Immigrant values are changing the face of business: George Kurian

Interview/ George Kurian, CEO, NetApp


The Kurian brothers are sort of the ‘awesome twosome’ in the global tech industry. The twins from Kottayam, Kerala, lead two of the world’s most valuable tech firms. Thomas has been the CEO of Google Cloud since 2019, and George is into his seventh year at the helm of NetApp, the hybrid cloud services and data management giant. George took time off his busy schedule to answer questions from THE WEEK. Excerpts:

Q/After a distinguished stint at the top of one of the world’s best known tech firms, how would you say your priorities and focus areas have changed?

A/ My priorities have changed in some ways and remained the same in others. We’ve always believed that digital disruption of businesses was an opportunity for us to help our customers, and in turn, make our business succeed. With Covid-19, digital disruption has accelerated and we are adapting to the expanding opportunities with speed and agility.

As the leader of a large organisation, this year has brought ensuring our team’s safety, health, wellness and connectedness to the forefront. We have been able to move quickly because we have a clear set of values that have guided our actions, we have been open in our communications and have a high-trust culture.

Change can be difficult, but it also opens windows of opportunity. Having a growth mindset that is key to success means embracing an ‘adopt, learn, adapt model’. Businesses need to create flexibility and plan for multiple futures, as fluid and flexible as their IT environment itself. And that’s exactly what we are doing at NetApp and the mindset we’ve instilled in our employees.

Q/More Indians are making it to CEO positions in global giants. What has changed?

A/ I see this as a part of the world becoming a smaller place. And a more connected place. The future is more evenly distributed, with opportunities presenting themselves to those who can serve them. India has always had a lot of talent because of a culture that values education, and a strong foundation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines, plus facility in English communications. This good foundation, together with a large diaspora of Indian talent with immigrant values of hard work and grit, is now changing the face of business. There are almost 4.5 million people of Indian origin in the US alone and multinational firms, to their credit, are recognising their talent, character and leadership skills.

When I think of my own success, I give enormous credit to my wonderful parents, especially my mother. They were both exceptional role models. They were self-starters; they came up from modest backgrounds and yet made extraordinary sacrifices and contributions for their families. Most importantly, they encouraged us to work extraordinarily hard, take risks and stay humble, something that we all try to live up to every day. In short, being their child has been my greatest blessing.