Pichai, Nadella and other Indian CEOs helming global organisations

SOURCE: Josh Edelson / AFP
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the Google I/O 2019 keynote session at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California on May 7, 2019.

By U2B Staff 

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Many Indian CEOs are at the helm of the world’s top organisations across a variety of industries, suggesting that corporate organisations are growing more culturally diverse.

In the 90s we saw Indian-origin individuals such as Ramani Ayer, former CEO and chairman of Fortune 500 company The Hartford Group, at the helm, and in the 2000s, former CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi further broke the glass ceiling by being the first foreign-born CEO and the first woman to lead PepsiCo Inc.


With globalisation and technology further bolstering diversity in the modern workplace, we can only expect more minorities and people of colour to helm top organisations in the future.

We take a look at five Indian-origin CEOs and their academic credentials:

Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is arguably one of the most recognisable Indian figures in the West to have come from India, but the 48-year-old came from humble beginnings, making his ascent to the top, and journey from Chennai to Mountain View, nothing short of inspiring.

Pichai came from a middle-class family; as a child, he slept with his brother in the living room of the cramped family home and didn’t have much access to technology.

Despite that, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. Following this, he was awarded a scholarship to get a master’s from Stanford University and also holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Satya Nadella

indian ceos
Microsoft CEO Satya Narayana Nadella speaks during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), on the eve of the world’s biggest mobile fair, on February 24, 2019 in Barcelona. Source: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP

Satya Nadella was appointed as Microsoft’s CEO back in 2014, and has a career spanning over two decades at the tech titan.

Nadella was born in Hyderabad, India and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Mangalore University, a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MBA from the prestigious Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.

His tenure as Microsoft’s CEO has been dubbed “wildly successful”, with the company’s stock prices skyrocketing after he took the helm, in addition to successfully transforming the organisation’s culture. 

Arvind Krishna

Arvind Krishna is IBM’s newly minted CEO who assumed his role on April 6, 2020.

According to IBM, over Krishna’s 30-year career at IBM, he “led a series of bold transformations and delivered proven business results”. This includes driving the successful US$34 billion acquisition of Red Hat – the largest software acquisition – that has defined the hybrid cloud market. 

He has an undergraduate degree in technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IITK) and a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Shantanu Narayen

Shantanu Narayen is Adobe’s Chairman, President and CEO. he was born in Hyderabad, India and has spent over two decades at the company.

Before working at Adobe, he was a product developer at Apple and co-founded a photo-sharing startup called Pictra. Forbes notes that in 2011, President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Management Advisory Board.

The 57-year-old has a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering from Osmania University, a master’s degree in computer science from Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. 


Ajay Banga

Indian-origin CEO Ajay S. Banga will be stepping from the top job at Mastercard next year. Source: MONEY SHARMA/AFP

Ajay Banga is the President and CEO at MasterCard. Before joining the company in 2009, he served as the CEO of Citigroup Asia Pacific. 

Previously, he was with Citigroup in 1996 and held a variety of senior management roles in the US, Asia Pacific, and the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. 

Not unlike the other Indian CEOs in this list, he has a graduate degree – an MBA – from the Indian Institute of Management. He previously obtained a BA in Economics from Delhi University.