indiaspora business leaders

Indiaspora announced its list of 58 prominent Indian American business leaders, at a virtual press briefing July 8 morning. The briefing also featured several of the CEOs on the list. From left to right, first row: Ravi Saligram, president and CEO, Newell Brands; Nandini Ramani, COO, Outcome Health. Middle row, from L to R: Bob Patel, CEO, LyondellBassell Industries; MR Rangaswami, founder, Indiaspora; Niraj Shah, co-founder, co-chairman, CEO, Wayfair. Bottom row from L to R: Nandini Ramani, COO, Outcome Health; Raj Gupta, chairman, Avantor, and chairman, Aptiv. (photo courtesy of Indiaspora)

The non-profit organization Indiaspora released its first ‘Business Leaders List’ July 8 morning, recognizing 58 prominent Indian American business leaders.

The list was released at a virtual press briefing, which featured several executives on the list. Using the Fortune 500, Forbes Global 2000, Fortune Global 500 and the Forbes Largest Private U.S. Companies lists, Indiaspora recognized business leaders from across the globe, and in several sectors, including banking, electronics, consumer goods, and pharmaceuticals.

“Collectively, their companies employ more than 3.6 million people, and have a market cap of over $4 trillion,” said Indiaspora founder MR Rangaswami during the briefing. “Companies have delivered annualized returns of 23 percent during the tenure of these executives, outperforming the S&P 500 by 10 percent,” he said.

The list was ranked in order of revenues and featured top earners, including Sundar Pichai, CEO, Alphabet-Google; Arvind Krishna, IBM CEO; Lakshmi Mittal, CEO and chairman of ArcelorMittal; Raj Subramaniam, president and COO of FedEx; Vivek Sankaran, president and CEO of Albertsons; Vasant Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis; and Punit Renjen, CEO of Deloitte Global.

Five women were on the list, including: Revathi Advaithi, CEO of Flex, an electronics contract manufacturing company based in Singapore; Sonia Syngal, CEO of clothing manufacturer Gap; Reshma Kewalramani, CEO and president of Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Jayshree Ullal, CEO and president of Arista Networks; and Sharmistha Dubey, CEO of the Match Group, an online dating service headquartered in New York.

Writer Anand Giridharadas criticized the list on Twitter. “If your algorithm for generating a list of business leaders in the year 2020 turns up almost exclusively men, you need a different algorithm. There are many ways to make a list.”

“This doesn't reflect well on the community. At all,” he tweeted.

Indiaspora addressed the issue of diversity in the “About” section of its list. “It shines a spotlight on the presence of a glass ceiling, as the diaspora are not immune,” wrote the organization.

“The dearth of women business leaders who have risen to the top spot in corporations is acutely felt. Out of 1,000 companies honored on the Fortune 500 list, only 61 have women CEOs; the Indiaspora List has a marginally higher percentage of women, yet only accounts for 5 women leaders out of 58 listed companies.”

“While the Indian diaspora are making strides in the business world, there are still significant advancements needed to achieve a gendered balance.”

Outcome Health CEO Nandini Ramini, who moderated a panel discussion during the briefing, said: “Women need to have male allies, mentors, sponsors, and advisors.”

Yamini Rangan, chief customer officer at Hubspot, who moderated a discussion with Raj Gupta, chairman of Avantor and Aptiv and father of civil rights activist Vanita Gupta, said she has had the support of male mentors for most of her career. “You must be a good self advocate. You need to look beyond your own biases of where you can be,” she advised.

“For every step we take, we need to bring 10 people over,” said Rangan.

The discussion — held amid a national inflection point created by the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of Minnesota resident George Floyd by a former police officer — focused on racial diversity in the business community.

“We don’t really understand Black lives,” said Gupta, adding that people of color struggle with assimilation at the workplace versus bringing in their true selves.

“We know African Americans, but we’ve never had a conversation about what it feels like to be a Black person in America. This movement has given me an opportunity to reflect on that,” he said.

Ravi Saligram, president and CEO of Newell Brands, said that racial inequality and unconscious bias have always been issues at the workplace. He noted that 30 percent of his employees are Black. “But we need them in leadership roles,” he said.

Bob Patel, CEO of LyondellBassell Industries, said of the death of Floyd: “I was outraged and surprised that this could happen in America.”

The business leaders also spoke about operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, and reducing plastic waste.

Indiaspora’s ‘Business Leaders List’ can be viewed here: https://www.indiaspora.org/2020-indiaspora-business-leaders-list/

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