How India Became the Factory of Silicon Valley CEOs

Ten years ago, few of us would have thought that the leaders of many of the most economically and influential companies in the world were of Indian origin. But today it is a reality.

Sundar Pichai in Google, Satya Nadella at Microsoft or Parag Agrawal (at least while Musk thinks about it) on Twitter are spearheading a prototype manager, the Indian-born CEO, who has become a constant in many other companies.

But, How did we come here? Indian immigration to the United States is a constant that has its roots almost in the very foundations of their nation. In fact, it is an aspect inherited from British colonialism. For centuries, Indian immigrants who came to the UK then did so to the United States.

During the 1950s and 1960s, a new generation of immigrants was formed. In total, the US Census currently records a population of 4.1 million American Indians, 1.4% of the total population. Their roots are above the percentage, which unfortunately is seen in the increasingly frequent cases of Indian citizens who are currently trying to enter the United States through the border with Mexico to contact one of their relatives looking of a better future.

But none of these immigration flows comes largely from the managers we are interested in in this text. The current CEOs of Twitter, Google and Microsoft were born and raised in India, to then go to the United States where he deepened his training as an engineer. They are, so to speak, signed brains of training.

More Indian CEOs than you can imagine

Indra Nooyi was CEO of PepsiCO from 2006 to 2018

Before them, however, the predecessor must be found in a woman and in a company outside of technology. Indra Nooyi was CEO of PepsiCO from 2006 to 2018setting a precedent in a company that had historically had its arms open to foreign talent and continues to do so (as an example, its current CEO is Spaniard Ramón Laguarta).

But the CEOs of the most famous BigTechs are not the only ones. Here is a list to see how common it has become:

  • Shantanu Narayen, Adobe
  • Sundar Pichai, Alphabet
  • Satya Nadella, Microsoft
  • Rajeev Suri, Nokia
  • Punishes Renjen, Deloitte
  • Vasant Narasimhan, Novartis
  • Ajaypal Singh Banga, Mastercard

Between immigration and the power of its institutions

Several elements explain how these profiles have become commonplace. Looking for commonalities, we find one: most were trained in Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT)public institutions of the country but also elite institutions founded in the 1950s and which have become an international reference.