After Satya Nadella and Vishal Sikka another Indian is making news in the global tech industry. Google’s Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora has quit the company to join Japan’s SoftBank Corp as Vice Chairman of the group and CEO of SoftBank Internet and Media Inc. Leaving one of the fastest growing companies in the world is definitely newsworthy, especially when the person is the fourth most important person and the highest paid employee of the company.
Nikesh Arora also made news when he married Ayesha Thapar earlier this month. Times of India called it the mother of all fat Punjabi weddings. Attended by the Who’s Who of Silicon Valley, Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the marriage was all over the US and Indian press.
However, for Nikesh Arora, who also serves on the board of Colgate-Palmolive and Bharti Airtel, the journey started from humble beginnings. Here are five things to know about Arora’s journey.
1. Born in Ghaziabad, Nikesh Arora completed his schooling from The Air Force School (Subroto Park), in Delhi. His father worked in the Air Force and Nikesh had been to different Kendriya Vidyalayas around the country. He graduated as an Electronic Engineer from IIT BHU in 1989. After completing his engineering he had a brief stint with Wipro selling computers. He however, decided to pursue a management degree from the US and enrolled at Northeastern University, Boston. After completion his MBA, Arora joined Fidelity Investments as an analyst but simultaneously enrolled himself for a master’s programme in finance from Boston College. Attending school at night and topping his class, Arora finished his CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) course in 1995.
2. One of the few analysts (and perhaps the richest) who could boast of such an enviable CV, Arora moved from Fidelity to Putnam Investments where he tracked the telecom sector. But his heart was not in stock analysis. In an article in Livemint, Arora said that he felt that he wasn’t ‘doing things’. He quit his job to join Deutsche Telekom. While on the job he found an opportunity to start his own venture in June 2000, T-Motion PLC, which was providing certain value added services for the newly launched 3G services of the German company. But within two years T-Motion was merged into Deutsche Telekom as a part of T-Mobile. Arora worked in T-Mobile in various capacities including as a member of the board.
3. By 2004, Arora had plans of starting another venture, a mobile virtual network company. But, in September 2004 during a lunch with his friend his plans changed. His friend had an offer from a California-based company that was looking for somebody to manage its European business. Since the company was too small for his friend’s liking, he wanted Arora to have a look at it. The company was Google, which had gone public in August 2004. The first interview was conducted in a small rented office space, which didn’t impress Arora, the next one was with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at the British Museum. Google CEO, Larry Page mentioned about this interview and the fact that for some unknown reason Sergey Brin had selected this location for the interview in his social network site while announcing Nikesh Arora’s exit from the company.
4. Arora was looking after Google’s European operations from 2004 to 2007 and was later given charge of handling Middle East and African markets. He later took over global sales and became the chief business officer in 2011. Arora has been Google’s highest paid executive; as per Bloomberg Businessweek Arora received a compensation package of $57.1 million or Rs 344 crore (almost Rs one crore per day) in 2013. As Google’s top sales executive, Arora had been instrumental in opening up new advertising markets. According to Forbes, Google under Arora’s leadership made big in-roads into display ads and has been driving an ongoing push to get more brand advertisers to look beyond television and print magazines to run more ads on Google’s YouTube video site as well as its network of a million other websites to which it syndicates display ads.
5. A keen golfer and a fast thinker, Nikesh Arora is considered by his colleague and juniors as a team person and a cult-figure among Indian Googlers. But despite being a globe-trotter (Arora travels 100 days a year) Arora is an Indian at heart. His colleagues say that Indian culture still plays a very important part of his life. He eats Indian food at home (Arora carries his own bottle of hot sauce to add to his food in restaurants), his family speaks in Hindi and like all Indians he watches cricket matches, even if it is late in the night.