After Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, a 2nd winner for Manipal institute: Rajeev Suri is named Nokia CEO

Suri, 46, will start in his new role on May 1, Nokia said on Tuesday.

Written by Anil Sasi | New Delhi | Updated: April 30, 2014 9:11:15 am
Suri with interim CEO Risto Siilasmaa in Finland Tuesday. PTI Suri with interim CEO Risto Siilasmaa in Finland Tuesday. PTI

Apart from having taken over at the helm of two iconic bluechip tech firms, both of which are now past their prime, newly-named Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri and Microsoft chief Satya Nadella have more in common — both were just a year apart at the Manipal Institute of Technology near Mangalore in Karnataka.

And quite like the Microsoft-Nokia cross-linkages in the wake of their $7.17 billion September 2013 handset deal, both Suri and Nadella went through the same grind, walked through the same corridors, and were in all probability taught by the same faculty considering both were students of electronics and communications — Nadella graduated in 1988 while Suri was in the 1989 batch.

MIT was rather modest in its celebration, with a statement claiming that Suri’s elevation as Nokia chief, coming in the wake Nadella’s appointment as Microsoft CEO, indicated “that Manipal Institute of Technology is as good an engineering institute as any in the world”.

MIT director Dr Vinod V Thomas was more emphatic.

“It is no coincidence or accident that these two MITians have made it big…Two of the top Fortune 500 companies being led by MIT alumni is indeed a noteworthy achievement. These are not merely fortuitous events,” he said. For students preparing for their exams next month, Suri’s appointment was the “most glorious piece of news” after Nadella’s elevation in February, he said.

Suri, 46, will start in his new role on May 1, Nokia said on Tuesday. Having been picked as the head of its networks division to spearhead the company’s future and revive growth after selling its mobile phone business to Microsoft Corp., 149-year-old Nokia is intensifying its focus on wireless-network equipment as it faces a fresh start.

Suri, who has run the network unit for four years, needs to challenge bigger competitors such as Sweden’s Ericsson AB and China’s Huawei Technologies Co., to turnaround dwindling equipment revenue, which accounts for about 90 per cent of Nokia’s sales now.

“He has a proven ability to create strategic clarity, drive innovation and growth, ensure disciplined execution, and deliver results,” chairman Risto Siilasmaa said in a statement. His passion for technology will help ensure Nokia continues to deliver innovations that have a positive impact on people’s lives, he sad. Suri has spent almost 20 years in Nokia’s networks business, dealing with strategy, mergers and acquisitions, sales and marketing before becoming its head in 2009.

Like his MIT junior, Nadella also faces an uphill task in restoring Microsoft to its glory days. He seems to have started off well, having made a impact on investors and analysts by merely attending an earnings conference call on April 25, the first time in five years a Microsoft chief executive joined an earnings call.

The Microsoft stock has crept up 19 per cent since longtime CEO Steve Ballmer announced his plan to retire last August and is up 8 per cent since Nadella took his place. There are, however, unexpected pitfalls, as was on evidence on Monday, when the Redmond-based firm had to rush in with a public statement on how to fix a security flaw in its Internet Explorer browser that enables hackers to take over a user’s personal computer through the browser’s vulnerability.

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