Will an Indian succeed Cisco CEO John Chambers?

Telecom Lead Asia: Cisco chairman John Chambers says an Indian can succeed him as CEO when he steps down sometime in the next two-to-four years.

Chambers has helped grow the company from $70 million when he joined Cisco in January 1991, to $1.2 billion when he assumed the role of CEO, to revenues of $46 billion in FY 2012.

John Chambers said two Indians – Padmasree Warrior, 51, Cisco CTO & chief strategy officer, and Pankaj Patel, 58, its executive vice-president & chief development officer – are in contention to succeed him.

In a select media interaction in Delhi on Wednesday, Chambers described Padmasree Warrior as absolutely amazing, and Pankaj Patel as an engineer’s engineer. “We want to make Cisco a truly globalized company,” said Chambers.

About 30 percent of the company’s workforce will be in India in the not-so-distant future, up from about one-sixth at present. Even six years ago, Cisco had only 1,400 people in India. That number has since grown to 11,300.

Bloomberg on 5 October 2012 reported that Cisco Systems, the world’s biggest maker of computer-networking equipment, promoted Gary Moore and Robert Lloyd each to the role of president, lining up potential successors to CEO John Chambers.

Both are among 10 candidates Chambers had said were being considered as successors. Moore, 63, who joined Cisco in 2001, will remain chief operating officer. Lloyd, 56, hired by Cisco in 1994, will continue to oversee sales while adding engineering. Both had been executive vice presidents prior to the appointment.

Other executives Chambers mentioned as potential successors during a September 26 interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York include Chuck Robbins, who yesterday was also promoted to head of worldwide sales, and Edzard Overbeek, senior vice president of global services.

The Cisco board has shortlisted about 10 candidates who could succeed Chambers. It reviews the list every quarter. Considering these two Bloomberg reports in 2012, is Chambers really serious about an Indian taking over his position at some point of time. Time will tell us.


“I am looking at India beyond labor arbitrage or outsourcing. No other high-tech company has put majority of its R&D and services utilization in India,” Chambers told Economic Times.

Cisco CEO, who earlier in the day met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the ministers of IT and commerce, said his company will increase its commitments to India, especially in the area of inclusion that the Indian government was so focused on. Read: Cisco India revenue up 50% in its fiscal Q2

Chambers, said one of the company’s key objectives was to work with the government to find technology solutions to India’s challenges in education and healthcare. Read Cisco charts master plan for 4 smart cities under DMIC project

“With broadband and cloud, we can change the school system, have many more children learning from good teachers remotely. Every village can have a healthcare facility with a fast network connection, where the health data of a person can be captured and a doctor in a remote location can take a look at it,” he said.

The $46-billion Cisco runs a number of pilot projects around the country in education and healthcare in towns like Raichur and Shimoga in Karnataka and Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh.

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