The list of Indian-origin leaders at the helm of multinational conglomerates has been growing over the past few years. In the elite club of global Indian CEOs are Chanel’s Leena Nair, Twitter’s Parag Agarwal, Sundar Pichai at Google and former Reckitt top boss Laxman Narasimhan who recently joined Starbucks as CEO.
The impressive list has many more names: Ivan Menezes, Diageo; Satya Nadella, Microsoft; Arvind Krishna, IBM; Raghu Raghuram, VMWare; Devika Bulchandani, Ogilvy; Shantanu Narayen, Adobe; Sameer Suneja, Perfetti Van Melle; Jayshree V. Ullal, Arista Networks; Raj Subramaniam, FedEx; Sandeep Kataria, Bata; George Kurian, Net app; Vasant Narasimhan, Novartis; Puneet Renjen, Deloitte; CS Venkatakrishnan, Barclays; Revathi Advaithi - Flex. This is by no means a comprehensive list and there are several more Indian-origin CEOs running companies globally.
But there’s another set of global Indian leaders who have a more tangible impact on our day-to-day lives. They are the global Indian marketers building and growing brands that we use every day. These executives are running some of the world’s biggest brands across FMCG and financial services, shaping consumer culture and growing bottom-lines.
Take a look at some of these global Indian-origin marketers.
Ram Krishnan of PepsiCo
“I am an insatiably curious global citizen who is intrigued by our connected world and the people in it,” Ram Krishnan describes himself on his blog Ramalytics. Besides being a blogger, Krishnan is also the chief executive officer (international beverages) and chief commercial officer at food and beverage giant PepsiCo.
PepsiCo products are consumed more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. The company generated $79 billion in net revenue in 2021, driven by a complimentary beverage and convenient foods portfolio that includes Lay's, Doritos, Cheetos, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Quaker, and SodaStream. PepsiCo's product portfolio includes a wide range of foods and beverages, including many iconic brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.
But before Krishnan rose to the top rungs of PepsiCo’s food and beverage empire, he put in about a decade in the auto sector. An MBA from the University of Michigan and an MS, BS in Engineering, his career started as a senior consultant at General Motors in 1995.
Since joining PepsiCo in 2006 as a director of marketing, Krishnan has held a number of senior leadership roles. Most recently, he served as the Executive Vice President and Global Chief Commercial Officer, and CEO of Asia Pacific, Australia/New Zealand and China (APAC) Region. He previously was Senior Vice President and General Manager of PepsiCo’s global Walmart Customer Team and also served as Frito-Lay North America’s (FLNA) Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.
As the Global Chief Commercial Officer of PepsiCo, Krishnan oversees R&D, Venturing, Marketing, Sales & Insights, Customer Strategy, Revenue Management, Go-to-Market, E-Commerce, and Design to support PepsiCo’s efforts to accelerate global growth. He also works with the CEO to transform and scale the company’s Data & Digital capabilities.
Interestingly, PepsiCo’s previous global chief commercial officer was Laxman Narasimhan, current CEO of Starbucks and former Reckitt chief.
With functions like marketing and design also reporting into him, Krishnan’s current role is also focussed on driving accelerated growth for the International Beverages business, including the company's international franchise bottlers, with an end-to-end focus on brand-building, innovation, supply chain, digitalization, talent, and sustainability.
In an interview with Forbes, Krishnan said, “One of the things we have learnt in marketing is, brands have to keep evolving. Ten years is an eternity in marketing.”
On LinkedIn, Mike Acken, specialist leader at Deloitte Consulting, wrote about Krishnan: “The best client's are those who are able to form a true partnership with every member of their extended team, both inside and outside of the company. This is Ram. He, like many others at his level, has a mastery of the "nuts and bolts" of marketing. His higher-order skill, which is far more rare, is the ability to build true consensus and empower everyone to perform at a higher level. Ram is the type of client agencies dream of. He let us do our best possible work, and have a great time working for a truly good guy in the process.”
Kainaz Gazder of P&G
Kainaz Gazder, who currently serves as the senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Procter & Gamble (P&G) has been with the American multinational consumer goods corporation for 26 years. In her role as the senior vice president for Babycare segment of the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (AMA) region, she is responsible for P&L, innovation, value creation, digital transformation and manufacturing plants. And, as the chief marketing officer for the AMA region, her responsibilities include capability building in brand management, digital transformation, and career planning for 600+ marketers.
An MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS), Gazder started her career with P&G as an assistant brand manager. She held several roles during her time at the American FMCG juggernaut, including brand franchise leader of the global Femcare portfolio and vice president and CMO for the Babycare segment for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In an interview with Suzanne Doyle-Morris for her book ‘The Con Job: Getting Ahead for Competence in a World Obsessed with Confidence’, Gazder stressed, “’I have never heard a woman criticised for lack of confidence. I have only heard her criticised as not having confidence in her plans or recommendations. Then it’s obvious to everyone that it’s our job as senior people to support her. If that’s how she’s come across, we haven’t done our job in supporting her well enough.”
In a 2019 interview with Mumbrella Asia, she said, “Communication today is not just advertising or what it was 20 years ago – merely what a brand said on TV. Today, people who talk about brands and influence others become our advertisers. It’s the most meaningful, impactful and influential advertising that any brand can get.”
Priya Nair of Unilever
Earlier this year, Nair moved into a new global role as chief marketing officer - Beauty & Wellbeing, at Unilever. She was previously Hindustan Unilever’s executive director and executive vice president of the South Asia region for the beauty and personal care category. Nair, who has 27 years of experience, started her career with the consumer goods company as a consumer insights manager. She rose through the ranks to become brand manager and general manager handling brands like Dove, Rin and Comfort.
Nair holds a degree in Bachelor of Commerce from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, and is a post graduate in MBA in Marketing from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management.
In March, Nair shared with Storyboard18 the lessons that have helped her in a steady and stunning career: “I have learnt that in corporate life if you are fortunate enough to discover your purpose, which I have in my work, you will have the strength to manage all volatility and uncertainty. I have learnt that it is the power of the inner compass that gives you conviction, energy, and optimism. The second lesson I have learnt is to keep learning. This learning agility is critical in management, as we see the world change at an increasing speed. Constant learning, not just on the job but also learning from peers and industry, is critical for sharpening your skills and for personal development.”
Nair also mentioned how her mother inspired her to get back to studying after 25 years of work experience. She took on a Harvard Executive Leadership Program and went back to school.
Raja Rajamannar of Mastercard
One of the world’s most influential marketers, Raja Rajamannar is the chief marketing and communications officer and president - healthcare business at Mastercard, the American multinational financial services corporation.
Rajamannar is a life-long learner who spends hours every weekend learning about new technologies and tools at a marketer’s disposal today. He holds a B.Tech in chemical engineering from Osmania University and an MBA from IIM Bangalore. Rajamannar later followed that up with two programs at Harvard Business School and Wharton.
Having started his career with Asian Paints as a senior product manager, he joined Hindustan Lever as regional sales head. Later, he moved to the Dubai branch of Citibank where he was the marketing and sales director and continued to work with Citibank in London and later New York. Prior to Mastercard, Rajamannar served as chief transformation officer of the health insurance firm Anthem (formerly WellPoint), chief innovation & marketing officer at Humana. He developed his entrepreneurial approach at Asian Paints, his marketing grounding at Unilever, and his financial savvy during a 15-year tenure at Citi.
At Mastercard, Rajamannar is responsible for successfully leading the company’s marketing evolution, including the development of its Priceless experiential platforms, pioneering Mastercard’s move to become a symbol brand and launching its breakthrough sonic brand platform, recognized as the best in the world. His groundbreaking theories and innovative strategies are documented in his first book, “Quantum Marketing: Mastering the New Marketing Mindset for Tomorrow’s Consumers”, a Wall Street Journal best seller and recipient of the Stevie and International Book Awards.
In an interview with Leaders Magazine in 2021, Rajamannar said, “Today’s CMO needs to understand more than creativity, they need to think like a general manager and speak the language of the business. Then CMOs will be able to cultivate relationships with the CEO and CFO to credibly show business outcomes and the impact of marketing.”
And, speaking about his book in an interview with Moneycontrol, Rajamannar further added, “Brands should not pretend to be what they are not. Messaging that is inauthentic harms the brand rather than helping. Customers can tell when a brand is being opportunistic, and jumping into a conversation that they don't really care about.”
A proponent of meaningful, authentic and purposeful marketing, Rajamannar told Storyboard18 in July, “It’s a privilege to be a marketer. You really have tons of resources, skills and opportunities to serve the community and the society. So put your marketing network and resources to use for the good of the community.”