Roll Call: The Indian-born CEOs Who Are Dominating US Tech

Tej Kohli says that today we can find a growing number of Indian-born CEOs at the helm of some of the world's largest public companies, and many are his fellow alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

Roll Call: The Indian-born CEOs Who Are Dominating US Tech

Back in 2015 I contributed to a Financial Times article about the rise of a new breed of Asian-born entrepreneurs.  Today we can also find a growing number of Indian-born CEOs at the helm of some of the world's largest public companies.

Four of my 'top five' are my fellow alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).  I graduated in Electrical Engineering from IIT in 1980 and was honoured when in 2018 I received their Distinguished Alumnus Award in recognition of the efforts of the Tej Kohli Foundation to solve some major global health challenges, must notably ending blindness caused by poverty.

So who are these high-flying executives who are re-shaping corporate America?  Below we list the top five CEOs of Indian ancestry who currently lead publicly traded technology companies.  To read more from this #TejTalks series of blogs please visit the Tej Kohli website or follow @MrTejKohli on Twitter.

Microsoft: Satya Nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella, 57, became CEO of Microsoft in 2014, succeeding Steve Ballmer, a long-time friend of cofounder Bill Gates.  Nadella worked at Sun Microsystems before becoming a Microsoft employee in 1992. Since becoming CEO, he's overseen a massive shift toward cloud computing via the Azure platform and a much-improved Windows 10, sending the Microsoft share price soaring.

Nadella was born in Hyderabad, a large city along the banks of the Musi River in India's Deccan Plateau. Hyderabad is known as a centre of tech, luring multinationals through special economic zones.  He attended the Naipal Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of Chicago.  

Microsoft's market capitalisation today is US$1.84 trillion.

Alphabet: Sundar Pichai

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai became CEO of Alphabet, the parent company of Google LLC in 2019, succeeding company cofounder Larry Page.  The promotion came four years after Pichai had succeeded Page as CEO of Google. One of Pichai's 'claims to fame' is his key role in the development of the Google Chrome browser.

Educated at the Indian Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of Pennsylvania, Pichai joined Google in 2004.

Like Nadella, Pichai is also a South Indian, born in Madura in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Nicknamed Athens of the East, Madura is a cultural and educational centre with seven polytechnical schools and five industrial training institutes.  

Alphabet's market capitalization today is US$1.42 trillion.

IBM: Arvind Krishna

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna

Arvind Krishna in the newest of the Indian-born big-tech CEOs in America.  His biggest 'claim to fame' was planning IBM's US$34-billion purchase of Red Hat, an open-source software company.Prior to becoming CEO, Krishna was senior vice president of cloud and cognitive software at IBM. In 2016, Wired magazine praised Krishna for his work on blockchain.

Arvind Krishna is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, as well as the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne.

Krishna was born in the northern Indian city of Dehradun in the state of Uttarakhand. It's a popular tourist destination and relies heavily on agriculture, but in the past 20 years, it's also seen a rising tech sector, thanks to the creation of software technology parks and special economic zones.

IBM's market capitalization today $107 billion.

Palo Alto Networks: Nikesh Arora

Palo Alto Networks CEO Nikesh Arora

Nikesh Arora is a former Google executive who also spent two years as president of SoftBank Group, where he became the world's highest paid executive, pocketing more than US$200 million over two years.  In 2018, Arora became CEO and chairman of Palo Alto Networks, a cybersecurity company based in California.

Arora attended the Indian Institute of Technology in Varanasi, Boston College, and Northeastern University.

He was born in Ghaziabad, which is the largest city in western Uttar Pradesh and home to several science and tech institutes.

Palo Alto Networks market capitalisation today is US$37 billion.

Adobe: Shantanu Narayen

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen

Shantanu Narayen is from Hyderabad and is in his late 50s. In 2005, Narayan was appointed as president and chief operating officer of Adobe, becoming CEO two years later.  He has since added 'chairman' to his list of titles.

Narayen was named Global Indian of the Year in 2018, and oversaw Adobe's development of a cloud-based subscription approach, generating recurring revenues.

He attended Osmania University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Bowling Green State University.

Adobe's market capitalisation today is US$233 billion.

Honourable Mentions...

Several other executives of Indian ancestry have risen to top positions in the tech world.

Agra-born Dinesh Paliwal was CEO of Harman from 2007 to 2020.  Harman develops "connected technologies" for automakers, consumers, and businesses. Its audio and connected systems are in more than 50 million automobiles.  In 2017, Samsung Electronics bought Harman International for US$8 billion.

GlobalFoundries, a Santa Clara–based semiconductor manufacturer, was headed by Sanjay Jha from 2014 to 2018. Jha, who was born in Bhagalpur in the Indian state of Bihar, is also a former chairman and CEO of Motorola Mobility.

Finnish telecommunications giant Nokia's CEO was Rajeev Suri until he stepped down after 25 years with the company in 2020.

One of the few female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company, Sonia Syngal, was born in India before immigrating to Canada as a child. She heads Gap Inc., which owns the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy brands.

Indra Nooyi, who was born in Chenna in South India, is the former long-term CEO of Pepsi. She also joined the board of Amazon last year.

And Mastercard's president and CEO, Ajaypal Singh Banga, is a Sikh who was born in Pune, Maharashtra, he's also chairman of the U.S.-India Business Council.


Tej Kohli’s blog is #TejTalks and he is also the author of Rebuilding You: The Philanthropy Handbook.  Tej Kohli posts on Twitter as @MrTejKohli.