India’s leaders take Silicon Valley by storm

They invented zero more than 1,500 years ago and now, in the 21st century, Indians have taken over the reins of the technological giants of the planet: Microsoft, Alphabet, IBM, Adobe and, more recently, Twitter.

The facts confirm that Silicon Valley loves the style of management Indian. Why? What does it consist of? “Being an Indian today is a great advantage. People expect us to be good engineers and good managers. Indians are, in fact, a cultural part of Silicon Valley today. And that in the eighties they suffered severe discrimination ”, declared the Indian-American businessman Vivek Wadhwa, who teaches at Stanford (USA).


“Being an Indian today is a great advantage; we are good engineers and managers ”, says Vivek Wadhwa

According to their research, 16% of the start ups has a founder of Indian origin. The Migration Policy Institute has calculated that Indians make up 6% of the US population and there are nearly 200,000 residents in San Francisco Bay, most of them working in the technology sector.

Kandar Mehta, an Indian professor at IESE, points out how there is a certain political attraction between the US and India: they are two democracies. “This is what makes a difference if the Indians are compared to their neighbors in Pakistan or Bangladesh. Indian students love America. Many of them already know in advance the location of all North American cities, because they dream of going there one day ”. According to Mehta, there is another characteristic that Americans cherish very much: loyalty. “Notice that those who reach the highest positions have been with the company for decades.”

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Likewise, few like them know how to manage chaos and flexibility. They are familiar with diversity. They come from a country with 29 languages, where you have to adapt to survive. “The Indian wants to avoid confrontations. Work does not have to end up causing conflicts ”, recalls the IESE professor.

Sumant Sinha, CEO of ReNew Power, an Indian renewables firm, put it this way: “If you can run a business in India, you can do it anywhere. It is not that Indians are more creative than the rest, but it is that they have always been used to operating in complex, volatile and changing environments. They know what it means to move with poor-quality infrastructure, poor funding, corruption, and bureaucracy. They have the ability to overcome obstacles, even lack of resources. All this supposes the indian way of management”.


99.2% of the candidates who aspire to enter one of the prestigious Indian Technological Institutes are left out

Vindo Khosla, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems, gives the keys. “A very strong basic education and technical knowledge are the keys to the technological ecosystem. In this sense, entrepreneurial skills and work ethic, growing up with scarce resources, gives Indians a comparative advantage ”.

There is a word in Hindi, Ju­gaad, which is often mentioned to summarize the essence of this type of management. It defines an innovation that creates efficient solutions with contained costs. In companies, this translates into frugal, flexible thinking that generates growth.

There is a certain stereotype that an Indian will be successful if he leaves his mark on where he performs his job. “They know what poverty is. What it is to suffer. It is not enough to get rich, you have to do things right. There is a sense of duty. The Indian knows where he comes from. You can leave India, but India never leaves you ”, sums up Sudhanshu Karandikar, director of India Desk in Spain.

An Indian Sikh man displays a new 2000 rupee note at a bank in Amritsar on November 10, 2016. Long queues formed outside banks in India as they reopened for the first time since the government's shock decision to withdraw the two largest denomination notes from circulation. / AFP PHOTO / NARINDER NANU

A Sikh with a 2,000 rupee banknote with the effigy of Gandhi

Narinder Nanu / AFP

At the same time, the success of Indian executives cannot be understood without knowing the weight that society places on their education. “Mathematics is part of the background of an Indian, and they know from a young age that they are essential for life, they cannot afford to hate them, ”recalls Karandikar. “The obsession of the Indian middle class is that the best thing you can give your children is education. They are very demanding of themselves. But in the end the Indian always shares the success of his company with his team ”. This is what makes Vineet Nayar, an executive at the digital services firm HCL, say that “for an Indian, the employee comes first, then the customer.” A motto that is in the antipodes of the American capitalist creed and that perhaps, precisely because of that, now works.

An extensive article from the prestigious Harvard Business Review highlights of the Indian executives in particular “their sense of mission, the fact of investing in their people and their job development, their long-term motivation. The manager from India presents itself more as a guide and teaching than as a planner and organizer ”.

A survey carried out by this publication among Indian executives highlighted how more than half of them set as a priority “charting the way to the future”, “being a source of inspiration to lead the changes” and “supporting the selection of talents ”. On the other hand, only 22% established as a basic principle of management “understanding your competitors and the market.”

One of the pioneering studies on the management Indian is in Leadership style of indian managers: a comparative analisis , written by scholars at Southern New Hampshire University. After working out various parameters, they come to the following conclusion: “The Indians are watchmakers rather than time sellers. They demonstrate their willingness to lead their companies for future success and are not only concerned with the present. They accept their responsibility if the results are poor. They practice humility. And if the company does better than expected, they attribute it to luck. “


16% of US start-ups have an Indian founder, according to Wadhwa calculations

The renowned IIT and IIM, the country’s advanced technological institutes, are essential in the training of this pool of managers. Today there are more than twenty in the territory. For Professor Mehta, “the Indian knows that he has to study to do something in society. Family, relatives … there is enormous social pressure to get results. It is true that these schools are not very conducive to creativity, but they educate managers to perform in a difficult environment ”.

The system is very demanding, but it foresees scholarships and very contained costs. “It’s true. There is a greater tendency to train employees with human values ​​than entrepreneurs. It’s not just about getting in, but that if you don’t give up, they’ll kick you out, ”asserts Sudhanshu Karandikar. “When I attended one of them, there were a million candidates for 600 places,” he recalls. Today the data speak of 2.2 million young candidates and only 16,000 privileged people with a place. This means that, on average, 99.2% stay outside these centers. Of the 0.8% that does succeed, the future executive destined to make Wall Street fall in love will come out.


Satya Nadella


He has been with the firm since Bill Gates, a $ 2.5 billion capitalization colossus, since 1992.


Sundar Pichai


He is the highest paid executive in the US, with $ 280 million annually. He started at Google in 2004.


Shantanu Narayen


His career at Adobe began in 1998. He has served as CEO since 2007.

Arvind Krishna, de IBM

Arvind Krishna


The son of a military man, trained at a prestigious IIT in India, he joined IBM in 1990.


Parag Agrawal


At 37, he is the youngest company executive among the SP500 companies.


Indra Nooyi


Pepsi CEO from 2006 to 2018. According to Forbes, among the 100 most powerful women in the world.

Ajaypal Singh |

Ajaypal Singh Banga


He has been for a decade, until 2020, the CEO of the banking group.

Nikesh Arora of Palo Alto Networks

Nikesh Arora

Palo Alto Networks

He was previously president of the Softbank group and at Google. He studied at the IIT in Benares.

Jayshree Ullal, de Arista Networks

Jayshree Ullal

Arista Networks

He was born in London, but grew up in New Delhi. He also worked at AMD and Cisco.

Sanjay Mehrotra

Sanjay Mehrotra

Micron Technology

He was previously the founder of SanDisk and is president of the Semiconductor Industry Association.

The founders have already left the ship

As Indians seize power in the big Wall Street firms, the tech giants are slowly learning to live without the charisma and energy of their founders. Apple is a case apart, because Steve Jobs died in 2011 of an illness.

But just go over the list. Jeff Bezos left his executive duties at Amazon this summer after 27 years to focus on other businesses, from space to biology.

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin formally exited Alphabet in 2019 to Sundai Pichai. More eventful has been the departure of Bill Gates from Microsoft. He stepped back as CEO in 2000, took another step back in 2008, finally focusing on philanthropy and abruptly breaking his relationship with the company this year and divorcing his wife.

Mark Zuckerberg remains the founder and CEO of Facebook. It is the exception among large technology companies.

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India’s leaders take Silicon Valley by storm