IBM tapped Arvind Krishna as its next CEO last week. And this week WeWork confirmed it hired Sandeep Mathrani as its new chief executive. They join a growing number of global CEOs of Indian origin, according to social media, news reports and online searching (incidentally, Google is run by an Indian).
Here’s a list of Indian American CEOs:
Shantanu Narayen, Adobe
Sundar Pichai, Alphabet, the parent company of Google
Satya Narayana Nadella, Microsoft
Rajeev Suri, Nokia
Punit Renjen, Deloitte
Vasant “Vas” Narasimhan, Novartis
Ajaypal “Ajay” Singh Banga, Mastercard
Ivan Manuel Menezes, Diageo
Niraj S. Shah, Wayfair
Sanjay Mehrotra, Micron
George Kurian, NetApp
Nikesh Arora, Palo Alto Networks
Dinesh C. Paliwal, Harman International Industries
A disclaimer that this is hardly complete or exhaustive. Some are the children of Indian immigrants.
To be sure, there is a risk of reading into one group’s success as a case of Indian exceptionalism, which I truly do not believe. Rather, a series of external factors have contributed to the rise of the Indian CEO, which says more about the state of corporate America, a globalized workplace, technological disruption and the leaders who might prevail.
”It’s not a not a surprise that we’re seeing Indians rise in corporate ranks,” says Richard Herman, coauthor of a book on migrants to the U.S., Immigrant, Inc. ”Of all the immigrant groups coming in today, Indians are head-and-shoulders above others, and this is partly because of their English language skills and also the advanced education that many of them are bringing to the U.S.”
Nooyi, says Herman, is part of a growing trend where U.S. companies are being created, or led, by foreign-born individuals who bring in something special. Herman cites new research from Brigham Young University showing American workers innovate and solve problems faster when working with a ”socially distinct newcomer,” meaning, a person from another culture.
Despite these personal success stories the number of immigrants who are leading corporate America, Indian or otherwise, is still a tiny fraction. But, says Herman, ”look at where the data was ten years ago and maybe it was zero or one [Indian then].”