Indian names have been adorning the headlines of world news recently by making it to the top of the multinational entrepreneurships that figuratively rule our day-to-day lives. What can we learn from them?
The morning routine of an average man in any nation in the world is almost the same these days. Waking up to a preset alarm, rushing to the office clad in the metro sexual executive attire in his car, grabbing a go-cup of coffee from a café on the way using his credit card, catching up with the news of the day in the car stereo, returning calls and emails in his phone, to reach office and log in to his computer to work on the documents and work sheets that define his job. But have you noticed that the corporate offices of more than 80% of these quintessential things that cater our needs in a day are globally headed by people of Indian origin? Is it just a coincidence as the wheel of time turns or is it because people of Indian origin actually deserve to be at the top for their unique qualities?
- Believe in Karma. Ambition and perseverance are not specific to Indians. But the track records of Indians who made it to the top of tech giants show it could be of a higher degree in Indians. Unlike the Chief Executive Officers who founded their parent companies, Indian CEOs invariably started their journeys at the bottom of the tech ladder. Each of them has a long story of perseverance and untiring efforts to their credentials. Satya Nadella joined Microsoft as a technological assistant in 1992. He strived for his goals for 22 long years to ascend through the steps of Project Head, Vice- President, Senior, Executive and Corporate Vice- President to finally reach the coveted position of the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft. Indra Nooyi started with a strategy position in Pepsico in 1994 and through her master game plans directed the restructuring of the company to its current global status through over-a-decade’s effort to finally be the CEO of Pepsico and #15 in the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. Shantanu Narayen toiled as the creative head of Adobe Systems in the company’s journey to the frontlines of digital marketing for ten long years before his current position as the CEO and the President of Adobe Foundation. Anshuman Jain, the co-CEO of Deutsche Bank and Ivan Menezes, the CEO of the London- based distillery giant were also taken up by the respective companies in early 1990s as non-executives. None of them had the privilege of inheritance, pedigree or social dominion to bypass their long journey. None of them sought shortcuts in their race to supremacy. The only tools they utilized were perseverance and aspirations.
- Communication Skills. Though one should never say this out aloud, it is no secret that we have to thank the British rule for one thing in particular. Our education enterprise. Every single kid who goes to school in India gets a formal education in the global language, English. Most of the schools in India have chosen English as the medium of instruction. With 122 vernacular languages and more than 2000 dialects, English rose up as the one strong unifying element for the 1.2 billion Indians to express their thoughts. When Chinese, Koreans, Germans and Japanese capture the markets with their technological advances, the positions of power and governance seek Indian technological experts with eloquence. Nobody forgets the awkward English speech of Lei Jun at Xiaomi’s launch in India. It is not necessarily excellent oration, but the right choice of words and the right way to speak realistically that can build a good rapport with colleagues and clients. The fine line between firmness and harshness is always crucial for a leader.
- Academic Competence. It has become a trump card for the youth to quote the stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg dropping out from their schools yet succeed big time in life ultimately. The world is changing. It is not the same world when they started their journey. Everyone is competent and resourceful. To get an opening in this juncture, we need world class training as well as the name of an alma mater. Most of the Indian executives, after graduating from ace schools in India, had higher education with esteemed fellowships from world class institutions and Ivy Leagues. Though grades actually don’t matter in the future prospects of one’s career, to break into a system one needs strong academic credentials today.
- Be the Heart. Darwin could easily agree that his theory of ‘Survival of the fittest’ suits best to today’s merciless, cut-throat competition than millions of years of evolution. Every system is striving towards stability and has backup plan Bs and Cs if plan A fails just like how the body adapts and functions in congruence by the compensatory performance of the counterpart organ when a kidney, lung or eye fails. We cannot afford to lag behind even an inch lest equally qualified and skilled would replace us. So the key is ‘Be the heart’, be indispensible to the system we thrive in. Then the system will definitely nurture us and our growth. Think about Google without Gmail, Google Maps, Google Chrome, Chrome OS, Google Drive and of course Android. No wonder when Larry Page, the co- founder of Google, decided to form Alphabet Inc, a conglomerate of all the companies owned and tied up to Google, he didn’t think twice in making his Product Chief Pichai Sundararajan as the new Chief Executive Officer of Google. With 70 patents on non-volatile memory design and flash storage systems, can anyone but Sanjay Mehrotra compete to the position of the CEO of SanDisk?
- Humility. “This is a very humbling day for me”, was the email that Satya Nadella sent to Microsoft employees the day after he was appointed the CEO of the company. Thanks to the long journey from middle-class families in semi-urban India, the technological executives from India always stay down-to-earth. They move with the team as one of them. If the absolutely non-geeky Padmashree Warrior could make Cisco into a $135 billion multinational technology company in just seven years through genuineness and team playing, basic humane virtues should be still the fore-runner in the game.
- Advantage India. Multiethnic background, regional imbalances, economic inequalities, overpopulation and unemployment. The very factors that we point out as India’s major hurdles in progress actually play the key role in making Indians understand the problems of the third world better and customize and emerge with products to feed the needs of the needy. With surging globalization, each system should satisfy every subset of population in the world. This was the very thought behind Android One, the economy line of electronics running Android OS conceived by Sundar Pichai of Google for the less developed countries. Understanding the high cost of overseas phone calls, Gurdeep Singh Pall, the Senior VP of Microsoft came up with Voice over Internet Protocol through Skype. None but Rajeev Suri could play the instrumental role in making Nokia Siemens Network to be the pioneer in consumer electronics hardware market by establishing its service hub in India where 900 million people use mobile phones. As Salman Rushdie once said, “You can take the boy out of Bombay; you can’t take Bombay out of the boy, you know.” Knowing the core India is, in fact, very rewarding.
Well, these qualities are not just for techies. Think about it.