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Five Indian American Executives and Entrepreneurs Among America’s ‘Richest Self-Made Women’

Five Indian American Executives and Entrepreneurs Among America’s ‘Richest Self-Made Women’

  • Jayshree Ullal, Neerja Sethi, Neha Narkhede, Indra Nooyi, and Reshma Shetty feature in Forbes’ eighth annual list led by roofing and building supply billionaire Diane Hendricks.

Five Indian Americans are among the country’s richest self-made women, according to Forbes eighth annual list of 100 “super successful entrepreneurs, executives and entertainers.” Although the collective fortunes of these women recorded a 6 percent drop from last year, Forbes says it also “helped lower the admission cutoff to $215 million, down from $225 million a year ago.” While “38 of the 100 list members are worth less than in 2021, 51 are richer, including seven newcomers and seven women who return to the ranks after having previously fallen off.”

Indian American women who made it to the list are Jayshree Ullal, president and CEO of Arista Networks; Neerja Sethi, co-founder, Syntel; Neha Narkhede, co-founder and former CTO of Confluent; former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, and Reshma Shetty, co-founder Ginkgo Bioworks. Roofing and building supply billionaire Diane Hendricks tops the list for the fifth year in a row. Right behind her at number two is Judy Faulkner, founder of Wisconsin-based electronic medical records firm Epic Systems.

Leading the Indian Americans on the list is California-based Jayshree Ullal, who has been leading Arista Networks, a computer networking firm, since 2008. “The publicly-traded company recorded revenue of $2.3 billion in 2020, a decrease of nearly 4 percent compared to the fiscal year 2019,” Forbes said. She owns about 5 percent of Arista’s stock, “some of which is earmarked for her two children, niece and nephew,” as reported by the magazine. In August 2018, Arista settled a multi-year patent infringement battle with Cisco, Ullal’s former employer, agreeing to pay Cisco $400 million. She joined the board of directors of Snowflake, a cloud computing company that went public in September 2020. With an estimated net worth of $1.9 billion, the London-born and Indian-raised is one of America’s wealthiest female executives. She is on the board of directors of Snowflake, a cloud computing company that went public in September 2020.

Following Ullal is Neerja Sethi, 67, who co-founded IT consulting and outsourcing firm Syntel with her husband Bharat Desai in 1980 in their apartment in Troy, Michigan. French IT firm Atos SE bought Syntel for $3.4 billion in October 2018. Sethi, who had served as an executive at Syntel since 1980, did not join Atos after the acquisition. She got an estimated $510 million for her stake. She met her husband in the U.S. while working for pioneering IT firm Tata Consultancy Services, which they attempted to emulate. The couple started the business with an initial investment of just $2,000.

Software engineer Neha Narkhede, 37, co-founded the cloud company Confluent with two of her LinkedIn. The company helps organizations process large amounts of data on the open-source messaging system Apache Kafka, which she aided in developing while working at LinkedIn. The $388 million (revenues) company went public in June 2021 at a $9.1 billion valuation. The Pune-born and raised Narkhede and her family own around 8 percent. 

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PepsiCo’s former chair and CEO Indra Nooyi retired in 2019 after 24 years with the company, half of which she spent in the top job. As CEO, she thwarted a bid to break up PepsiCo, nearly doubled sales and introduced healthier products and environmentally friendly practices. Her fortune stems from the stock she was granted while working at PepsiCo. Nooyi joined the board of Amazon in 2019. Nooyi, 66, grew up in India and got an MBA from Yale before becoming one of corporate America’s few female CEOs in 2006.

Reshma Shetty, 41, co-founded Ginkgo Bioworks, a synthetic biotechnology company, in 2009 with four others, including her husband Barry Canton, who she met at MIT, where she got a Ph.D. in biological engineering. Named after a dinosaur-era tree, the company uses data analytics and robotics to speed up the process of discovering and making new organisms. It went public in a SPAC merger in September 2021. However, shares fell 80 percent from their peak in November through mid-May 2022. As Covid-19 spread, the company opened its Boston facilities for research into the coronavirus and to ramp up testing for the disease.

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