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India at 75: Nooyi to Pichai - 4 Indians who made it big on global stage

They've got the world to sit up and take notice. Starting from humble beginnings, they have come to lead global companies. A look at 4 professionals whose story is as much India's as the world's

Indian professionals | Indra Nooyi | Sundar Pichai

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Indra Nooyi
Indra Nooyi

1. Lakshmi N Mittal: Man of steel

From a rented apartment in Chitpur, Kolkata to London’s Kensington Palace Gardens, dubbed “Billionaires’ Row”, few would have traversed the journey in a lifetime as Lakshmi Niwas Mittal. Mittal cut his teeth in steel with the family business in India but soon charted his own course and made the world his stage, picking up assets along the way. By 2004, Mittal Steel became the world’s largest with a production capacity of 70 million tonnes, overtaking European steel giant, Arcelor, by a long chalk. But Mittal didn’t just build an empire; his success put India on the global map.

Lakshmi Mittal

Lakshmi Mittal

In 2006, after being initially rebuffed as a “company of Indians” by the management of Arcelor, Mittal Steel acquired the firm after a hard-fought battle and a steel giant — ArcelorMittal — was born, three times its nearest rival.
Read more: India at 75: Gupta to Mallya - 6 leaders who began well but lost their way

Till 2020, ArcelorMittal retained the crown, world’s largest steelmaker. It’s now second on the global league table but ambitious growth targets are ahead for its joint venture in India, where Mittal’s roots lie. Despite being based in London, he remains an Indian citizen.

2. Satya Nadella: Beyond Windows, to the cloud

Satya Narayana Nadella made headlines when he was appointed the CEO of in 2014. The India-born — he’s from Ananthpur in Andhra Pradesh — is credited with reengineering the success of Microsoft, turning it from just a software maker to one of the world’s top cloud computing companies.

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella

He steered the company from some of its failed strategies, like its entry in the mobile segment. He got to look beyond Windows, and practically put the office in people’s hands — Word, Excel, Teams, PowerPoint, Translator, Planner, all can now be freely downloaded on Android and iOS.

Also read: India at 75: Tatas to Naik, Murthy - 25 towering business leaders of India

While he may have reimagined and repositioned Microsoft on the global tech map, his biggest contribution is changing the culture at Microsoft, from being an extremely competitive company to one with humility.

3. Indra Nooyi: Out of the bottle

PepsiCo’s former chairperson and CEO (pictured on top) retired in 2018 after 24 years with the company. Yet, for many, the 66-year-old still remains the face of one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies.

Nooyi was PepsiCo’s chief executive for 12 years, having broken through the glass ceiling at a time when there were few women at the top in corporate America. She was a pioneering CEO, having thwarted a bid to break up . She then went on to nearly double its sales and introduced healthier products and environmentally friendly practices in the company.

Read more: India at 75: Munjals to Mahindras - 20 visionary industrialists of India

She now sits on the boards of firms such as Amazon and Philips, has written a book and remains an inspiring figure for women across the world. Her parting message to employees was: Think hard about time. Nooyi has followed that mantra throughout her life.

4. Sundar Pichai: The search stops here

CEO of Alphabet Inc, and its subsidiary Google, Pichai Sundararajan, better known as Sundar Pichai, is today counted among the world’s most successful professionals. But the beginnings were modest, and his rise is a result of sheer hard work.

Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai

Pichai grew up in Chennai, where the family lived in a two-room apartment. After engineering from IIT Kharagpur, a master’s from Stanford, an MBA from Wharton and a brief stint at McKinsey, he joined in 2004.

Read more: India at 75: From Ambanis to Bajaj - 20 doyens who shaped India's business

Initially, he worked on the search toolbar. The story goes that it was he who proposed the idea that set up its browser. And it was he who spearheaded its development. Google Drive, Gmail, Google Maps, all of these also carry a Pichai imprint. This year, Pichai was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award.

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First Published: Thu, August 11 2022. 18:37 IST