On November 29, 2021, Parag Agrawal was unanimously appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Twitter by the company’s board of directors. Agrawal had been the Chief Technology Officer at Twitter since 2017 after joining the company in 2011. This comes after former CEO and co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, stepped down after 16 years leading the company. Agrawal, 37, is the youngest CEO of any S&P 500 firm.
Agrawal received his engineering degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, one of India’s premiere engineering colleges, and earned his doctorate in computer science from Stanford University. He joins an elite rank of Indian born tech CEOs, including Sundar Pichai of Alphabet (Google), Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Arvind Krishna of IBM, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, and Nikesh Arora of Palo Alto Networks. Between them, this group of CEOs run companies with a combined value of over $5 trillion.
Thus, Agrawal’s appointment is the latest recognition of India as one of the richest tech talent pools in the world, and showcases the importance of immigrants to the US economy. This fact is not going unnoticed—upon hearing the news, Patrick Collison, the CEO of the financial services company Stripe, tweeted: “...It is wonderful to watch the amazing success of Indians in the technology world; it is a good reminder of the opportunity America offers to immigrants,” to which Tesla CEO Elon Musk replied: “USA benefits greatly from Indian talent!” As of 2019, there are over 4.3 million Indian Americans living in the United States, and in 2017 there were over 196,000 Indian students studying in the United States.
US tech companies have been looking to expand into India for years, and Twitter has previously purchased Indian start-ups. But this investment does not exclusively go one way—in 2018, India invested $2.4 billion in the United States, showing the potential for a strong US-India tech partnership. Thus, because Twitter has over 20 million users in India and is one of the company’s fastest-growing markets, it follows that one of the top priorities for Agrawal will be expanding further into the Indian market. However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has 73 million followers on Twitter, has attacked Twitter for its reluctance to take down content the administration finds objectionable. Some experts believe the elevation of Agrawal to CEO will help smooth relations between the company and India, which will be critical for expanding Twitter’s global reach in the future. Regardless, Agrawal’s appointment shows the importance of Indians and Indian Americans to the US tech industry cannot be overstated.
Kimery Lynch is a Projects Coordinator at the East-West Center in Washington. She recently graduated from the University of Hawai'i-Mānoa with her MA in Asian Studies.