India’s superstar performers around the world aren’t few and far between any more. Wherever you look, whichever top corporation, in politics, in academics and in almost every form of life around the world, especially the West, expat Indians have taken over. These happenings started long back, though back home there may have been not much turmoil, because news filtered in slow.
With the advent of the internet and with news becoming all pervasive, Indian success stories have virtually taken over the world. With that India’s position in the world is different, Indian passports are viewed with respect and Indians are welcome in many more countries around the globe than they were before. This, certainly, is a new India and these are the Indian who have made this possible. This is the story about some of them, from the current, back to many years back.
We have not included the many incredible science stars who have been the best in the world, including CV Raman and others, but we have included the name of Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, because his wireless invention was copied by another who ended up with world fame, a clear indication of how the world has been unfair to India.
We will include later entrants in the game, in a time when Indians can hardly be overlooked.
Let us start with the latest appointment, so to say.
Just the other day, US president Joe Biden nominated Banga, the former Mastercard CEO as World Bank president. The US has this authority, because it has the largest share in the bank. This happened days after former President Donald Trump appointee David Malpass announced that he was stepping down from his role as World Bank president.
The USA government nominated Ajay Banga for his expertise in handling global challenges including climate change.
Ajay Banga is currently appointed as the vice chairman at private equity firm General Atlantic. He has more than 30 years of business experience in handling different roles at Mastercard and the boards of the American Red Cross, Kraft Foods and Dow Inc.
He is the first India-born nominee for the role of World Bank President. Joe Biden expressed confidence on Ajay Banga’s leadership and said he is uniquely equipped to lead the World Bank at this stage. Biden also stated that Ajay has a critical experience mobilising public-private resources to tackle the most urgent challenges.
Ajay Banga completed his BA in economics from Delhi University. He is also an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Banga joined MasterCard as president and chief operating officer in late August 2009.
In April 2010, he was named president and CEO, effective from July 1, 2010. Before joining MasterCard, he served as the chief executive officer of Citigroup’s AsiaHPacific Region.
A shade into politics, and we land at the top with Rishi Sunak, an Indian origin (some say Pakikstani origin, but that’s another story), becoming the prime minster of the United Kingdom. It is a sort of full circle, one may say, Britain having ruled India for 200 years and now being administered by an Indian-origin man. Poetic justice, others may say.
Sunak has become the UK’s first Indian-origin PM. Sunak first became a Member of Parliament in 2015 after he got elected from Richmond, Yorkshire. He swiftly rose through the ranks of the Conservative party and supported calls for ‘Brexit’. Sunak was among Johnson’s supporters during his ‘leave EU’ campaign. He created history in February 2020 when he was designated as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which is the most important UK Cabinet post.
Sunak became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic for his economic package to support employees and businesses comprising a jobs retention programme, which reportedly averted mass unemployment in the UK.
Sunak was born in the UK’s Southampton area to an Indian family. He is the son of a pharmacist mother and a National Health Service (NHS) general practitioner father.
Rishi Sunak’s grandparents are from Punjab.
Rishi Sunak is an Oxford University and Stanford graduate and is married to Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy’s daughter Akshata Murty.
Sunak isn’t the only India-origin person heading a country other than India. Indian-origin Leo Varadkar is Prime Minister of Ireland. This is a post he has climbved to for the second time.
His taking the hot seat was through a handover of power between the two main political partners in the three-party governing coalition.
Varadkar is half-Indian and half-Irish. He is openly gay and is still one of Ireland’s youngest-ever leaders – even in his second stint in the role.
Even in US politics, Indian origin people have been shining, especially, women. When Joe Biden became President his running mate and now vice-president was
Kamala Harris. She is the first Indian-origin, woman vice president of the United States.
Harris is the first woman of colour and African American elected as the vice president. Born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Harris is a former attorney general of California. She also became the first person of Indian descent to hold the national office in the United States.
Harris’ mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was born in Chennai and moved to the United States to pursue a doctoral degree at University of California Berkeley. During the Obama era, she was popularly called the “female Obama”. She is considered to be close to Barack Obama, the first black American President, who endorsed her in her various elections including that of the US Senate in 2016.
She became the top prosecutor for San Francisco in 2003, before being elected the first woman and the first person of colour to serve as California’s attorney general in 2010, the top lawyer in America’s most populous state.
Another Indian origin superstar in USA politics is Nikki Haley, a former US ambassador to the UN, as appointed by former President Donald Trump. Now Haley has bigger dreams and has announced that she will seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
She will be competing with her former boss Trump. Trump currently leads the race for the Republican nomination. Haley has said: “It’s time for a new generation of leadership.”
Haley was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa in Bamberg, South Carolina, to Indian immigrants. Her parents hailed from Punjab and worked as teachers while also running a clothing store in rural South Carolina. She was raised as a Sikh but converted to Christianity after marriage to Michael Haley in 1996.
Nikki Haley was elected to the state legislature of South Carolina in 2004.
Dr VIVEK MURTHY
In medical science Indians have always excelled around the world. It was evident when Indian-origindoctor, Dr Vivek Murthy was conformed as the US Surgeon General.
Murthy was confirmed by the US Senate in March 2021 to serve as the 21st Surgeon General of the United States. As the Nation’s Doctor, the Surgeon General’s mission is to help lay the foundation for a healthier country, relying on the best scientific information available to provide clear, consistent, and equitable guidance and resources for the public. And as the Vice Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr Murthy commands a uniformed service of over 6,000 dedicated public health officers, serving the most underserved and vulnerable populations domestically and abroad.
The first Surgeon General of Indian descent, Dr Murthy, was raised in Miami and is a graduate of Harvard, the Yale School of Medicine, and the Yale School of Management, the White House said.
Among the early people who made Indian talent in the computer world felt, was Vinod Dham, otherwise called the ‘father of Intel’s Pentium chip’.
In 1975, Vinod Dham went to the US and did his Masters in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati. After completing his Masters in 1977, Vinod Dham joined the National Cash Register (NCR) at Dayton, Ohio. Vinod was a team member of the NCR’s memory design group. He received many patents for his work at NCR.
Dham is popularly known as the father of the Pentium processor. Born in 1950 in Pune, he had his initial schooling in Pune. He did his Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from Delhi College of Engineering in 1971. Thereafter he had a brief stint with Continental Devices, a Delhi based semiconductor company.
While making a presentation at the IEEE conference in Monterrey, California on re-programmable memory, Vinod Dham received an offer from Intel to work with them. In January 1990, Vinod was in-charge of developing the 586 or Pentium processor. He worked relentlessly on the project and the Pentium processor was a big hit in the market. Vinod Dham rose up the corporate ladder and reached the position of the Vice President of Intel’s Microprocessor Products Group. He quit Intel in 1995.
Thereafter, Vinod joined NexGen, a start-up firm as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President. When Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) acquired NexGen in 1996, Vinod Dham looked after the development of AMD’s famous K6 Processor, world’s fastest personal computer microprocessor. Later on he quit AMD.
Presently, Vinod Dham is the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Silicon Spice, a communications technology development firm.
Dr AMAR GOPAL BOSE
Who hasn’t been wonderstruck at the extraordinary reproduction of the most delicate music by Bose speakers? These are among the best speakers available anywhere in the world and the man behind this incredible equipment is a Bengali engineer, Amar Gopal Bose.
He started off in the US as an academic, but his invention allowed him to leapfrog into the stratosphere as an entrepreneur.
An electrical engineer and sound engineer, Bose was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over 45 years. He was also the founder and chairman of Bose Corporation.
In 2011, he donated a majority of the company to MIT in the form of non-voting shares to sustain and advance MIT’s education and research mission.
Bose was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to an Indian father, Noni Gopal Bose and an American mother, Charlotte Mechlin (1895-1973). His mother was a schoolteacher of French and German ancestry. His father was an Indian freedom fighter who, having been imprisoned for his political activities, fled Bengal in the 1920s in order to avoid further persecution by the British colonial police.
Bose first displayed his entrepreneurial skills and his interest in electronics at age 13 when, during the World War II years, he enlisted school friends as co-workers in a small home business repairing model trains and home radios, to supplement his family’s income.
After graduating from Abington Senior High School in Abington, Pennsylvania, Bose enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating with a BS (Bachelor of Science) in Electrical Engineering in the early 1950s. Bose spent a year at Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium in Eindhoven, Netherlands; and a year as a Fulbright research student in New Delhi, India, where he met his future first wife. He completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering from MIT, writing a thesis on non-linear systems under the supervision of Norbert Wiener and Yuk-Wing Lee.
Following graduation, Amar Bose became an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During his early years as a professor, Bose bought a high-end stereo speaker system in 1956 and he was disappointed to find that speakers with impressive technical specifications failed to reproduce the realism of a live performance. This would eventually motivate his extensive speaker technology research, concentrating on key weaknesses in the high-end speaker systems available at the time. His research on acoustics led him to develop a stereo loudspeaker that would reproduce, in a domestic setting, the dominantly reflected sound field that characterizes the listening space of the audience in a concert hall. His focus on psychoacoustics later became a hallmark of his company’s audio products.
For initial capital to fund his company in 1964, Bose turned to angel investors, including his MIT thesis advisor and professor, Yuk-Wing Lee. Bose was awarded significant patents in two fields that continue to be important to the Bose Corporation. These patents were in the area of loudspeaker design and non-linear, two-state modulated, Class-D power processing.
In the 1980s, Bose developed an electromagnetic replacement for automotive shock absorbers, intended to radically improve the performance of automotive suspension systems, absorbing bumps and road shock while controlling car body motions and sway.
In 2007, Amar Bose was listed in Forbes 400 as the 271st richest man in the world, with a net worth of $1.8 billion. In 2009, he was no longer on the billionaires list, but returned to the list in 2011, with a net worth of $1.0 billion.
The company Bose founded employed 11,700 people worldwide as of 2016 and produces products for home, car, and professional audio, as well as conducting basic research in acoustics and other fields. Bose never took his company public, and since the company is privately held Bose was able to pursue risky long-term research. In a 2004 interview in Popular Science magazine, he said: “I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by MBAs. But I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”
Bose died on July 12, 2013, at the age of 83 in Wayland, Massachusetts.
‘Batman’ and ‘ironman’ are some of the words used to describe Manoj Bhargava, one of the richest Indians in America, but he sees himself as just a person who makes useful things for the needy. From living like a monk in India for 12 years to running a multi-billion dollar business in America, he has led an extraordinary and versatile life.
The Indian-American billionaire launched his most profitable product, 5-hour ENERGY in 2003, and reached the top of the business game. However, far from living the high life, in 2015, he pledged 99 percent of his net worth to help the less fortunate. His unique, zero-profit business model is designed to serve as many people as possible.
The entrepreneur led the first 14 years of his life in India. His family moved to Pennsylvania, the USA in 1967 so that his academically inclined father could pursue his PhD at Wharton. From a house with several servants in Lucknow, the Bhargavas had to manage with the bare minimum in the USA.
Lakshmi Mittal is an Indian steel magnate based out of the United Kingdom. He is the chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaking company. Mittal owns 40% of ArcelorMittal and also holds around 20% stake in the Queens Park Rangers FC.
In the year 2005, Forbes ranked Mittal as the third richest person across the globe, which makes him the first Indian citizen to be ranked in the top ten in the published annual list of world richest people. In the year 2017, Mittal was considered to be the richest Asian person in Europe.
Lakshmi Mittal was born in a Baniya family. He studied at Shri Daulatram Nopany, Calcutta, from 1957 to 1964. But he graduated from the St. Xavier College, affiliated to the University of Calcutta, with a B.Com degree in first class.
VA SHIVA AYYADURAI
In 1978, a 14-year-old named V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai developed a computer program, which replicated the features of the interoffice, inter-organizational paper mail system. He named his program “EMAIL”.
Shiva Ayyadurai claims to have invented ‘emails’ when he was of very young age. Ayyadurai is a Fulbright grantee and has four degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), including a Ph.D. in biological engineering.
The US government later recognised Ayyadurai as the creator of email on August 30, 1982, and gave him the first US Copyright for Email for his creation from the year 1978.
Costa has been the Prime Minister of Portugal since 2015. He is half Indian and half Portuguese. Costa’s father’s family comes from Goa; his grandfather was born in the former Portuguese colony and lived there for the majority of his life.
His father, Orlando da Costa, was a writer who was born in Mozambique, a Portuguese colony, and whose works displayed strong Goan roots, including pieces on Rabindranath Tagore.
CHRISTINE CARLA KANGALOO
The president-elect of Trinidad and Tobago was born into an Indo-Trinidadian family.
Considered one of the most important sculptors of his generation, Indian-British artist Anish Kapoor creates large-scale works that challenge the viewer and defy easy definition, resonating with a mythic sensibility. Taking inspiration from both Western and Indian cultural sources, Kapoor harnesses intense hues, perception-shifting mirrors, and haunting voids to draw the viewer into an experiential relationship with sculptural objects that seek to evoke a multiplicity of visual and imaginative possibilities.
Born in Mumbai in 1954 Anish Kapoor benefited from a diverse upbringing in the post-independence environment within India’s largest metropolis.
SIR JAGADISH CHANDRA BOSE
In November 1894, at the Town Hall of Kolkata, a public demonstration of an ap[paratus took place, witnessed by Lieutenant Governor Sir William Mackenzie. Details of the apparatus used are sketchy at best, but a man by the name of Jagadish Chandra Bose, managed to ring an electric bell and ignite a small charge of gunpowder, from a distance of 23 m.
The people in attendance were awestruck by the demonstration, especially when, during a daring feat of showmanship, the “invisible light” passed through the body of the Governor of Bengal.
Bose was just not interested in securing the rights to his invention and Marconi would go on to take credit for and patent the design himself, setting in motion the history that would cement him as the father of wireless technology.
NARINDER SINGH KAPANY
Considered the ‘Father of Fibre Optics’, this Punjab-born scientist’s glorifying discovery of communication through optical fibres paved the way for the ‘internet’ as well as medical marvels like laser surgeries or endoscopic imaging.
Unfortunately, Kapany’s contribution was grossly overlooked for the Nobel Prize when Charles Kuen Kao was awarded the honour for furthering Kapany’s discovery.
Born in 1927 to a Sikh family in Moga, Punjab, Kapany studied at the University of Agra and later joined Imperial College, London to conduct extensive research in technology.
He joined the University of Rochester as a faculty member and later went on to become a successful entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, USA. At present, the 92-year-old is credited for over 100 patents in his name and also runs a philanthropic organisation called the Sikh Foundation.
Indian Origin CEOs
Pichai began his career as a materials engineer and joined Google as a management executive in 2004 and became the CEO of Google in the year 2015. Pichai was also named as the CEO of Google parent, Alphabet in December 2019, when he replaced Larry Page.
Hyderabad-born Satya Nadella has a BE from the Manipal Institute of Technology, an MS from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
He became the CEO of Microsoft succeeding Steve Ballmer in 2014. He also succeeded John W. Thompson and was named the Chairman of Microsoft in 2021.
Vivek Sankaran is a well-known business executive in the United States. He is currently the President and CEO of Albertsons Companies, one of the largest food and drug retailers in the U.S., with more than 2,200 stores across 33 states.
Krishna began his career at IBM as an engineer in IBM Research and got promoted to CEO in 2020. He is currently serving IBM as its CEO and Chairman.
In 2015, Renjen was appointed as the Global CEO of Deloitte, becoming the first person of Indian origin to lead one of the “Big Four” accounting firms.
After completing his education, Narasimhan worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company before joining Novartis in 2005. In 2014, he was appointed as the Global Head of Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer for Novartis.
He is the current CEO of Micron Technology, who assumed office when Mark Durcan retired in February 2017.
Joined Starbucks under the title “interim CEO” in October 2022 and following the transition will succeed interim CEO Howard Schultz on April 1, 2023.
Advaithi started her career as a shop floor supervisor in Eaton, joined Honeywell, and returned to Eaton again, where she worked for 10 long years after becoming the COO. She eventually left Eaton and joined Flex as the company’s CEO in 2019.
After serving as the executive vice president of product operations for two years at Netapps, George Kurian became the CEO and President of the company in June 2015.
Nair joined Anglo-Dutch company Unilever and was notably appointed as the Chief Human Resource Officer of the firm in 2016. She was recognized as the youngest, first female, and the first Asian ever to achieve the feat. Leena served many leadership positions in the same company before being appointed as the CHRO.
Nikesh Arora took the role of CEO and Chairman at Palo Alto Networks in June 2018. Prior to this, he worked with Google and SoftBank.
Sud was appointed as a Vimeo CEO in July 2017. She previously served as a General Manager and the Head of Marketing of the company. Sud is also counted as a Board member of Dolby Laboratories. Furthermore, Sud is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. She is also listed by Fortune in 2018 under its 40 Under 40 rising business leaders.
In March 2021, Bulchandani was appointed as the CEO of Ogilvy North America, making her the first woman of color to lead the agency.
Jayashree Ullal, the President, and CEO of Arista Networks was raised in New Delhi and attended San Francisco State University from where she graduated with a B.S. in Engineering.
Rangarajan Raghuram currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer – Products and Cloud Services of VMWare, who assumed his office on June 1, 2021.
Bhatia briefly worked for Apple Computer, as a hardware engineer and Firepower Systems Inc. He, along with his colleague Jack Smith, set up Hotmail on July 4, 1996, American Independence Day, symbolizing “freedom” from ISP-based e-mail and the ability to access a user’s inbox from anywhere in the world.
As president and CEO, Bhatia led Hotmail until its eventual acquisition by Microsoft in 1998 for an estimated $400 million. Bhatia worked at Microsoft for one year after the Hotmail acquisition and in April 1999, left Microsoft to start another venture, Arzoo Inc, an e-commerce firm with investment from Mohammed Asif, a top Indian-American banker at JP Morgan.
(NOTE: We have missed several worthy candidates in the above compilation. Indians around the world wield so much influence that it would need a book for an exhaustive list.)