Pichai's Google Feat is Testimony to Liberalisation

Published: 14th August 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th August 2015 02:13 PM   |  A+A-

On Tuesday, news broke of Sundar Pichai becoming Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Google. Liberalisation was initiated in India in 1991, and Pichai’s elevation is a testimony to the benefits of liberalisation. The opening up of the Indian economy led to many multinationals coming over, particularly in the technology sector. They set up their centres and research laboratories here. They got to know about the great Indian talent pool, and drew from it. Because of the entry of corporate giants from elsewhere, and the hard work of Indian companies, we now have a 160 billion-dollar IT industry. Our annual exports have crossed $100 billion.

Three-and-a-half million people are employed in the IT/ITES sector. That is the second largest pool of highly skilled people in IT in the world. By 2020-21 we will overtake the United States to have the largest number of people working in IT and IT-enabled services.

Talented Indians went to study in the great engineering schools of the United States. They have done well, topping their classes and joining many tech companies. They have helped Brand India with their hard work and brilliance. Among a billion people, we will find millions who are truly brilliant.

Many Indians who migrated form the core of the US workforce in IT. They have done well because of the open economy, its competitiveness and that country’s abundance of resources. There is always great scope for new ideas there. That is what Sundar  Pichai, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and others have shown in reaching the CEO level.

You are going to see many more like them. I read a report that many American companies with high market capitalisations are headed by Indians. Those include Google, Microsoft and PepsiCo. I think this is fantastic. When India opened up, good things started happening.

One should remember that many of these companies are in Silicon Valley because the valley has no glass ceiling. It is an open society in California. The East Coast is slightly different. But even there, we have had Indians heading Citibank and other banking and financial companies. Many in the banking sector have done well and come up.

What we are seeing today is thrilling. We must remember that the global market needs great talent. People are moving all over the world and good talent is global. When Indians go abroad, they do well because they come from a diverse society with deep challenges. Here, you have to solve challenges every single day. You have to work with uncertainty.

And you have to multi-task across time and place. If you are able to do all that here, you can succeed in any part of the world. With a great head for maths, an ability to analyse issues and find solutions, flexibility in work and capacity to take pain, Indians will continue to excel globally. Our culture of excellence, respect for education and hard work set us apart. In merit-oriented societies like the United States, it becomes more visible.

More Indians can be global CEOs if the glass ceiling is broken everywhere. It is being shattered in the United States and to an extent in Europe, but not so much in Korea and Japan, which are other major markets. In China, you do see some multi-national firms with Indians as CEOs. Pichai is the latest in the long list of people who have done well in the United States and become CEOs. I feel happy today that Indian talent is doing so well everywhere.

I want to tell political leaders  in the United States, particularly Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa who abuses Indian companies, that if you stop bright Indians from going and working there, you are going to lose access to great talent.

In the last three or four years, the debate over visas for Indians has become abusive. Indian companies are being attacked and talent is being driven away. So more and more young Indians are studying in the US but coming back in increasing numbers to start great companies here. Of course, India too offers increasingly exciting opportunities.

If the United States continues to be inhospitable to great talent, it will lose more business. Such talent is essential for the innovative culture in the United States to thrive, and as a source of the best talent India is right on top. Without the right environment, business, particularly in technology, will move offshore as it has already done in many cases.

I think Pichai’s elevation is a proud day for all of us here in India because it is a testimony to the economic strategy implemented by the Congress government in 1991, led by Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao with Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister, and continued by the subsequent National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and Third Front governments.

Google is a great company that uses substantial Indian talent.

People now know about India and Indian talent, however, I don’t think Pichai becoming CEO is going to place us in some other league. The India brand is already up there.

I hope that our leaders take note of this and keep Parliament open to laws that improve our status in the world. We need better governance in India to reach our destiny.

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