In Silicon Valley there is a term “IC” which is the abbreviation of “Integrated Circuit”. “IC”, represents the acronym of English initials of India and China. This reflects the current status of Silicon Valley: Half of the Valley’s engineers are from Asia. Of these, half are from China, and other half are from India. However, when people compare these two, even the Chinese themselves have to admit that the Indians are more successful. It is very obvious to all that Chinese people are industrious and intelligent but in Silicon Valley that rarely comes to the fore; instead, it is the Indians who have emerged everywhere. Why are the Indians more successful in Silicon Valley? Some say that it is because of culture, some say that it is because of the language advantage; some believe that the most important factor is their “Hang Together” nature. “Indians help the Indians”, and let the achievements of Silicon Valley of the past 20 years become the legend of numerous Indians’ work.
A story of three trainees from Silicon Valley
On arriving at Silicon Valley, this Global Times reporter heard the following true story:
A company recruited three interns, a Chinese, American and Indian respectively. The American interns would complete work in time and leave immediately. He had some knowledge on some of the problems, but takes 5 minutes to explain a problem which can be described in one minute; The Chinese intern worked as hard as he could but did not talk much; the India intern did not work as hard as the Chinese intern, but not was not bad. Although speaking with his own accent, he loved to ask questions and was very good at expressing himself. If you examine who learned the most in the internship period, it would be the Chinese intern; but if you ask everyone whom they remember the most, then it is the India intern.
This is just one story, one drop in the ocean, at high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. But this small story helps in understanding the scenario of Indian people working in Silicon Valley. They have a strong ability to adapt and can quickly integrate into the American work environment. Furthermore, their success can also be attributed to their attention to and recognition of all walks of life.
The 43 year old Sundar Pichai—Google’s CEO in the summer.— is the most typical case. Pichai has born in Chennai, a southern India city, studied at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and later went to study in the United States and in 2004 he joined Google. In 2008, Pichai introduced Chrome to the world after taking over Google’s web browser department. Next he was placed in charge of the commercial Google+, Google’s electronic wallet, Android Payment and Google application software.According to a New York Times report, Google founders Larry Page said that “Pichai is very talented, he can create a good and easy to use” products, “in 2008, people still doubted whether this world needed another browser or not.Today Chrome has tens of thousands of happy customers.”
Another member of the Silicon Valley Indian elite is the Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, his rise made possible by his own efforts to prove to the world “how impossible becomes possible”. According to a Wall Street journal report,”he let Silicon Valley once again like Microsoft and encouraged cooperation not to let rival products become the enemy.”
Besides the two of them,Adobe President and CEO Shantanu Narayan, Flash memory card SanDisk CEO Sanjay Mehrotra, SoftBank president Nikesh Arora,Digital Link Co-founder Vinita Gupta, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. co-founder Kumar Malavalli, etc.They all are off Indian descent. Statistics shows that between 2006 and 2012, for every 10 Silicon Valley companies, about four of the co-founder members are immigrants and about 30% are Indian, followed Chinese who accounted for 5%.According to a Bloomberg Business 2014 report, 1/3 of of Silicon Valley start-up companies are created by the Indian-American.
The achievements of India in Silicon Valley seem to contradicted some people’s conventional wisdom. A Financial Times report commented that Indian software developers have an illustrious reputation, but people did not expect that these people would catch up with the once dominant immigrant groups from Taiwan and Chinese mainland, let alone become America’s most entrepreneurial technology immigrants.
Although the accent is heavy, the expression and outcome is successful.
In a 2014 Wall Street Journal survey of 858 people participants, on what factors make Indians become successful global executives, 38.7% of respondents believed that the Indians adaptable nature and can adjust and do well any where; 28.9% of the respondents think they are very clever; 14.6% of respondents believed that they are hard working; 9.8% of the respondents think that they can speak English well;8% of respondents believe they work for a cheaper salary.
This idea about “strong adaptability” is associated with Indian culture. India has many ethnic group and many languages. A Wall Street Journal report says that growing up in such a diverse atmosphere not only helps them more adopt the new environment more quickly but also make them more comfortable to live and struggle within. India in particular, where the elite have always had frequent overseas contact, the habit of thinking and living a western lifestyle is very familiar to them. It is these habits and skills, that battles with their eloquent, smooth and suave managers in the United States comes in handy.
Academically speaking, most have a combination of technical and management background. In India, computer science and business is the most popular field of choice. Only the most successful students enter the Indian Institute of Technology or the Indian Institute of Management. Going overseas is the main aim for the students who graduate from here and Silicon Valley is the first choice for them.It is noteworthy that many Indian students have part-time computer science degree in management and vice versa.
The “adaptive ability” of Indians is also reflected in language. Many persons of Indian elite descent speak English since childhood and India’s outstanding local universities teach in English. Li Xiang, a Shanghai Investment Management Limited Investment Officer, went to study abroad. After returning back to his country he spoke to many people in Shanghai about the success story of the Indians in America. He told the Global Times that in specific technical aspects there are mainly people with the knowledge and language or expression does not play so big a role. But at a higher level, in the “people business”, the language disadvantage comes out for the Chinese people. We want to express the same meaning, but although Indian accent is heavy, their words are more accurate and easier to accept and understand.
This goes beyond just the language, but also to networking. According to a Wall Street journal report, the Chinese working in Google, speaking on their India American executives leadership skills, said they can communicate with others very easily.They added that their India American colleagues do things outside of their own work better than Chinese. Som Mittal, former President of the India software and Services Industry Association (NASSCOM), was quoted on CNN saying, “Whenever we come to a new place, we will learn a lot of social skills”.
Friends of the Chinese working in Silicon Valley told this reporter that most Chinese usually work as department level managers in the companies. if you want to go up, you have to engage with the leaders, you have to bring your wife and children in the parties, but many Chinese people are not used to that type of culture. He added that one of his relatives who is working in Facebook has experienced a strange kind of situation.It was found that at least three high-level managers were with their Chinese wives in the party. As we all know, Facebook boss, Zuckerberg’s wife is Chinese. Family structure undoubtedly contributes to the social interaction. What does this show? It explains the importance of the family in social interactions within an enterprise.
A person working at an international Chinese technology company that has several Indian executives also described the characteristics of Indians in the workplace.His personal experience is that Indians have a strong work ethic, they are very loyal to superiors and they have start from scratch mentality.They may not be stronger that Chinese people in terms of ability, but their reliability and predictability is higher. Chinese people have the mentality of being their own boss. However, this also shows that the entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese people is stronger.
“India style solidarity” heritage of 30 years
The success of the Indians in Silicon Valley has lasted nearly 20 years. In the 1980’s, the first batch of India IT elite began their career in the United States.In the early 1990s, they were only considered to posses engineering background. Observers believe that the rise of Indians in Silicon Valley has other factors, the most basic of which is their nature of “hanging together”.
Reporters noted that many of the Silicon Valley people who spoke about their Indian colleagues or executives agreed that they are very bonded. An American Chinese scholar described that very often if an Indian takes up the responsibility of a department, a large number of Indians follow. During conflicts as long as Indians are surrounded by other people from India, the company will unconditionally support other Indians.
Vivek Wadhwa, an American technology entrepreneurs and Indian scholar who specializes in India’s success in Silicon Valley, said Indians nourish the community and enhance entrepreneurship, the key to assisting the next generation of entrepreneurs, which sets up a network of relationships.Wadhwa said that the first generation of entrepreneurs, such as Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla acted as role models in the community.These early successes not only become a model for the younger generation, but also for providing guidance to new immigrants.
A lot of India’s mutual aid is conducted through a number of professional organizations, such as the Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Association (TiE).TiE was founded in 1992, with the aim of establishing a mutual support network and an obligation to help the next generation of successful immigrant entrepreneurs.Last month, TiE Silicon Valley jointly issued a new yearbook – “India’s rise in Silicon Valley”. The book is a compilation of success stories of Indian entrepreneurs and their impact on the world.
The Indian tendency to “hang together” has become a culture in Silicon Valley. 30 years later, senior leaders cultivate the younger generation in a system of apprenticeship management. Today, Indian young people trying to battle in Silicon Valley don’t have to smear their eyes, from the landing enterprise orientation Weipei to the India science and Technology Co., Ltd. Furthermore, understanding and cooperation between the immigration departments of the two countries has ensured that for Indian skilled migrants, the road to Silicon Valley is undoubtedly the most unobstructed.
The Financial Times said that they have now lost count of the number of the Indian executives who have made it to Silicon Valley. Although it is no longer tough for Indian industry to enter like it was in the beginning, the mutual assistance allows for this trend to continue. This “holding together” nature/tendency is necessary. Compared to other foreign groups, Indians are more aware of this truth.
It is worth mentioning that, Li Xiang told the Global Times that Chinese and Indians in Silicon Valley has narrowed the gap, but also with different factors. China’s recent rapid development in the last two decades brought a lot of opportunities and a lot of foreign companies flocked to China and Chinese in the American employment market came back to China. Moreover, with the gap between China and the U.S. narrowing further, Chinese people return home after studying (abroad) in a much shorter period. A lot of Chinese people work in the U.S. for a few years to become executives but then decide to return home. But in the Indian case they have relatively less opportunities (at home), so that there are less Indians returning to their own country.
After Pichai took over as Google CEO, Indian media were in the United States to review the status of Indians in Silicon Valley. They were pleased at their success but, at the same time, the Times of India raised the issue: should we not stop to ask the obvious question, why Indians achieve overwhelming success in the United States and not in their own country?