IBM’s new CEO wants India to lead ‘quantum’ race

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on January 31, 2020

Arvind Krishna

IIT-Kanpur alumni Arvind Krishna will replace Ginny Rometty as IBM’s Chief Executive Officer, marking the ascendance of another Indian to the top post of one of the largest tech companies in the world.

Krishna joins a growing club of Indian CEOs that now includes Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Alphabet Inc’s Sundar Pichai, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen, Palo Alto’s Nikesh Arora and Mastercard’s Ajay Banga.

Krishna, 57, was so far the head of IBM’s cloud and cognitive software unit and has been pioneering two big bets for the Big Blue: Quantum Computing and Blockchain.

Krishna is also a big proponent of open source technologies and was the principal architect of IBM’s acquisition of RedHat last year. In an earlier interview with BusinessLine, Krishna had spoken about the importance of quantum computing and how India’s lack of interest in the upcoming technology could set it back against global peers.

“If you want to simulate a molecule of something like caffeine, which has 160 eletrons, it would require a computer that’s 1/10th the volume of our planet. But that can be done with a quantum computer the size of a small room,” Krishna said while explaining the possibilities with a quantum computer.

He said while countries like China are heavily investing in on quantum computing, India could lose its technological edge by missing out on the upcoming technology.

“Are start-ups in India interested in quantum computing? I haven’t found any. I found start-ups in Japan, the UK, the US, Canada and Germany,” Krishna said.

“If all India wants to do is to manufacture basic commodity sub assemblies, there’s probably nothing to lose when it comes to quantum computing. But if they want to be the designers of the next generation sub components of a vehicle, a fraction of that would be deeply influenced by quantum computing in a few years from now,” he said.

Krishna will have big shoes to fill as Rometty, 62, retires after almost 40 years with the company.

Focus on research

With Krishna’s focus on cutting edge research, IBM could be better placed to compete with the likes of Google and Amazon that are quickly grabbing marketshare.

Soon after IBM’s announcement, Krishna received a warm welcome on Twitter from some of the biggest corporate houses in India.

Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindr Group, in his tweet praised Krishna’s appointment saying it is “a stunning endorsement of the managerial capabilities of Indian-origin managers. Satya, Sundar, Shantanu & Arvind running four US tech giants.”

“On a lighter note, the next time the White House organises a conclave of Tech Industry titans, they’ll have to ensure the snacks are Samosas & not Hamburgers...,” Mahindra said in another tweet.

Published on January 31, 2020

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