degree.
At this point, he started working at Sun Microsystems. He later returned to school to complete the MBA program at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. He earned his MBA in 1997.
Nadella started working at Microsoft in 1992. He oversaw several critical projects within the company before becoming its CEO. From 2007 to 2011, he was Senior Vice-president of Research and Development for the Online Services Division. Much of his work in this position involved moving infrastructure to the cloud, a technology that has become critical for businesses around the world.
His experience in cloud development made him the right candidate for Microsoft’s President of the Server & Tools Division. He held the position from 2011 to 2014. During this time, he was instrumental in putting Microsoft services in Azure cloud. Under his direction, revenues for Cloud services increased by nearly $4 billion.
At the beginning of 2014, Microsoft’s board announced that it had chosen Nadella as the next CEO. Microsoft’s culture shifted considerably when Nadella became CEO. He encouraged more collaboration within the company. He also encouraged more collaboration with competitors, including Apple and IBM.
Nadella has also overseen several acquisitions at Microsoft. Under his guidance, the company negotiated deals to acquire GitHub, LinkedIn, and Mojang, the creator of Minecraft.
He has done a remarkable job shaping Microsoft’s corporate culture and financial success. He’s so influential that Fortune named him Businessperson of the Year in 2019. That same year, Financial Times called him Person of the Year.
Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe
Like Nadella, Shantanu Narayen was born in Hyderabad, India and attended Hyderabad Public School. As a young man, he enrolled as a student at the University College of Engineering, Osmania University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering.
After completing the bachelor’s program at Osmania University, Narayen traveled to the United States to take computer science classes at Bowling Green State University. He earned a master’s degree in computer science in 1986. In the early 1990s, he got an MBA from the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.
Narayen likely earned his MBA in the Bay Area because he already had a career working in Silicon Valley. He started his career at a startup named Measurex Automation Systems. He took a position at Apple in 1989, where he remained until 1995. Apple gave Narayen opportunities to work as a senior manager, which became essential to the future of his career.
Shortly after he left Apple, Narayen co-founded a company, Pictra Inc., which focused on using the internet to share digital photos. This work likely made him an appealing candidate for jobs at Adobe, where he became a senior vice-president in 1998.
From 1998 to 2001, he was the senior vice-president of worldwide product development. In 2001, he became executive vice-president of worldwide products, a position he held until 2005, when he was appointed president and COO.
In 2007, Bruce Chizen left his position as CEO of Adobe after seven years of service. Narayan was chosen to fill the role.
He pushed the company to pursue more cloud-based products, which included moving Photoshop, Acrobat, and Premiere Pro from desktops to the cloud. This move helped solidify Silicon Valley’s adoption of SaaS products that charge a monthly subscription rate instead of forcing users to make one-time payments.
George Kurian, CEO of NetApp
George Kurian is the only Fortune 500 CEO from Kerala, India, although his twin brother, Thomas, is the CEO of Google Cloud. Currently, Kurian serves as the CEO of NetApp, one of the largest companies competing in the computer data storage hardware industry.
Kurian has degrees from two prestigious schools: Princeton University and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
After earning a degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University, Kurian held leadership positions at Akamai Technologies, Oracle Corporation, and McKinsey & Co.
NetApp contacted him in 2011 and offered a job as its Senior Vice president of storage solutions. He became vice president for product operations two years later. In 2015, NetApp’s board selected him to replace Tom Georgens as the CEO.
Nikesh Arora, CEO of Palo Alto Networks
Nikesh Arora was born in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. He attended the Air Force School (Subroto Park) and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, BHU in Varanasi. He later attended Boston College and completed an MBA program at Northeastern University.
Arora began his career in management when he joined T-Motion PLC in 2000. T-Motion later became a part of T-Mobile. He found significant success at Google starting in 2004. From 2004 to 2007, he served as vice president of European operations. Following this role, he spent two years as Google’s president of operations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
During 2009 and 2010, he was president of global sales operations and development. Arora stayed at Google until 2014, when he left his position as senior vice president and chief business officer to join SoftBank Corp, where he became the president and COO.
In 2018, Arora took the position as CEO and chairman of Palo Alto Networks, the job he still holds today. Under his leadership, Palo Alto Networks has acquired several businesses, including those operating in cloud security, container security, serverless security, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology.
You never know where the next great CEO will come from. Research shows that more than 80% of Fortune 500 CEOs are white males. The number of women, East Asian, South Asian, African-American and Latinx CEOs has increased recently, though. These five brilliant CEOs show that it makes sense for the U.S. to open itself to attracting top talent from all over the world.
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