A middle-class upbringing, with its emphasis on education, the rigour and discipline instilled in schools and colleges in India and American meritocracy are propelling an increasing number of Indian-origin individuals to the top of US companies.
"I was reminded from childhood that education was the only salvation, the only security you had, the one thing nobody could take away from you," recalls Anil Menon, president of smart + connected communities at Cisco. His father worked in a telecom company, his mother was a homemaker and his life in Bombay those days was "typically middle-class", says Menon, one of the senior-most executives in Cisco.
The milieu Menon talks about would be familiar to many Indians who have risen through the ranks of Fortune 500 technology giants, newly-appointed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella being the latest to join the tribe. While there can be no "formula" for success and without getting into stereotypes, a look at other Indians at the forefront of top US tech companies does reveal similarities.
The kind of background Menon describes is one. "While there are Indians from wealthy segments in important positions as well, you will see a huge number of individuals from the middle-class in leading positions in different companies or running their own companies," affirms Deepak Visweswaraiah, India MD of NetApp. His firm's executive vice-president and one of those next in line for the top job is also an Indian from a similar background: George Kurian's father worked with Graphite India in Bangalore and he and his twin, Thomas, migrated to the US when they were 17. Thomas is now executive vice-president at Oracle, reporting directly to Larry Ellison and, like his brother, talked about as a CEO candidate. Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior's father was a professor, Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora's an Indian Air Force officer and Nadella's, an IAS officer.
Text: Indulekha Aravind, Business Standard
Image: Anil Menon, president of smart + connected communities at Cisco
Image Courtesy: Cisco