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Indians on top: 10 global chiefs managing over $400-bn biz

Press Trust of India / New Delhi July 31, 2011, 10:36 IST

Indians are increasingly rising to the top of global corporate ladders and just 10 of them are together managing business worth over $400 billion, an amount nearly double the total exports from India in a year. So, it does not come as a surprise when CEOs are being billed as the latest and leading export from India, given the multi-national giants like Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, PepsiCo, Unilever, Adobe, Mastercard and Motorola having Indian-origin persons in their top leadership positions. International magazine Time also recently termed CEOs as India's leading export and said that the subcontinent could be "the ideal training ground for global bosses". Experts believe that Indians' inherent focus on good education and their ability to work in difficult situations is aiding to the trend and more and more Indians could rise to top positions at global companies in near future. There are about a dozen large global companies outside India with Indians or persons of Indian origin in their top management positions, while there are many more dozens at the helm of affairs at mid-level and smaller companies. Germany-based global banking major Deutsche Bank has become the latest to join this league with the recent appointment of cricket-freak Anshu Jain as its co-CEO. Jain, who once held a small stake in Indian Premier League cricket team Mumbai Indians of Ambanis, was already handling a large part of $55-billion banking giant's businesses and his elevation to the top has been long awaited. Another India-born banker Vikram Pandit was asked to head $111-billion Citigroup at a time when it was deep in financial crisis and he has successfully handled a turnaround. Jain and Pandit are joined by the likes of Indra Nooyi, Lakshmi Mittal, Ajay Banga, Sanjay Jha, Shantanu Narayen, Rakesh Kapoor, Harish Manwani and Ajit Jain among those holding top leadership positions at global MNCs. The businesses headed by these ten persons recorded revenue worth $410 billion last year and are said to be on a robust growth path for the years to come. This figure is nearly double the value of Indian exports worth about $245 billion last fiscal and approximately one-third of total size of the Indian economy. According to global HR major Hay Group, the technical skills and the behavioural patterns of Indians make them adaptable to any kind of situation they come across.

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"Indians have the ability to adapt to any situation they are faced with. They are also used to doing more with less [resources]... These factors make Indians successful," Hay Group's Director Arvind Pandit said. Considering the regulatory environment and conditions here, "people who have done business successfully in India, can be successful anywhere in the world," he added. Experts say that the need for tapping high-growth markets like India could have played a key role in the rise to the top for many of these people. Besides Indian-origin persons in their leadership teams, the other common factor for many of these companies is their focus on new frontiers for business growth. Also, many of them are into consumer-focused businesses and are looking to target the growing purchasing power of Indian middle-class in a big way. Global consultancy major Deloitte's Senior Director (Human Capital Services) P Thiruvengadam said that the rise of Indians to high levels in global corporations is no more limited to the US, but is also happening in Europe and other places where English is not the main language. "Our country's education system is good... Then, Indians are by nature oriented to do things [in a good manner] in whatever they want to do," he added. Executive search firm GlobalHunt's Director Sunil Goel said that professionals in India have become global professionals and "they have capabilities, skills and wide exposure to manage cross geographical business and they are being identified by many of the global giants for top roles." Not surprisingly, most Indian-origin persons holding top positions at global giants have risen through ranks in their professional career, with the sole exception of steel giant ArcelorMittal, which also happens to be promoted by Mittal. The list includes food and beverage major PepsiCo with Indra Nooyi as Chairman and CEO, FMCG giant Unilever as Harish Manwai as its global COO, IT firm Adobe having Shantanu Narayen as CEO, Mastercard with Ajay Banga as its chief and Sanjay Jha heading Motorola Mobility. There is also Ajit Jain, who heads reinsurance business of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway empire and has been termed as most productive CEO of his group by the legendary investor himself. Besides, his name has been doing the rounds as potential successor of Buffett for a long time. Among others, Cisco has Padmasree Warrior as its Chief Technology Officer, HP has Vyomesh Joshi as Executive Vice President, Sanjay Khosla heads Kraft Foods' developing market business, Google has Nikesh Arora as Chief Business Officer and private equity major Clayton, Dubilier and Rice LLC (CDR) has Manvinder (Vindi) Singh Banga as its operating partner. Vindi Banga has previously held top level positions at Unilever, while his brother Ajay Banga, now with Mastercard, was previously retail banking head of Citigroup. In the past, there have been many other Indians at the top positions, such as Arun Sarin as CEO UK-based telecom giant

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Vodafone. Also, Europe's top business school Insead has Dipak Jain as its head, while Harvard has Nitin Nohria as its dean. Global HR major ManpowerGroup India's Managing Director Sanjay Pandit said that India was fast emerging as the key source for providing talent to drive the global economy. "I feel we would see more and more Indians making to the top positions with global organisations," he said. Deloitte's Thiruvengadam also said that Indians were becoming more mobile and have always been talented and hard working, which help them in achieving success. Hay Group's Pandit said that "Indians have the right mindset, which is suited to succeed in crisis situations. And they are also good at complimenting the systems in the West." He, however, cautioned that Indians are used to doing things themselves and might sometimes find it harder to get work done through others (like in Western countries).

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