Parag Agrawal and other desi ‘bright students’ at MNC power club

As Twitter selects an Indian-origin CEO, a look at those who made it to the coveted C-suites at leading global corporates

Parag Agrawal, newly appointed CEO of Twitter

The nation celebrates every time an Indian origin professional takes a top post in multinational companies. Social media is flooded with articles on the honcho who just made it, as well as memes on ‘Sharmaji ka beta’ — the proverbial ‘ideal’ Indian child who slogs it out in school, gets into IIT, moves abroad for higher studies, and has a sparkling resume.

There was much cheer when Twitter, on Monday, announced that Jack Dorsey is stepping down as CEO, to be succeeded by Parag Agrawal. We take a look at Agrawal and 14 other of his Indian-origin peers who have made it big in the world of MNCs.

Parag Agrawal, Twitter

The 37-year-old IIT-Bombay alumnus holds an MS and PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University. Agrawal joined Twitter in 2011, and took over as its Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in October 2017. Twitter credits him with leading the company’s technical strategy, improving its “development velocity while advancing the state of machine learning across the company”.

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He was also the company’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”. Media reports said the new Twitter chief will receive bonuses, restricted stock units and performance-based stock units apart from $1 million in annual pay.

Dorsey was all praise for Agrawal. “He’s been my choice for some time given how deeply he understands the company and its needs. Parag has been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around,” said Dorsey. “He’s curious, probing, rational, creative, demanding, self-aware, and humble. He leads with heart and soul, and is someone I learn from daily. My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep.”

Arvind Krishna, IBM

The IBM Chairman and CEO holds a BTech from IIT-Kanpur and a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He developed a 30-year career at IBM, which credits him with leading a series of bold transformations and delivering proven business results. Notably, he drove the IT giant’s $34-billion acquisition of Red Hat.  In January 2020, Krishna succeeded Ginni Rometty as IBM’s CEO.

Sundar Pichai, Google

The Google CEO, who is also the CEO of its parent Alphabet, is the pride of Chennai, where he was born and grew up in. An alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur, Pichai holds an MS in Engineering and Materials Science from Stanford University, and an MBA from the Wharton School. He started his career with Google in 2004.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft

The 55-year-old took over as CEO of the Seattle-based technology giant in June 2014. Born in Hyderabad, Nadella holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology, Karnataka. Further, he holds an MS in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. He started his career with Sun Microsystems before moving to Microsoft.

Shantanu Narayen, Adobe

Also born in Hyderabad, Narayen holds a bachelor’s degree from Osmania University, Hyderabad, and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined Adobe in 1998 and took over as its CEO in 2007. He is credited with leading the company’s transformation over the years. Prior to Adobe, he worked with Silicon Valley start-up Measurex Automation Systems and tech behemoth Apple. He also co-founded digital photo sharing company Pictra.

Ajay Banga, Mastercard

The Executive Chairman of Mastercard holds a bachelor’s degree from Delhi University and a post-grad degree from IIM-Ahmedabad. Prior to Mastercard, he worked with Citigroup and Nestle. Banga is a co-founder of The Cyber Readiness Institute, Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce and a trustee of the US Council for International Business.

Jayshree Ullal, Arista Networks

The CEO of Arista Networks, an American billionaire, holds a master’s degree in Engineering Management from Santa Clara University. She was born in London and raised in New Delhi. Arista credits Ullal with leading the company “to a historic and successful IPO in June 2014, from zero to a multibillion-dollar business”.

George Kurian, NetApp

Born in Kottayam, Kerala, Curian holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University. He joined NetApp in 2011 and was named its CEO in June 2015. Earlier, he worked with other tech companies such as Akamai Technologies and Oracle.

Nikesh Arora, Palo Alto Networks

The Ghaziabad-born is an alumnus of IIT-BHU and Boston College, Northeastern University. Arora has been the CEO of Palo Alto Networks since June 2018. He had earlier worked with Google and SoftBank Group.

Sanjay Mehrotra, Micron Technology

The President and CEO of Micron Technology holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Program. After co-founding SanDisk in 1988 and serving as its President and CEO till 2016, Mehrotra was named to the top post at Micron Technology in 2017.

Laxman Narasimhan, Reckitt Benckiser

The CEO of Reckitt Benckiser holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the College of Engineering, University of Pune, an MA in German and International Studies from the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School. Prior to joining Reckitt, Narasimhan worked with PepsiCo and McKinsey & Co.

Anjali Sud, Vimeo

The 38-year-old CEO of Vimeo, an online video platform, holds a BSc in Finance and Management from the Wharton School, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. The Indian-origin American was elevated to the current position in 2017, before which she was Vimeo’s General Manager and Head of Marketing.

Revathi Advaithi, Flex

The CEO of Flex, a manufacturing major, holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from BITs-Pilani, and an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.  Advaithi assumed her current role in February 2019, and is focused on “driving technology innovation, supply chain, and responsible, sustainable manufacturing solutions across various industries and end markets” for Flex.

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