India's powerful have American links

India's powerful have American links

Business Week just published its list of India’s 50 most powerful people . You may be surprised how many of them have strong links to the West, most often to the United States.

Among captains of industry, Ratan Tata has a degree from Cornell, Mukesh Ambani studied at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, his estranged brother and Anil Ambani got an MBA from Wharton. Anand Mahindra has an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Azim Premji studied Electrical Engineering at Stanford and MS Ramadorai of Tata Consultancy Services has a degree from UCLA. Vijay Mahajan of Basix was educated at Princeton

Some are running Indian units of American companies, such as Shankar Annaswamy of IBM, who presides over the largest number of IBM-ers in any country outside the United States. And Sailesh Rao runs Google India, while Ashwini Vardi runs upstart TV channel Viacom Colors and Amit Verma is affiliated with Wall Street Journal’s joint venture, called the The Mint. Ronnie Screwala’s UTV took in a majority investment from the Walt Disney Company.

And some Indians own important interests in the United States, such as Ajit Balakrishnan of which also publishes the weekly print paper from New York, India Abroad. Others have received significant investments from American venture capitalists, such as microfinance king Vikram Akula, whose company SKS Finance was funded by Sequoia Capital (Akula is a product of Tuft, Yale and McKinsey & Co); Draper Fisher Jurvetson funded the Reva Electric Car company led by Chetan Maini, who has a US degree in mechanical engineering.

On university campuses, American degrees abound. Dr. Ashok Jhunjunwala at IIT Madras earned his PhD from the University of Maine; he made it to Business Week’s list on the strength of a series of startups that have launched under the leadership of his TeNet center. US universities have invited IT billionaire NR Narayana Murthy to join their boards, including Yale, Stanford, and Harvard. Of course, Murthy’s company, Infosys draws the largest chunk of its revenue from the United States.

Some on the list actually live in the United States but have a strong interest in India. Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures has taken a strong interest in India, funding alternative energy, microfinance and other companies. New York based PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is the current Chairperson of the US India Business Council. Strategy guru, professor and prolific author CK Prahalad is on the faculty of the University of Michigan but lives in San Diego and travels to India frequently.

Are Indian politicians immune from such US links? After all, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was denied a visa by the Bush administration. And Mayawati of Uttar Pradesh has never even travelled to the United States. But Oxford- and Cambridge- educated Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has a daughter, Amrit, who is an attorney with the ACLU in New York.

That’s 21 of the 50 and I am sure I have missed a few.


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