India has emerged as a key player in the global economic market, becoming the ninth largest trading partner of the United States in 2021. Bilateral trade for U.S.-Indian goods reached $159.1 billion in 2021, and Indian gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow by 5.9% in 2023.
Indian chief executive officers (CEOs) head some of the biggest companies in the world when ranked by market capitalization, with a presence that’s heavily felt in the technology (tech) sector. For example, under the direction of CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s market capitalization reached $2.27 trillion as of May 2023. Meanwhile, Indian-American executive Sundar Pichai has steered Alphabet (formerly Google) to a market cap of $1.36 trillion.
What else do the top Indian CEOs have in common? Many, though not all, are Indian-born and pursued higher education in the U.S. They’re all considered innovators in their respective fields, and finally, the vast majority are male.
Here’s a closer look at what sets the top Indian CEOs apart. All information is accurate as of May 2023.
- Indian CEOs lead some of the world’s largest companies by market capitalization, with a heavy concentration in the tech sector.
- Many of the top Indian CEOs hold advanced degrees from U.S. colleges and universities.
- Indian CEOs are increasingly becoming key players in Silicon Valley, though women continue to be underrepresented within this demographic.
- A number of top Indian CEOs have amassed sizable personal fortunes thanks to the success of their companies.
Chairman and CEO, Microsoft (MSFT)
Satya Nadella is the CEO of Microsoft, having assumed the role in February 2014 following the departure of Steve Ballmer. In 2021, he took over the role of chairman from John W. Thompson.
Born in Hyderabad, India, Nadella joined Microsoft in 1992 and holds a bachelor’s degree from Mangalore University, as well as a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Nadella ranked sixth on Forbes’ Innovative Leaders list in 2019 and 40th on its Powerful People list in 2018.
CEO, Google and Alphabet (GOOGL)
Sundar Pichai joined Google in 2004, helping first with the development of Google Toolbar and later Google Chrome. He became the CEO of Google in 2015, adding the title of Alphabet CEO to his resume in 2019.
Pichai grew up in Chennai, India, studying at the Indian Institute of Technology before earning a master’s degree from Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School. In 2022, he received executive compensation totaling $226 million, making him one of the highest-paid Indian CEOs and corporate heads overall.
CEO, Novartis AG (NVS)
Novartis is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and since 2018, it’s been headed by American-born Vasant “Vas” Narasimhan. With a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, a master’s degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a doctor of medicine degree from Harvard University, Narasimhan’s background is well-suited to the role.
Throughout his career, Narasimhan has focused on improving human health. Most recently, he was named chair of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). In Fortune’s 2015 40 Under 40 list, Narasimhan ranked number seven.
Narasimhan’s appointment followed the previous CEO’s departure for Silicon Valley, which has seen an influx of Indian-born CEOs in recent years. Overall, people of Indian origin make up 6% of the Silicon Valley workforce.
Chair and CEO, Adobe (ADBE)
Shantanu Narayen joined Adobe in 1998 as vice president and general manager of its engineering technology group. In 2005, he became company president and chief operating officer (COO), assuming the CEO role in 2007. In 2017, Narayen was named chairman of the board.
Under his direction, Adobe has become an innovator in the cloud computing space. In 2020, Narayen ranked number eight on Fortune’s list of Businesspersons of the Year. He has also been named a top CEO by Glassdoor and Barron’s. In the first quarter (Q1) of 2023, Adobe reported record revenue of $4.66 billion under Narayen’s leadership.
Chairman and CEO, IBM (IBM)
Arvind Krishna’s career at IBM spans more than 30 years, culminating with his acceptance of the CEO role in 2020 and being named chairman in 2021. Some of his most notable accomplishments with the company include the $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat and his work on the development of blockchain technology.
Born in West Godovari, India, Krishna was educated at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur before earning a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2021, he topped CRN’s list of the 100 Most Influential Executives, thanks to his dedicated efforts to make IBM a leader in the cloud computing space.
CEO, Starbucks (SBUX)
Laxman Narasimhan is one of the newest Indian CEOs to make the list, taking on the role of Starbucks chief executive in March 2023. He was named incoming CEO in September 2022, following the announcement of CEO and founder Howard Schultz’s departure.
While Narasimhan’s tenure with Starbucks has been short so far, he has already proved his abilities in leadership roles. He served as CEO of PepsiCo’s Latin America business and later its global chief commercial officer. From 2019 to 2022, he headed up multinational consumer goods company Reckitt.
CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX)
Vertex CEO Reshma Kewalramani joined the pharmaceutical company in 2017 and is the only female chief executive to be included in this list. Thanks to her leadership and guidance, Vertex ranked second on the list of The Commonwealth Institute’s Top Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts in 2021.
Born in Mumbai, India, Kewalramani received her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine. She is the first woman to head a major biotech company in the U.S. In 2022, the second full year of her tenure, Kewalramani received just under $16 million in compensation.
CEO, Micron Technology (MU)
Sanjay Mehrotra joined Micron in 2017, following the sale of SanDisk, the company he co-founded in 1988. During his time at SanDisk, he was able to grow the venture into a Fortune 500 company.
Originally from Kanpur, India, Mehrotra earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He’s also a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Program (SEP). As CEO, Mehrotra has been challenged by supply chain issues and an increasing interest in artificial intelligence (AI) but remains confident about the company’s long-term prospects.
President and CEO, Cadence (CDNS)
Anirudh Devgan became CEO of Cadence after serving as its president. Before joining the company in 2012, Devgan was a corporate vice president and member of the executive staff at Magma Design Automation.
Devgan is a leader in electronic design automation and has won numerous awards for his work in the field. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, as well as a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. Under Devgan’s direction, Cadence is projecting a 14% growth rate for 2023 following a stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings report.
CEO, Palo Alto Networks (PANW)
Nikesh Arora joined Palo Alto Networks in 2018, stepping into the role of chairman and CEO following his tenure as CEO of SoftBank. While heading up SoftBank, Arora was one of the world’s highest-paid executives.
Since assuming his leadership role at Palo Alto Networks, its stock price has more than doubled, and Arora is optimistic about where the company is headed. Part of his strategy has centered on the acquisition of smaller companies while minimizing debt loads in order to boost profitability and remain competitive in the cybersecurity space.
What is the average salary of a CEO in India?
The median CEO salary in India is $427,962, according to Salary.com. The typical salary for Indian CEOs ranges from $211,969 to $863,927, though some company heads may earn higher or lower compensation.
Who is the highest-paid CEO in India?
As of 2023, the highest-paid CEOs in India included HCL Technologies CEO C Vijayakumar, Infosys CEO Salil Parekh, and Tech Mahindra CEO CP Gurnani. Vijayakumar is one of the highest-earning CEOs in India with an annual package of Rs 130 crore, including long-term incentives. That translates to just shy of $16 million USD.
Who are some prominent Indian CEOs in the U.S.?
Some of the most prominent Indian CEOs in the United States include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Alphabet (formerly Google) CEO Sundar Pichai, and Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan. Many top Indian CEOs work in Silicon Valley, heading companies in the tech and financial services industries.
Who is the youngest CEO in India?
India boasts a number of young CEOs and entrepreneurs, including Sreelakshmi Suresh, 25, founder of eDesign and TinyLogo. She founded the former company eDesign in 2009 at the age of 11. Other notable young CEOs include Tilak Mehta, who at 16 runs Papers n Parcels, and Akhilendra Sahu, the 20-year-old head of ASTNT Technologies.
Which top companies have Indian CEOs?
Indian CEOs lead some of the largest companies in the tech sector, including Microsoft, Google, and Adobe. Novartis, Starbucks, and Welltower (WELL) are other well-known companies that are headed by Indian-born or Indian-American CEOs.
The Bottom Line
The top Indian CEOs are making waves, especially in the tech sector. While many of the companies included here are established leaders, others are up-and-coming.
Overall, the number of Indian CEOs filling executive roles is encouraging. But the lack of top female Indian CEOs illustrates a continuing need for increased diversity and inclusion.