Why Microsoft, PepsiCo, Adobe And Other Giants Like Indian CEOs

Why Microsoft, PepsiCo, Adobe And Other Giants Like Indian CEOs
By Brand Union Studio (NY)[1] (Extracted from icon-brand.svg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) recently named Satya Nadella as its new chief executive. But the Redmond-based software giant isn’t the only large corporation that’s run by an Indian-born executive. The list is pretty long, and includes Adobe Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ:ADBE), PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE:PEP), Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) (FRA:DBK), Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc (OTCMKTS:RBGPY) (LON:RB), Mastercard Inc (NYSE:MA), GlobalFoundries, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd (TSE:FFH) (OTCMKTS:FRFHF) and Diego.

Microsoft, Adobe, Fairfax CEO studied at same public school

A quick look doesn’t really show what’s so common among Indian CEOs. Most of them are in their 40s or 50s, according to Economic Times. All of them received basic education in Indian schools before moving to the US or UK for master’s degree. A few who gained management experience in India moved directly to MNCs. What’s even more surprising is that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd (TSE:FFH) (OTCMKTS:FRFHF) chief Prem Watsa, and Adobe Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ:ADBE) chief executive Shantanu Narayen when to the same public school as kids in Hyderabad. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has built its largest development center outside the U.S. in Hyderabad.

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But other executives come from different parts of India. While Deutsche Bank co-CEO Anshu Jain is a native of Jaipur, Rajasthan, PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE:PEP) chief Indra Nooyi was born in the southern metropolis of Chennai. A few like Mastercard Inc (NYSE:MA) CEO Ajay Banga, and Diageo boss Ivan Menezes went to the coveted Indian Institute of Management. Others like Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc (OTCMKTS:RBGPY) (LON:RB)’s Rakesh Kapoor studied engineering. The diversity in their backgrounds doesn’t show a specific reason why Indians, instead of Russians, Brazilians, Malaysians or Chinese, have stupendous corporate careers.

Microsoft CEO’s humbling email

The real answer lies in a research conducted by St. Gallen University in Switzerland in 2004. The study found that Indian executives tend to build meaningful relationships with their subordinates, and are more inclined to participative management. India’s traditional leadership style nurtures an emotional bond between seniors and subordinates. There is no Indian executive known to have a dictatorial style of management.

Indra Nooyi says you have to tell employees that you value them as a person, and they have a life beyond PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE:PEP). Superiors should respect their employees rather than treating them like employee number 8539. In 2007, another study conducted by Southern New Hampshire University compared Indian executives with their U.S. counterparts. They found that Indians are a lot more humble in general. So, it wasn’t just pure chance that when Satya Nadella sent his first email to Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) employees as CEO, he started the email with, “This is a very humbling day for me.”

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