Arvind Krishna was recently named as the Chief Executive Officer of IBM, replacing longtime CEO Virginia Rometty. With this Krishna joined the coveted Silicon Valley CEO list dominated by Indian-origin CEOs. Let’s understand “What Makes Indians Become Global CEOs”?
Whether it is Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, Adobe Systems – all are helmed by CEOs of Indian origin. In fact, 30% of the Fortune 500 Companies have Indians as their CEOs.
So what is it that makes Indians become global CEOs? Is it a blend of their early upbringing, education or their family values?
Survival of the fittest
While there’s competition all over the world, there’s nothing like what Indians face. The numbers speak – for instance, 1.2 million appear each year for just 11,000 IIT seats. IIM Ahmedabad admits one student for every 400 applications.
The State Bank of India had advertised for entry-level probationary officers last year. On average, they received 550 applications for every position.
When you live in a country of over 1 billion people, everything, from school admissions to overseas visa, boils down to numbers.
Most of these Indian-origin CEOs, whether it is Sundar Pichai or Arvind Krishna, are alumni of IIT. They have survived a high level of competition to get where they are and this has instilled in them perseverance, focus, self-analysis and a never-say-die attitude.
Diversity and Inclusion
India holds one of the most diverse populace in the world. As a result, most Indians grow up to be well adjusted and inclusive. And when they venture out to foreign lands, they are comfortable with the diversity they come across. This helps them thrive, even in alien environments.
Acceptance of uncertainty and ambiguity
Whether it is the unpredictability of weather or the unreliability of infrastructure, most Indians weather all kinds of uncertain situations. Over time, they develop resilience and the ability to adapt to systems that may or may not function optimally. Besides, they are famous for finding innovative( jugaad) solutions.
Importance of quality education
Indians have always strived for academic excellence. And even though education in India has drastically taken a turn from learning to a more grade-based model, Indians still consider education in the highest regard. No wonder, Indian immigrants are among the most highly educated in the US. According to Pew, 77.5% Indians had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2016, as compared to 31.6% of native-born Americans.
STEM Education, with its focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths is a critical component of the Indian education system. It creates a pool of critical thinkers, problem-solvers and next-generation innovators. Not surprising then that at the graduate level, over the last few decades, a sizable number of Indian students have filled the gap left by fewer Americans studying computer science and engineering.
The Indian culture is extremely family-oriented. In fact, that shows in the percentage of India-made leaders citing a family member as a role model. The role of the family in shaping values and as a support during struggles is much higher in India compared to the Western world. Both Indra Nooyi, former Chairperson and CEO of Pepsico, and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, have often spoken of the role their mothers have played on their upbringing and aspirations. In most cases, an Indian grows up in a stable family environment that helps him/her pursue their ambition.
When Ms. Nooyi was named the CEO of PepsiCo, her well-wishers flocked to her mother’s house in India to convey their wishes.
In conclusion of What Makes Indians Become Global CEOs:
This exposure, to the ecosystem of population induced competition, ethnic diversity, importance of academics and strong family values combined with the challenges which the uncertain infrastructure and an unpredictable state poses, is rare in the west, making Indians the ‘poster child’ of family values, humility and resilience and perhaps the catalyst to becoming the Global CEOs.