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Since it became apparent last week Satya Nadella was in line to become only the third chief executive of Microsoft Corp., Silicon Valley’s Indian community has been bubbling over with pride.
That his ascent would generate such excitement might seem surprising. Indians have become a force in Silicon Valley, where 15 percent of tech start-ups have Indian founders and a handful of notable companies, such as Adobe Systems Inc., have Indian CEOs.
Yet his appointment is seen by Indians as much more. It’s a giant leap forward to have their own running one of the world’s most important firms. And he’ll step into the shoes of Bill Gates, one of the world’s most famous names, to run a company for which Indians have a special affection. “This is why this is making front-page news in India,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a Stanford researcher and former entrepreneur who has studied the Indian tech community. “It shows how they’ve crossed the barriers. They’ve made it to the mainstream in a big way.”
Microsoft has confirmed Mr. Nadella, 46, will become CEO, replacing Steve Ballmer, who succeeded Mr. Gates. Also, Mr. Gates will be a product adviser to Mr. Nadella and step down as chairman, replaced by John Thompson.
“Satya Nadella is Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates his wingman,” the headline at the top of the Times of India Web site read.
Upon taking the helm, Mr. Nadella becomes one of the world’s most influential Indian business leaders. He joins other notables as Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo Inc. chairman and CEO, and Ajaypal Singh Banga, MasterCard Worldwide president and CEO. But with $78 billion in 2013 revenue, Microsoft had more sales than both those firms combined.