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We are the 1% in technology [Software & Services] [Times of India]
[February 15, 2014]

We are the 1% in technology [Software & Services] [Times of India]

(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The facts are compelling. Indian-Americans are now CEOs of some of the world's largest and best known global technology companies, including Microsoft, Adobe, Cognizant, Harman and Bose, and directors and senior executives at Google, Cisco, HP and other leading companies. It's not too far-fetched to say that most technology companies would feel great pain or even shut down if their Indians went home! The big question is, what drives the rise and success of Indian-Americans in technology? Some have said that it's our perseverance and work ethic: this cannot be the full answer since Chinese-American and other immigrant entrepreneurs share these qualities too.

Others say it's our humility: I have found that Indians are generally no more humble than their non-Indian peers! So, I'd like to offer a different hypothesis.

We are the 1%, at least in technology. For those of us who came from India, the rigorous process by which we were admitted to the IITs and other top engineering colleges was an effective Darwinian pre-selection process that enabled us to get graduate student visas to the US, earn degrees at the best engineering and business schools here, and then start our technology companies or join other companies with a clear advantage. I'm convinced that even if all the faculty at the IITs retired, the students would still do well simply because they are the best and brightest India has to offer: they are intellectually curious and will learn what they need to on their own. The next generation born in the US benefits from the values of their parents, learns the importance of a great education, especially in engineering and business, and repeats this cycle.

India's IT services companies are a great incubator. Even though our IT services companies in India are doing very well, they develop woefully little proprietary intellectual property which is normally the sign of a truly great company. However, they do a great job of skilling hundreds of thousands of engineers in the basics of software and give them valuable work experience in using and integrating some of the world's best software technology and applications. When these software engineers come to the US, they have a significant advantage because they are well prepared to develop new ideas, intellectual property and software products for their US technology companies that are, in fact, IP-centric. India's loss is Google's gain! Product is king and software trumps hardware. There was a time when technology companies could be run by CEOs with marketing, sales, manufacturing or financial backgrounds. That world is gone. Today, product is everything and software rules. Twenty years ago, the focus of technology was manufacturing-centric, dominated by Chinese-Americans. Today it's about social, mobile, analytics, cloud - all software enabled. Google and Facebook were built into great companies by CEOs with a passion for software and web products; everything else was secondary. The strength of Indian-Americans in software engineering, their ability to communicate clearly in English, and their ability to address design and business problems with structured thinking, is a huge advantage.

The world of technology is now a world of continuous disruption. Competitors lurk in every corner, funded by aggressive venture capitalists. Markets are chaotic, breakthrough technologies are a constant threat. Opportunities for monetizing products can be ephemeral. No one deals with chaos better than Indians: we are born, and grow up, in its midst; we drive in cities where drivers don't understand the concept of traffic lanes or any driving rules; we survive our complex political democracy; we deal with our social system and manage inter-personal issues with patience; we find ways to compromise; and thrive in the midst of this chaos. There's no better social preparation for success in technology.

With all these drivers of Indian-American progress and success, and with the growing population of Indian-American technology entrepreneurs, executives and engineers, we should not be surprised that the best of the best rise to become CEOs of the greatest technology companies in the world. We should be proud of India in creating and nurturing such extraordinary talent. We should be proud of the US in making such extraordinary opportunities possible to immigrants. Most of all, we should be proud of the Indian-Americans who have worked so hard and achieved so much.

The author is a Silicon Valley veteran,a serial entrepreneur, and the founder of the Symphony Technology Group (c) 2014 Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited

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