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Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai and Now Parag Agrawal: Why Indian-Origin CEOs Rule Silicon Valley

Parag Agrawal (File Photo)

Parag Agrawal (File Photo)

Parag Agrawal's induction as the new Twitter CEO is likely to be a result of all these reasons, but his personal achievements at the company is no less.

Twitter has named a new chief executive officer (CEO), after its  founder Jack Dorsey resigned a day back in a surprising turn of events. Following this, Dorsey named Parag Agrawal as the new CEO thereby ending his four-year stint as the chief technical officer of the company. The IIT Bombay graduate, who has worked with Twitter for a decade now, is one of the many Indians in the Silicon Valley including Google’s Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella of Microsoft, to take over as the CEO of a major firm. Agrawal was also the first engineer in the company to be awarded the ‘Distinguished Engineer’ title.

A report in The New York Times said Agrawal will receive an annual salary of USD 1 million, in addition to bonuses, restricted stock units and performance-based stock units. “The board ran a rigorous process considering all options and unanimously appointed Parag. He’s been my choice for some time given how deeply he understands the company and its needs. Parag has been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around. He’s curious, probing, rational, creative, demanding, self-aware, and humble. He leads with heart and soul, and is someone I learn from daily. My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep,” said Jack Dorsey.

Parag Agrawal on Monday became the latest entrant of the Indian-origin CEO and COO club of the Silicon Valley, which is a long list ranging from PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, Mastercard’s Ajay Banga, Unilever’s Harish Manwani and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, to Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen.

But what is the reason behind major global companies choosing Indians  to the helm of the companies? Experts believe there can be several. At a debate organised at the World Economic Forum in Mumbai years back, executive heads of different companies decoded the reasons behind the rising number of techies occupying key roles at the Silicon Valley.

Most of them agreed that Indian CEOs are comfortable with diversity and difference because of the atmosphere they grow up in. India has a rich cultural diversity — that of language, faith, and caste, among others. They, therefore, are more sensitive to cultural diversities, said experts. Indians, moreover, face a “semi-hostile” environment back in the country and when they come to a new atmosphere, everything seems easier.

Adding to these is one major reason why Indians get the leading roles. As per a Pew report published earlier, 77.5 per cent Indians had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2016, which was the highest among any top origin country. This was in sharp contrast to that of native-born Americans, only 31.6 per cent of who have a similar degree. Indian’s are also known for their approach of doing more with less resources, or what’s locally known as ‘jugaad’. This makes them use up lesser amount of capital and still get the job done, eventually making companies prefer Indians over natives in leading positions.

Parag Agrawal’s induction as the new Twitter CEO is likely to be a result of all these reasons, but his personal achievements at the company is no less. Agrawal was the man behind addressing Twitter’s racial bias issue last year, which allegedly preferred light-skinned faces in photos rather than dark-skinned. He also dealt with the password security issue at Twitter where a large number of passwords were leaked online. As the chief technical officer, Agrawal’s biggest project probably has been overseeing of Bleusky, the decentralised platform which was announced in December 2019.

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first published:December 05, 2021, 09:00 IST