Neighbour's envy: China decodes how Sundar Pichai made it to Google
Electronics & Gadgets  

The phenomenon of Indians making it to the top of big US companies has China anxious. Not that it lacks talent or exposure to western education. During the 2016-17 academic year, 350,755 Chinese students enrolled in American universities while the number for India was 185,000.


"Sundar Pichai, who was born in Tamil Nadu, India, was appointed CEO of Google in August 2015, while Satya Nadella, who was born in Telangana, India, became Microsoft's CEO in 2014. In addition to those two representatives, the CEOs of SanDisk, Adobe Systems, PepsiCo, Harman International and Cognizant are all of Indian origin. By contrast, there are barely any CEOs of large companies in the US who originate from the Chinese mainland. So why are so many Indians becoming CEOs of multinational companies, while businesspeople from the Chinese mainland lag behind?" says an article in the state-run news outlet Global Times.
Indians becoming CEOs of big American companies does not mean just personal success. It lends a lot of soft power to India. A Pichai or a Nadella would obviously burnish India's image in the Silicon Valley, which can make India all the more attractive to American tech businesses.
"What's the reason behind this disparity? The Global Times spoke with two businesspeople — one Indian, the other Chinese — to find out. According to them, India's advantages in nurturing talent and in language make it easier for Indians to adapt to different cultures, while Chinese students who studied in the US prefer to come back to China and focus on the Chinese economy," says the article.
Indians start out as engineers and move to larger business roles. That's how Chris Dong, global research director at technology advisory firm IDC China, who is based in both the San Francisco Bay Area and Beijing, explains the phenomenon.


"Most Indians at US high-tech firms seem to follow the same career path: They start as an engineer and then manage products. It's crucial for those who wish to pursue high-level management posts, as rotations in different product or business units help one better understand the firm's strategies and operations," says Dong in the article.
"Take Google's CEO for example. Prior to joining Google in 2004 as a vice president of product management, Pichai worked with the engineering and product management divisions of semiconductor maker Applied Materials Inc, as well as at McKinsey & Co in management consulting. On the contrary, most Chinese engineers prefer to pursue a career on the technical ladder," the article says.
Another explanation, according to the Global Times article, is that aside from Indian businesspeople's strong educational backgrounds, their willingness to adapt and lead also helps them in big global companies.
According to Dong, another key factor is the recognition of Indian talent by US firms. Foreign companies are more willing to set up outsourcing centers and research centers in India, which is beneficial for the nurturing of global and high-end talent. The R&D investment budgets of US firms in India is generally two or three times that of such budgets in China, the article says.



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