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India-born global CEOs take centre stage

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India-born global CEOs take centre stage

Ramesh Tainwala, who was recently been named Chief Executive Officer, Samsonite International, joins the elite club of Indian-origin CEO with global positions. He will take over from Chairman and current CEO, Tim Parker in October.

Tainwala has over 21 years of experience in international marketing and business, working for Samsonite. In fact, the Tainwala Group promoted Samsonite South Asia in a joint venture with Samsonite Corporation Limited. Tainwala served as the Managing Director at Samsonite South East Asia from November 1995 to June 2000. He has been an Executive Director of Samsonite International since February 2011.

The recent elevation caps an illustrious career for Tainwala who started as an entrepreneur in the plastic processing and consumer goods industries. He holds a Master's degree in Management Studies from BITS Pilani.

Cracking the code

When it comes to leading global businesses, Indians have more than made their mark at the international level. The list includes Sameer Suneja, Global CEO, Perfetti Van Melle, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, Anshu Jain, Co-CEO, Deutsche Bank, Ajay Banga, President & CEO, MasterCard, Indra Nooyi, Chairperson & CEO, PepsiCo, Rajeev Suri, President & CEO, Nokia and Vikram Sakhuja, Global CEO, Maxus.

There are various factors that can be attributed to this welcome trend. Indian professionals have an edge over their global counterparts for their experience in dealing with a challenging and growing indigenous market. 

In an earlier interview with exchange4media, Ajit Varghese, MD, Maxus South Asia had said international marketing leaders from India do well because of our upbringing in a multicultural society and willingness to go outside our geography to have a work life. “India is not a homogenous society but a hydrogenous society; languages change every 10 km – these are some of the natural advantages that Indians have in leadership, which ultimately finds its way to global leadership roles. Though Indians need a lot of polishing in their presentation and communication skills, the advantages override the disadvantages. In short, the adaptive skills of Indians are pretty high, and today, some of the Indians are getting their due credit. A classic example is that of Sameer Suneja of Perfetti, who became a global head within six months of going there. To me, he is a star. But he is a star because he was recognised as one, so both parties need to be given due recognition – to get him to the helm, somebody invested in him,” said Varghese.

Looking at the same success stories from a different angle, an article published in Wall Street Journal, cited in a blog by Eric Bellman, says “One of the main reasons China – which is great at squeezing Olympic gold out of its citizens — doesn’t produce as many global CEOs, is basic income arbitrage. China’s best and brightest have more opportunities at home and can get paid as much as they would make almost anywhere else.”

In the last five years, many Indians have set the bar higher for those aspiring for international leadership roles.

League of extraordinary CEOs

Sameer Suneja, the first non-Italian CEO to lead one of the world’s largest confectionary makers Perfetti, had been elevated in 2013 within a year of being named Executive VP, Innovation & Business Development. He had joined Perfetti India as brand manager in 1997.

Microsoft's Satya Nadella, appointed to the position of CEO in February 2014, has been in the company for over 22 years. Nadella previously held the position of Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group.

In a development that came about in May 2014, Rajeev Suri was named President and CEO of Nokia. Suri was previously CEO of Nokia Solutions and Networks. In his long association with Nokia in diverse roles, he has proven his mettle in strategic planning.

Anshu Jain assumed the role of Co-CEO of Deutsche Bank in 2012. Jain joined Deutsche Bank in 1995 and became Head of Global Markets in 2001 as well as a member of the Group Executive Committee in 2002. One of Jain’s primary goals is to position the Bank among world’s top 14 banks.

Ajay Banga, who was MasterCard’s COO, was elevated to the position of CEO in 2010. Upon taking charge at MasterCard, Banga has focused on transforming the brand into a progressive, digital and biometric brand rather than remaining a traditional credit card company.

Vikram Sakhuja was named Global CEO of Maxus in 2012. Sakhuja was the first agency head to become CEO. He joined GroupM in 2002 as Managing Director of Mindshare Fulcrum. He was subsequently elevated to the position of MD of Mindshare South Asia before being appointed as the South Asia CEO for GroupM. Sakhuja is also one of the speakers at exchange4media Conclave 2014. The theme this year is ‘Marketing: The Future is Technology.’

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The upsurge in the number of Indian-born CEOs in the last few years has most decisively made a place for Indian talent at the top of the international marketing and business landscape.


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