Top Executives of Indian Heritage Pledge to Advocate for Social Justice
- Those featured in Business Leaders List compiled by nonprofit Indiaspora address a virtual conference.
Fifty-eight executives serving at the helm of their respective companies, were chosen for the inaugural Indiaspora Business Leaders List, which recognizes leaders of Indian heritage leading global corporations. The list is drawn from rankings by magazines like Fortune and Forbes. Indiaspora is a nonprofit organization that seeks to transform the success of the Indian diaspora into meaningful impact worldwide.
Under their leadership, Indiaspora press release says, these companies collectively employ more than 3.6 million worldwide and account for a combined $1 trillion in revenue and $4 trillion in market capitalization. These companies are headquartered across 11 different countries, and “have delivered annualized returns of 23 percent during the tenure of these executives, outperforming the S&P 500 by 10 percent.”
The list was unveiled at a virtual conference held on July 8. The event also included discussions on leadership amidst popular movements for racial injustice and Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and the ongoing push for sustainable business practices.
“We wanted to capture this incredible feat that our community is achieving with increasing numbers,” said Indiaspora founder M.R. Rangaswami, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and investor.
“The impact that the Indian diaspora is having in the realm of business is remarkable. It’s one of the reasons we launched this project, and we hope our lists will continue to raise the profile of those who have reached the very top of their fields while also serving as agents for positive change.”
“I’m amazed to see how far we’ve come in terms of representation in business,” said Raj Gupta, one of the speakers at the July 8 event. An Indiaspora member, Guta serves as chairman of two companies on the Business Leaders List — Aptiv and Avantor, and is the former CEO of Fortune 300 company Rohm and Haas. He is among the first executives of the Indian diaspora to join the ranks of corporate leadership along with pioneers such as Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo and Dinesh Paliwal of Harman International. “There used to be only a handful of us leading corporations. Now that we are reaching prominence, I am eager to see how the next generation leaves its own legacy.”
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
At the same time, The Indiaspora Business Leaders List also calls attention to the presence of a glass ceiling that women, including Indian women, still face. Out of 1,000 companies represented on the Fortune 500 list, only 61 have women CEOs. The Indiaspora Business Leaders List includes five women. Among them is Reshma Kewalramani, CEO and president of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. “It’s an honor to join so many outstanding leaders on this year’s Indiaspora Business Leaders list, each of whom is making a meaningful impact within their industry,” she said.
Ravi Saligram, President and CEO, Newell Brands, spoke about how his company has been focusing on gender diversity. He said the disparity and the lack of opportunity always bothered him as a head of a company, as well as a father of two bright and accomplished daughters.
The topic also came up during the panel discussion when moderators Yamini Rangan, Chief Customer Officer at Hubspot and Nandini Ramani, Chief Operating Officer at Outcome Health, spoke about the importance of women helping women as well as having sponsors and mentors from the industry.
Agents for Change and Inclusion
As Indian diaspora leaders are reaching the pinnacle of corporate success in greater numbers than ever, many are using their platforms for social change advocacy. They have led their companies in advancing social change by addressing racial injustice, climate and sustainability justice, and the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 through policy and financial commitments.
Several of the panelists at the July 8 event, including Bob Patel, CEO, Lyondell Bassell Industries, Ravi Saligram, President and CEO, Newell Brands, and Niraj Shah, cCo-founder, co-chairman, CEO, Wayfair, have created or contributed funds in response to COVID-19. Several of the leaders have aligned their companies’ business practices to meet United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and are members of the UN Global Compact.
Simialrly, tech industry leader Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, has announced new goals for racial equity, including improving leadership representation of underrepresented groups at Google, and an “economic opportunity package” for the Black community.
Patel spoke about the importance of weaving diversity into the fabric of the company, while Saligram spoke about the importance of creating racial justice and awareness.
Patel, Shah and Saligram also discussed how their Indian heritage helped shape their business views, and how it plays a significant role in business and society.