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Apple to Adobe: Shantanus journey

By M. Somasekhar

Hyderabad, Nov. 14 In the winter of December 1994 in New Delhi, Apple launched its high-powered crunching machine in India. At the close of the evening, the top honchos of Apple introduced an Indian in their team as one of the “most promising prospects at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California”.

Exactly 13 winters later, that Indian becomes the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Adobe Systems, one of the top IT company globally.

From December 1, 2007, 44-year-old Mr Shantanu Narayen will be one of the few Indian-origin IT professionals to reach the zenith in a US-promoted Silicon Valley company.


Shantanu is a technologist cum entrepreneur endowed with excellent managerial skills. He is a “straight shooter and a go-getter — qualities which are important to take you where you want to reach in the US, especially Silicon Valley,” says Mr N.R. Machiraju, who knows Shantanu from his days at Apple and is the founder of Concept Labs who currently spawns IT companies like reQall etc.

A genial personality and hardworking by nature, Shantanu cultivated skills of public speaking from his college days as a debater and quizzer at Osmania University, Hyderabad, where he graduated in electronics and communication engineering in the early 1980s. Right then, the soft-spoken Shantanu exhibited qualities of a team player.

He inculcated management qualities at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley and earned a master’s degree in computer science from Bowling Green State University in the US.
Pictra co-founder

During his initial stints at Apple and Silicon Graphics, during the ear1y 1990s, Shantanu was often invited as a keynote speaker at popular events like the IT Comdex, IT Asia, etc. During the peak of the dotcom boom, Shantanu also tried his hand at entrepreneurship by co-founding Pictra, an online digital photo sharing company, in 1996.

His move to Adobe in 1998, which had its core strengths in photoshop and multimedia software, proved to be his best step in retrospect. Together with CEO Mr Bruce Chizen, Shantanu spearheaded the $3.4-billion acquisition of Macromedia Inc in 2005.

Holding five patents, Shantanu has been a big supporter of the R&D activities of Adobe Systems, which makes him a frequent visitor to the company’s R&D Centre in Noida. He occasionally visits his parents at Hyderabad.

The elevation of Shantanu to the top spot at Adobe (significantly in its 25th year) signals the growing presence of Indian professionals in the US corporate world.

Young Shantanu fully deserves to be in the company of the likes of Ms Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo; Mr Satjiv Chahil, Senior VP at HP; Mr Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone; Mr Rajat Gupta, former MD of McKinsey Worldwide; Mr Arun Netravali, former President AT&T Bell Labs and CEO of Lucent Technologies and many such Indians who continue to make their mark in the competitive global environment.

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