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Indian-Origin Arvind Krishna Becomes New CEO of IBM

With Krishna’s elevation as IBM’s chief executive, the global IT giant adds to the growing list of Indian-origin executives at the helm of some of the biggest multinational companies.


Indian-origin technology executive Arvind Krishna has been named as the Chief Executive Officer of US-based IT giant International Business Machines (IBM), succeeding Virginia Rometty, who had been IBM’s Chairman, President and CEO, and will continue as Executive Chairman of the Board and serve through the end of the year till her retirement.

Krishna will lead as company CEO and member of the Board of Directors effective April 6. With Krishna’s elevation as IBM’s chief executive, the global IT giant adds to the growing list of Indian-origin executives at the helm of some of the biggest multinational companies. He joins the club that includes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, Cognizant CEO Francisco D’Souza, PepsiCo’s former CEO Indra Nooyi and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen.

Rometti described Krishna as the “right CEO for the next era at IBM” and “well-positioned to lead the company into the cloud and cognitive era.”

Krishna had joined IBM in 1990 and has an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is also the recipient of distinguished alumni awards from IITK and the University of Illinois, is the co-author of 15 patents, has been the editor of IEEE and ACM journals, and has published extensively in technical conferences and journals.

He currently leads the IBM business unit that provides the cloud and data platform on which the company’s clients build the future. His responsibilities include IBM Research, IBM Cloud, and IBM’s Security and Cognitive Applications businesses. In addition, he drove the company’s acquisition of Red Hat and oversees its IBM-Red Hat synergy efforts. He also guides IBM’s overall strategy in core and emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, blockchain, cloud platform services, data-driven solutions, and nanotechnology.

Previously, he was general manager of IBM Systems and Technology Group’s development and manufacturing organization, responsible for developing and engineering advanced semiconductor materials through microprocessors, servers, and storage systems.

Prior to that, Krishna was general manager of IBM Information Management, which included database, information integration, and big data software solutions. He served as vice president of strategy for IBM Software. He also held several key technical roles in IBM Software and IBM Research, where he pioneered IBM’s security software business.

“I am thrilled and humbled to be elected as the next Chief Executive Officer of IBM, and appreciate the confidence that Ginni and the Board have placed in me. IBM has such talented people and technology that we can bring together to help our clients solve their toughest problems,” Krishna said in a press statement released by IBM.

Rometty said Krishna is a “brilliant technologist who has played a significant role in developing our key technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud, quantum computing and blockchain. He is also a superb operational leader, able to win today while building the business of tomorrow.”

She mentioned how Krishna has grown IBM’s Cloud and Cognitive Software business and led the largest acquisition in the company’s history. Krishna was a “principal architect” of the company’s acquisition of Red Hat.

The IBM Board also elected James Whitehurst, IBM Senior Vice President and CEO of Red Hat, as IBM President. Whitehurst is IBM Senior Vice President and CEO of Red Hat, which was acquired by IBM in 2019. He has been an avid advocate for open software as a catalyst for business innovation.  During his tenure at Red Hat, revenue grew over eight times and market capitalization by more than 10 times.

Read more: IBM-Red Hat Deal to Influence CIO’s Cloud Decision

Whitehurst said,  “I look forward to working with Arvind, and with IBMers and Red Hatters alike, to continue to bring together the best of our companies and cultures.  I’ve had the opportunity to interact with IBMers across the company over the past few months, and I have been so impressed with the talented and dedicated team we have.  When I first joined, I said that I believe we have the opportunity to be the defining technology company of the twenty-first century.  After working with our clients, IBMers and Red Hatters over the past months, I am even more convinced of that opportunity today.”

Rometty, who became Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM in 2012, added that in both Krishna and Whitehurst, the Board has elected a “proven technical and business-savvy leadership team.”

Rometty’s tenure as a CEO was quite eventful for IBM, albeit there were ups and downs.  During her tenure she made bold changes to reposition IBM for the future, investing in high value segments of the IT market and optimizing the company’s portfolio.

GinniUnder her leadership, IBM acquired 65 companies, built out key capabilities in hybrid cloud, security, industry and data, and AI both organically and inorganically, and successfully completed one of the largest technology acquisitions in history.

She reinvented more than 50% of IBM’s portfolio, built a $21 billion hybrid cloud business and established IBM’s leadership in AI, quantum computing and blockchain, while divesting nearly $9 billion in annual revenue to focus the portfolio on IBM’s high value, integrated offerings.

“Ginni has provided outstanding leadership for IBM, substantially transforming the company and ushering in a new cloud and cognitive era,” said Michael Eskew, Lead Director of the IBM Board of Directors.  “She has taken bold strategic actions to reposition IBM for the future, shedding businesses and growing new units organically and through acquisition, all while achieving record diversity and employee engagement and setting the industry standard for responsible technology ethics and data stewardship.”

“With the strong foundation now established by Ginni for IBM’s future, the Board is confident that Arvind is the right CEO to lead IBM,” Eskew continued.  “The Board ran a world-class succession process and found in Arvind a leader with the business acumen, operational skills, and technology vision needed to guide IBM in this fast-moving industry.”

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