IBM has just given American big tech its third Indian-origin CEO

At the top.
At the top.
Image: IBM
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Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai are already household names in India. Now, another name’s been added to that coveted Silicon Valley list.

IBM yesterday (Jan. 30) appointed Arvind Krishna as its chief executive officer.

The 57-year-old, who graduated in 1985 from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, holds a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined IBM in 1990 and has served in several roles at the New York-based company, including as director of research and the head of the cloud and cognitive software unit.

Krishna orchestrated the landmark deal with open source technology firm Red Hat in 2019—IBM’s biggest purchase in its 109-year history.

Krishna’s the latest addition to the list of Indian-origin CEOs helming big American companies. This includes Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, and non-tech firm CEOs, too, like Ajay Banga of MasterCard.

Tech talk

IBM’s outgoing head, Virginia “Ginny” Rometty, described Krishna as the “right CEO for the next era at IBM” and someone who was “well-positioned” to lead the company into the cloud and cognitive era.

“Through his multiple experiences running businesses in IBM, Arvind has built an outstanding track record of bold transformations and proven business results and is an authentic values-driven leader. He is well-positioned to lead IBM and its clients into the cloud and cognitive era,” she said in a statement.

Rometty’s eight-year-term was marred by struggles to rebuild IBM in the era of cloud computing. The announcement marked a long-overdue change in leadership, judging by the market’s response. IBM’s stock rallied 4% after hours. Krishna will take over on April 6. Rometty, 62, will then retire but serve as the board’s executive chairman.

The ongoing shuffle shows IBM is looking for more tech strength in its leadership positions. Days before Krishna’s appointment, Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, was named IBM’s new president. “This new team, Arvind and Jim, bring more of an in-depth tech-savviness to the top, which is necessary in this rapidly changing technology industry,” Arvind Ramnani, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets, told daily newspaper The Economic Times.