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Satya Nadella, Microsoft's (MSFT) Next Likely Chief, Underscores Rise Of Indians In U.S. High-Tech

Publication Date: 
February 01, 2014
International Business Times News
Palash Ghosh

Rock Center Fellow Vivek Wadhwa comments on the prevalence of Indian men and women in executive positions for The International Business News Times.

The possible ascension of Satya Nadella as the next chief executive officer of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) underlines the extraordinary rise of Indians in the high tech industry in the U.S. According to reports, Microsoft's board of directors is leaning towards choosing Nadella, the head of its fast-growing and highly profitable enterprise-computing unit and a 22-year veteran of the company, to succeed Steve Ballmer, who is retiring. The Seattle Times reported that in the last fiscal year, Nadella's division generated $8.2 billion in operating income and revenues of $20.3 billion. Prior to running the cloud-computing division, Nadella, who is only 47, led research and development for the company's Online Services unit.

But the Indian-born Nadella has no experience as a CEO of a large and multi-dimensional company like Microsoft – yet some analysts don't think that's a hindrance to his possible elevation to the zenith of the corporation. "I don't see that as a negative," said Norman Young, a senior stock analyst at Morningstar investment research. "In many organizations, a division the size of [the one Nadella runs] would be its own company. He's got charisma, employees like him, and he's got the acumen to lead the company. Not having been a CEO is not necessarily a minus here."


As long ago as 1999, Bapat reported, a study by Anna-Lee Saxenian, the dean of the UC-Berkeley School of Information, revealed that between 1980 and 1998, Indians founded 7 percent of all tech start-ups in Silicon Valley. In 2007, a subsequent survey by Saxenian, in tandem with professor Vivek Wadhwa and professor F. Daniel Siciliano of Stanford Law School, discovered that fully one-fourth of the start-ups in the whole U.S., and more than half in Silicon Valley were founded by immigrants, led by Indians. Despite the fact that Indians accounted for less than 1 percent of the entire U.S. population at the time, they founded 13.4 percent of Silicon Valley's start-ups and 6.5 percent of all start-ups nationwide.


However, while more than one-third of Microsoft's workforce are reportedly of Indian descent, Indians have yet to occupy senior management positions in the company in large numbers (perhaps until now). The aforementioned Wadhwa told International Business Times, said that he was "surprised" by the possibility that Nadella might soon assume the helm at Microsoft. "Microsoft has long been an insular company -- with very few Indians in senior executive roles," he said in an interview. "Given that it is one of the best known companies on the planet, and this is such an important role, I was surprised to read this news."

Wadhwa also indicated that in Silicon Valley, one finds Indians in senior positions in practically all tech firms other than Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), which also has been insular like Microsoft. "[Indians] have achieved extraordinary success," he added. "My research team had documented that 15 percent of Silicon Valley's start-ups have an Indian CEO or CTO [chief technology officer]."