Just a little over one month after Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) selected Satya Nadella as its new chief executive officer, another global tech giant is preparing to name an Indian-born executive as its boss.
According to a report on Friday in Helsingin Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, Nokia (NYSE: NOK) will likely appoint Rajeev Suri, the current head of its telecoms network equipment division, as its next CEO, following the $7.5 billion sale of the company’s handset business to Microsoft. Afterwards, Nokia’s business lines will comprise telecom equipment, location-based services and advanced technology businesses.
Nokia itself would not comment on media speculation about Suri, according to reports. "We will talk more about the Nokia strategy, structure and organization around the closing of the pending [handset] transaction," said spokeswoman Maija Taimi in a statement.
If appointed, Suri would succeed Stephen Elop, who is expected to transfer to Microsoft in connection with the handset transaction, which is expected to close by the end of March.
The report noted that Suri is a strong favorite for the top job after he made the network equipment division, Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN), profitable by enacting a dramatic restructuring plan that unloaded unprofitable business units. Following the handset deal, NSN will account for about 90 percent of Nokia's total sales, Reuters reported.
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Suri’s restructuring program at NSN involved laying off more than 25,000 people, moves he called "regrettable but necessary" to improve the division’s profitability.
According to his official profile on the NSN website, Suri, who is only 46 years old, joined Nokia in 1995, held positions with the company all over the world and is now based in Espoo, Finland. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Telecommunications, Manipal Institute of Technology, Mangalore University (which is also the alma mater of Nadella).
Suri is married to a woman named Nina and they have two children.
The Times of India speculated that Suri’s lineage may serve as an advantage, given that India is viewed as one of the biggest and growing markets for new mobile network infrastructure, as the country is moving from 2G networks to 3G and the next-generation 4G.
But Nokia faces some daunting challenges. In late January, the company posted a fourth quarter loss, including restructuring charges and a loss related to its discontinued Devices & Services business which is being sold to Microsoft. The NSN unit also reported a quarterly sales drop of 22 percent year-over-year.
Nevertheless, once Suri takes over the reins at Nokia, he will join a glittering array of Indian-born executives who now run some of the world’s most well-known companies, including Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP); Rakesh Kapoor at Reckitt Benckiser Group plc (LON: RB); Ajay Banga at MasterCard (NYSE: MA); and Anshu Jain at Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB).
The Hindu newspaper also reported that Manipal Institute of Technology wants to award honorary doctorates to both Suri and Nadella and are elated about the latest reports from Nokia.
“We are very happy that Rajeev Suri is tipped to be the chief of Nokia,” said Chancellor of Manipal University, Ramdas Pai. “Coming soon after the elevation of Satya Nadella to the top post in Microsoft, this is great news. We have created the best infrastructures which the students must fully use and try to get inspiration from these two and become future MDs and CEOs of big corporations.”