Praise in India continues for new Microsoft chief

THE initial excitement about Mr Satya Nadella's appointment as the third chief executive of Microsoft in the technology giant's 38-year history may be over, but the news is still making waves in India, the country of his birth.

In Hyderabad, India's IT hub, where 46-year-old Mr Nadella - now a US citizen - was born and brought up, praise continues to flow for what one Indian newspaper described as the "highest-ranked executive of Indian origin in the corporate world".

At the Hyderabad Public School, where Mr Nadella studied from 1978 to 1984 and lived on campus, a special assembly was organised last Thursday to mark the alumnus' making it to the top of the tech world.

His former teachers and classmates remember him as a focused and hard-working student, who when not on the cricket field would be in the library.

"He was always very attentive and well-dressed... very much interested in academics," Mr G. Jayanand, 86, who taught him biology and was also his house master, or the teacher in charge at his hostel, told The Straits Times.

"At that stage, you never know what (the students) will be in life, but when you see them on top of the world, we are happiest."

At Manipal University, where Mr Nadella studied electrical engineering, chancellor Ramdas M. Pai released a press statement calling it a "glorious moment" for students of the university.

His teachers also remember him as a "go-getter".

"He was bold, intelligent and inquisitive. He would always think differently (and had the) potential to achieve what he wanted," said Professor Harishchandra Hebbar, director of the School of Information Sciences at the university, told The Straits Times.

Mr Nadella is the son of Mr Bukkapuram Nadella Yugandhar, a well-known bureaucrat who served as special secretary to former Indian prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.

Over the years, Mr Nadella has kept alive his links with India, visiting his family at least once a year and attending school and college reunions.

His father has mostly shunned the reporters who have been camping outside his house after news broke of his son's promotion last Tuesday. Even as praise was heaped on his son, he called it "unnecessary hype".

"Yes, I wish him well, but that's all I have to say. Please spare us," he told one reporter.

Many in the US saw Mr Nadella's elevation as a safe bet for Microsoft, going with an insider, but with doubts about his ability to re-energise Microsoft. However in India, there was only praise.

"India makes a power point," said The Times of India, while the Hindustan Times said "India raises toast as Satya Nadella named Microsoft top boss".

Mr Nadella has mentioned how cricket, a national obsession in India, taught him about team play and leadership.

His classmates remember how he started almost by fluke.

"He was not into cricket till one day, at some meet, he was asked to bowl a ball. He spun it so well that the physical director took him into the team as a spinner (a bowler)," said Mr M.A. Faiz Khan, a classmate, who met Mr Nadella at a class reunion in 2010 and once more in 2012 when he spent a day at his old school.

The group of around 40 former classmates is working on another reunion in December this year and is hoping Mr Nadella will be able to make it.

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