5 Most Influencial India-Born Global Tech CEOs

by Sohini Bagchi    Aug 12, 2015


Recently, we have been witnessing a spurt of Indian leaders taking over leading positions of global tech companies. According to a research from St. Gallen University in Switzerland, Indian executives are inclined toward participative management and building meaningful relationships with subordinates.

“The leadership style traditionally employed in India fostered an emotional bond between superiors and subordinates,” the 2004 study said. “The feeling that the company genuinely cares for its employees, provided a strong bond of loyalty that went beyond financial rewards.”

A look at the these Indian-origin CEOs at global tech companies.


Sundar Pichai, CEO Google: The IIT Kharagpur alumnus, who later attended Stanford for MS and Wharton for his MBA, Pichai’s life story is remarkable, and his rise to the top of Google is a glowing endorsement of India’s standing in the global technology industry, and equally, a reassuring reminder of the so-called “American Dream,” says a BBC report.

Pichai’s father was an engineer with GEC and his upbringing was humble. His family lived in a two room apartment and the family didn’t own a television, or a car.. Pichai joined Google in 2004 and was the driving force behind Google Chrome browser and the Chrome OS. But perhaps the biggest responsibility that Pichai was Android in 2013 when he replaced Andy Rubin, the man who developed the platform. At the end of 2014, Pichai was made the Google Product Czar with most product heads, reporting to Pichai. He was directly reporting to Larry Page. 

Besides being incredibly talented and hardworking like many tech leaders, Pichai excelled at recruiting, mentoring, and retaining a great team. According to one of his former colleagues, “Sundar’s team of product managers had a reputation as being among the best of the best, similar to the reputation of the software engineers within Search Quality.”


Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft: In February 2014, when Satya Nadella took over from Steve Ballmer to head Microsoft Corp, many in the industry were surprised. Some wondered whether the India-born executive deserves the top post in the world’s most coveted organization. While some anticipated many more mistakes to follow, others feared that the tech major would turn into a dinosaur. Some however - both from inside the company and outside - were hopeful. They were looking for the much needed change and Satya Nadella proved them right!

A year later Microsoft feels fresh, new, and not quite obsessed with the legacy of Windows. Under, CEO Satya Nadella’s reign, Microsoft has made strides, changing its focus – making itself more relevant in the new tech world led by mobile-focused rivals such as Apple and Google.

Read: The Man And His Mission@Microsoft - Satya Nadella Demystified

 Nadella, has worked at Microsoft for over 22 years. He had a clean slate and his leadership gave a sense of relief prevailed in the air. “He hasn’t solved all problems, but he’s made moves in the right direction strategically,” said JP Gownder, analyst at Forrester Research. While many new things unveiled in the last 12 months were works for years, Nadella appears to have injected new energy into the Redmond powerhouse.


Rajeev Suri, CEO Nokia: Nokia appointed Rajeev Suri in May 2014 to head the new company after it sold its ailing mobile phone unit to Microsoft. Suri joined Nokia in 1995 and has held a wide range of leadership positions in the company. He is a graduate from the Manipal Institute of Technology. In an email last week to the Manipal Institute of Technology, his alma mater, Suri said he spent the best time of his life there. “A great university with wonderful teachers, fantastic memories and deep, lifelong friendships. You are the university and teachers that made me what I am….” he said.

Nokia chairman Risto Siilasmaa said in a statement: “Rajeev is the right person to lead the company forward. He has a proven ability to create strategic clarity, drive innovation and growth, ensure disciplined execution, and deliver results.”Those in India who have known Suri describe him as extremely focused and a great people manager.


Ajaypal Singh Banga, President and CEO MasterCardAjay Banga is the current president and chief executive officer of MasterCard. MasterCard announced on April 12, 2010 that Ajay Banga, previously MasterCard’s president and chief operating officer, had been named by the Board of Directors to serve as the company’s president and chief executive officer, effective July 1, 2010.  Banga succeeded Robert W. Selander, who had been MasterCard’s chief executive officer since March 1997. 

In a speech in April to his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), he outlined what he called the “grand plan” he had at the start of his career. “Get with somebody good. Get with somebody global. Do something that interested me. That’s it. So, don’t stress if you haven’t got a detailed plan for your life. Anyone can have a good idea or plan; what makes it great is execution.” He also outlined six mantras for good leadership including a sense of urgency, a sense of balance, the courage to take thoughtful risks, be competitively paranoid, develop a global view and do well and do good.

Presently, he is also the chairman of the US-India Business Council (USIBC) representing more than three hundred of the largest international companies investing in India. 


Shantanu Narayen, CEO Adobe Systems: Shantanu Narayen is President, chief executive officer, director of Adobe Systems. He joined Adobe in January 1998 as Vice President and General Manager of engineering technology group. In January 2005, Narayen was promoted to President and chief operating office. In 2009, Narayen was considered one of “The TopGun CEOs” by Brendan Wood International, an advisory agency and in 2011, US President Barack Obama appointed him as a member of his Management Advisory Board.

He grew up in Hyderabad, India, the second son of a mother who taught American literature and a father who ran a plastics company. Narayen holds a Bachelor of Science in electronics engineeringfrom Osmania University in India, a Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Science in computer science from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

For leaders like Satya Nadella, Rajeev Suri, Shantanu Narayen and now Sunder Pichai, who are of Indian descent, factors such as quality education, technical expertise, ability to work in difficult situations and managerial skills have helped them lead some of the most powerful tech companies in the world. But there’s something more special about these India-born CEOs. As Leonid Bershidsky, tech analyst for Bloomberg View writes, “Most importantly, these Indian managers get to the top because they persevere. They have had the patience to rise through the ranks at their companies, learning their business thoroughly from every angle.”