Rajeev Suri @ Nokia: Exception or the rule?

By ZRG | Updated: Apr 30, 2014, 09:56 AM IST

Richa Banka/Zee Research Group/Delhi

Is Rajeev Suri, the India born new CEO of Finnish telecom major Nokia, the exception to the rule or a trend setter?

Suri, unlike many of his peers born in India and running global boardrooms, does not have a management degree.

A study of select top Indian origin global chief executives shows that they hold a dual degree in engineering and management. The study covers top 12 India born chief executives and includes heavyweights like Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Nitin Paranjpe of Unilever, Indira Nooyi of Pepsico, Ajit Jain of Berkshire Hathaway, Ajay Banga of MasterCard. Other chief executives included in the quick survey included Rakesh Kapoor of Reckitt Benckiser, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Systems, Harish Manwani of Unilever, Sameer Suneja of Perfetti Van Melle, Anshu Jain of Deutsche Bank and Piyush Gupta of DBS Group Holding.

Suri did his engineering from Mangalore University. Before being appointed the CEO of Nokia Siemens Network (NSN), he headed the Services Division of Nokia Siemens Networks from August 2007 until September 2009 from India.

Suri was born in India and was raised in Kuwait for the major part of his life. He holds the nationality of Singapore.

While a management degree from a pedigreed university is the obvious common thread, the study shows the dominance of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) brand.

A trend which is widely prevalent shows that an engineering degree is not enough. An MBA degree is also a must, be it from the IIMs or from any foreign university. Nitin Paranjpe of Unilever, Ajit Jain of Berkshire Hathaway, Ajay Banga from MasterCard, Satya Nadella from Microsoft, Rakesh Kapoor from Reckitt Benckiser and Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Systems all possess both an engineering as well as management degree from either the IIM or any other foreign university.

Indira Nooyi from PepsiCo did her MBA from IIM Calcutta, Ajay Banga from MasterCard and Piyush Gupta have done their MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and Sameer Suneja from Perfetti Van Melle did his MBA from IIM Bangalore. Ajit Jain from Benckiser Hathaway did his B.Tech from IIT Kharagpur.

Generally India born CEOs have had exposure at the top level across sectors, but banking and financial services or BFSI is the preferred sector where India born managers have gained ascendancy. Out of 12 CEOs surveyed, three are in the banking. They are Ajay Banga from MasterCard, Anshu Jain from Deutsche Bank and Piyush Gupta from DBS Group Holding. Ajay Banga has done his graduation in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi. Anshu Jain from Deutsche Bank has done his graduation in economics from Sri Ram College of Commerce. Rakesh Kapoor did his MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur.

But worth noticing is that why are the Indians being hired for such high posts. The trend shows that every company hires the Indians at a time generally when the stocks of the company are falling. The Indians have this capability to manage the crisis very efficiently. Generally, the records show that the stocks of the company have shot up after these people have been hired by the company. Indira Nooyi, the current chairperson of PepsiCo has done her MBA from IIM Calcutta. Nooyi has been busy pushing changes through PepsiCo this year.

After a detailed study of the profile of around 12 employees, most of the CEOs have completed their elementary education and also their graduation from India and then moved to foreign universities to attain a higher degree. For instance, Anshu Jain, the CEO of Deutsche Bank, has completed his graduation in Economics from SRCC, New Delhi, before taking an MBA degree in Finance from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. However, Rakesh Khurana, who is the Dean of Harvard University, attained his Bachelor’s degree from the Cornell University and then completed his Phd. from Harvard University.