The article examines why do Indian trained CEOs dominate global tech roles and occupy leadership positions in large non-tech multinationals.
Overview of Indian – Origin Leadership in Global Countries
There is a growing phenomenon of Indian-origin leaders such as Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, Twitter’s Parag Agarwal, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen, IBM’s Arvind Krishna, Micron’s Sanjay Mehrotra, Palo Alto Networks’ Nikesh Arora, Arista Networks’ Jayashree Ullal, VMWare’s Raghu Raghuram, Vimeo’s Anjali Sud, NetApp’s George Kurian, GoDaddy’s Aman Bhutani, Motorola’s Sanjay Jha, Nokia’s Rajeev Suri and Harman’s Dinesh Paliwal leading the technology companies.
In non-tech organisations, Mastercard’s Ajaypal Singh Banga, Chanel’s Leena Nair, Dean Nitin Nohria at Harvard Business School, Dean Dipak Jain at INSEAD and Gita Gopinath at IMFare few Indian-origin leaders. Indian-origin people account for six per cent of Silicon Valley’s workforce. Seventy-three per cent of Indian Americans are employed in high-skilled STEMM occupations and management, business, finance, law, and higher education.
As a developing country with a 1.3 billion population, the Indian environment presents constraints, competition and paradoxes. Within a difficult home environment, Indian leaders learn to be resilient, agile, adaptable and problem solvers. The leaders develop the ability to balance polarity while dealing with paradoxes and develop the ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity which fosters entrepreneurship and creativity.
Our study was undertaken with thirty-one leaders across twenty-one organisations (as a PhD study) indicates that Indian leadership focuses on ‘frugal innovation.’ The emerging leadership competencies identified include responding with speed, value co-creation, collaboration within the ecosystem, technology vision amongst other identified competencies. These findings suggest a unique set of competencies that emerge from a country-specific context.
Key points of India’s Success to support Leadership and Entrepreneurial activity
The key learnings from Indian tech leadership are to adopt the technological changes with greater speed, explore the global marketplace for their products and services, acquire domain-specific knowledge and offer cost competitiveness or unique competitive advantage. This highlights the importance of developing an ecosystem, having an entrepreneurial mindset, supportive government policies, STEM knowledgeable workforce and infrastructure.
India is well-positioned to capture a leadership position in many areas if it strategises correctly. Pleasingly, the Government is keen to continue strongly on the reforms and liberalisation process. India’s inherent advantages include its expanding workforce and consumer markets, rapid urbanisation, growing education and skill capabilities, stronger technology adaptation, and potential for driving exports as a growth driver. India’svibrant entrepreneurial class is exploring avenues in new technologies and across the world. India is already a leader in several areas. The third-largest economy in purchasing power parity and the fastest-growing large economy of the world, it is home to some of the most thriving markets, from automobiles and aviation to mobile connectivity and renewable energy. It is also the third-largest base of start-ups in the technology sector. The Government’s policies are helping to a significant extent. Recent measures such as progress on GST, reduction in corporate income taxes for smaller companies, mission mode work on ease of doing business and sectoral actions together set a sound platform for leadership. Infrastructure programmes such as Sagarmala for port-led development, railway modernisation and up-gradation, and new roads and highways are driving new connectivities across the country. Urban development and the power sector too have received attention.
There is a unique doctrine of secured governance for self-sustained Techno-Economic growth which would give dramatic changes upturning all the procedures evolved through years of efforts and experience. It realizes the tools for bringing about effective and sustainable changes are already available in the system. They can be made more effective by defining linkages, effective response mechanisms and dynamic feedback systems. Emphasis is placed on defining relationships between sectors of growth, institutions, and government to foster coordination and create an environment that improves the system through regional strategies, technology and by taking cognizance of the myriad interdependencies.
India is the country expected to have a surplus of highly skilled financial and business services by 2030. India is projected to have a skilled worker surplus of around 245.3 million by 2030. The country is expected to have a surplus, owing to its vast supply of working-age young citizens and government programmes to boost workers’ skills to meet the issue of gaps in global employment history.
The critical challenge is technology advance which is ushering in a new economy. The fourth industrial revolution of technologies such as 3D printing, automation, robotics, big data, and emerging technologies will create new manufacturing processes. The increasing convergence of manufacturing, services and technology results in new products and new markets for a rising ‘shared economy’.
India can lead and what needs to be done to achieve the goals. There was a universal consensus that India can rapidly emerge as a global leader. Economists noted that India’s strengths — a large domestic market, a rich reservoir of human capital, steadfast commitment to reforms — can help the country emerge as an attractive business destination. While India’s capability to deliver services to the world is without question, this should be extended to improve its manufacturing capabilities as well.
Manufacturing, renewable energy, electric mobility, railways and aviation present substantial opportunities for global leadership. The Indian states will play a growing role in India’s development in the spirit of cooperative and competitive federalism. Strategic policies can change the primary, secondary and tertiary sector’s climate of a state. Experts and analysts pointed out that protectionism is not new and India should be able to build its global presence through exports. India must internalise high standards and encourage digitisation and innovation.
With these India has the potential to produce highly skilled human resources and systems for global requirements.
is a Professor at the Centre for Organisational Change and Agility, Torrens University, Adelaide
is an Associate Professor at the School of Management and Marketing, Curtin University
is a PhD candidate at the School of Management, Curtin University
Dr. P. Sekhar, Chairman, Unleashing India Global Smart Cities Panel & Micro-Tech Global Foundation