India celebrates Twitter’s new Mumbai-born CEO Parag Agrawal as testament to its technological prowess

November 30, 2021, 10:25 AM UTC

India on Tuesday celebrated the appointment of Mumbai-born Parag Agrawal as the chief executive officer of Twitter. Agrawal, 37, will replace founder Jack Dorsey who announced on Monday that he would step down as CEO. India’s top three newspapers plastered Agrawal’s promotion on their front page, spinning the news as proof of the country’s own technological chops. 

Agrawal, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay who earned a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University, joined Twitter in 2011 and was most recently its chief technology officer. The Indian press cited his promotion to CEO as part of a larger trend of India-born executives—Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and IBM’s Arvind Krishna—taking the reins at Fortune 500 companies.

“India gets a handle @Twitter as Parag Agrawal named CEO,” ran a headline in the Times of India, the nation’s largest English daily. “Dorsey exits Twitter, Agrawal to take over,” said Mint, India’s second-largest business daily. 

The Hindustan Times, another leading English daily, led with Agrawal’s message to Twitter employees, in which he expressed his gratitude for Dorsey’s mentorship and optimism about the company’s future. “World is watching right now: Parag’s first message after becoming Twitter CEO,” the headline blared. 

India has the largest diaspora in the world and prides itself on a vast pool of tech talent that serves some of the largest companies across the globe.

“This is one pandemic that we are happy and proud to say originated in India. It’s the Indian CEO virus…No vaccine against it,” tweeted Anand Mahindra, chairperson of the Mahindra Group, a Mumbai-based business conglomerate.

India’s second-richest man and chairman of the Adani Group, Gautam Adani, also hailed Agrawal’s accomplishment as a testament to “India’s depth of talent and USA’s meritocracy system.” 

“After Microsoft, Google, IBM, Adobe, Flex, VMware and more, yet another Indian rises to lead the digital world,” Adani tweeted. 

At the same time, commentators cited Agrawal as proof that India is losing its top talent to overseas employers and argued that the country should focus on minting entrepreneurs—not executives who run other people’s companies. 

“Twitter’s Parag Agrawal joins the impressive list of Indian origin professional CEOs of global tech giants. But it would be a day when Indians figure prominently as founder CEOs, when they own the innovation space and build companies,” said Amit Malviya, the national convener of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Another politician, from India’s opposition Congress Party, Milind Deora, used the Agrawal news to call on India to stop its own “brain drain.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was notably absent from the chorus of congratulations, as were India’s leading trade groups. That’s maybe to be expected. Twitter and the Indian government have clashed over free speech

In February, the government introduced new guidelines to regulate digital content on social media and streaming platforms. Digital platforms are required to appoint three executives who reside in India to comply with government requests, failing which the executives can face criminal prosecution.

Twitter had failed to provide details about the appointment of a chief compliance officer, but later appointed an executive in response to the government directive.

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