Pichai and Nadella
It was only when Sundar Pichai (left) and Satya Nadella took leadership roles that the world started noticing Indian corporate leadership. Image Credit: Bloomberg

The appointment of Shantanu Narayen as CEO of Adobe in 2007 and Jayshree Ullal as the Chief Executive of Artista Networks in 2008 went almost unnoticed in the wider technology or corporate world. But when Microsoft named Satya Narayana Nadella, till then a relatively unknown NRI tech expert, to lead the world’s then most powerful technology company, the world woke up to take notice. He overnight became the talk of the world. Seven years later, he replaced John Thompson to become Chairman and CEO of Microsoft in 2021.

By the time the West got used to Nadella’s leadership, Sundar Pichai was named Chief Executive of Google. Those who dismissed these appointments as flukes or coincidences had to swallow their words once the world’s most powerful corporations started to appoint Indian-origin professionals in leadership roles to lead the transformation of these businesses to the next generation.

Nikesh Arora, former president of Softbank who was named Chairman and CEO of Palo Alto Networks in 2018, and Ajaypal Banga who became Chairman and CEO of Mastercard in July 2010, belong to a long list of Indian professionals who have at one point of time in their career led large international businesses.

Beyond the tech world, Vikram Pandit, former CEO of Citigroup (2007-2012) and Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo from 2006-2017, have made Indians proud with their achievements. Most people might wonder: what is their achievement while at the top of their game? Well, under Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft went on to become a $2.5 trillion company in 2021 from a $300 billion market capitalisation when Nadella was named the CEO. Today, Microsoft is the world’s second largest technology company.

Indian talents form the backbone of a large number of international financial institutions and businesses, many of whom are in leadership positions. Coming to the GCC, one would see that NRIs are not only working as professional leaders, they are also dominating the economies through entrepreneurship – creating economic opportunities and employment for others.

NRIs form almost half of the working population across the GCC countries. Experts have talked about many aspects of India’s achievements in the 75 years since Independence. But one of the key areas of India’s success is in the development of its human capital, and that has not been talked about much.

India has perhaps become the biggest supplier of business leaders, entrepreneurs, professional leaders, executives, professionals. Just to share some numbers, India has groomed millions of chartered accountants who are working across the world and helping businesses run smoothly.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, like most other nationals, many NRIs lost jobs and had to relocate to India. However, now that the economies are bouncing back, all those businesses who laid off skilled professionals and workers are now looking at getting them back. Naturally, skilled NRIs are now in high demand as much for their knowledge of the GCC markets and their respective organisation’s work culture.

Larger employers such as Emirates airline, Dnata and others have rehired their employees as businesses return to pre-pandemic levels. While many companies are looking at fresh graduates and workers to hire, they are also looking at South Asian manpower, especially those from India, due to the obvious reasons – high productivity, lower cost, adaptability, knowledge and perseverance.

Like many businesses, we are also on the lookout for human talents – those who have high potentials and those who would be very productive for our operations.