South Asians Continue to Make Strides in the West


By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Of late, curtailing immigration has been an annoying refrain circulating among conservative groups and in political circles. The concern over American jobs has led to reduction in H1B visas for Indians with particular focus on software and IT work and spouses of H1B visa holders are now being denied the opportunity to work.

This flies in the face of the latest US Census Bureau report that suggests that the fertility rate among Americans is actually declining to 1.7% – below replacement value – and that increases in the population are only expected through immigrants. This is a persistent trend in some European countries like Germany and Japan, which has led to many schools and other institutions having to be boarded up due to lack of need.

Against this backdrop, it is important to note the contributions of notable immigrants South Asians in the spheres of influence they operate in. Here are some recent examples.

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Leo Eric Varadkar, 39, in June 2017 became the youngest and first Irish Prime Minister of Indian heritage. During the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, he became the first openly gay Irish government Minister. Varadkar was born in Dublin and studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin and spent several years as a non-consultant hospital doctor before qualifying as a general practitioner in 2010.

Varadkar is the only son of Ashok and Miriam (née Howell) Varadkar. His Hindu father was born in Mumbai and moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, to work as a doctor and his Catholic mother worked as a nurse in Slough. The two married in the UK in 1971, then lived in Leicester, where their eldest child, Sophie, was born. The family moved to India, before settling in Dublin in 1973, where their second child, Sonia, and third child Leo were born. Varadkar’s parents agreed to raise their son, in the Catholic faith.


Desis in 8

Amjad “John” Panjwani, 56 was born in Bangladesh and currently lives in San Antonio, where he runs Choke Canyon Hill Inc is a privately held company which operates Choke Canyon Bar-B-Q which is depicted by an alligator in a hat inside a round circle with a “See ya later alligator” moniker. The logo has been the source of a legal lawsuit brought on by the much larger competitor Buc-Ee’s which contended copyright infringement and a jury sided with Buc-Ee’s last week. Panjwani started his business in 2005 with a single Exxon gas station and convenience store and grew it into multiple stores.

Highest Paid CEOs

South Asians certainly know how to be successful in businesses, large and small, but many have made it into the upper echelons of corporate America and it is exemplified by the Equilar ratings of 200 CEOs with the top 2017 earnings. In the top 100 were five Indians.

Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi

Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, 63, CEO of Pepsico, earned $25,891,211 in total compensation. Nooyi was born to a Tamil-speaking Brahmin family in Madras (Chennai) and received bachelor’s degrees in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics from Madras Christian College of the University of Madras in 1974 and a MBA from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta in 1976. Beginning her career in India, Nooyi held product manager positions at Johnson & Johnson and textile firm Mettur Beardsell. She earned a master’s degree in Public and Private Management from Yale School of Management.


Shantanu Narayen

Shantanu Narayen, 55, CEO of Adobe Systems since 2007 earned $21,934,033 in total compensation He grew up in Telugu speaking family in Hyderabad, the second son of a mother who taught American literature and a father who ran a plastics company. He went to Hyderabad Public School and earned a BSc in electronics and communication engineering from University College of Engineering, Osmania University, an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in computer science from Bowling Green State University, Ohio. He started his career at Apple, then moved to Silicon Graphics, then co-founded Pictra before joining Adobe in 1998 as a senior vice-president of worldwide product research.

Satya Nadela

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella, 51, CEO of Microsoft since 2014 earned $20,014,152 in total compensation. Nadella worked at Sun Microsystems prior to joining Microsoft in 1992. Nadella was born in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, (now in the state of Telangana). His father, Bukkapuram Nadella Yugandher, worked for the Indian Administrative Service of the Government of India. Nadella attended the Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet and received a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology in 1988. Nadella came to the US to study computer science at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, receiving his MSc degree in 1990. Later, he received an MBA from the University of Chicago.



Ajay Banga

Ajay Banga

Ajaypal “Ajay” Banga, 58, CEO of Mastercard since 2010, earned $18,684,468 in total compensation. He was born in Khadki, Pune. His father is a retired decorated lieutenant-general of the Indian Army Harbhajan Singh Banga. He is the younger brother of another well-known CEO M. S. Banga. Banga was schooled across India, in Secunderabad, Jalandhar, Delhi, Hyderabad and in Shimla. Banga graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. The Government of India awarded him the civilian honor of the Padma Shri in 2016.


Bob Patel

Bob Patel

Bhavesh V. “Bob” Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell Industries since 2015, earned $17,568,640 in total compensation. Patel previously served as executive vice president, Olefins and Polyolefins – Europe, Asia and International. He joined LyondellBasell in March 2010 and as executive vice president successfully led the restructuring of the company’s O&P – Americas and O&P – Europe, Asia and International segments. Previously, Patel held several positions at Chevron Corporation and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company for more than 20 years. He has held leadership positions based in the Netherlands, Singapore and the United States. He earned a BSc in chemical engineering from Ohio State University and a Master of Business Administration from Temple University.