In person, Satya Nadella looks even reedier than he does in photographs. He strides in to the room for his meeting with newspaper editors on the sidelines of Microsoft’s Future Unleashed event in Mumbai, offers warm handshakes and introduces himself . “Hi, I am Satya.”
The man who is ranked No 61 in Forbes magazine’s just-released list of the world’s most powerful people is not dressed in the geeky smart casuals that are familiar from photographs. Instead, the 48-year-old is in full power-lister regalia: sharp, dark suit; white shirt; silk tie; and polished, pointed shoes. On his left wrist is a Microsoft Band. But even with all that, he looks like a long-distance runner. And why not? From the classrooms of Hyderabad Public School to the pinnacle of Microsoft is quite a marathon.
But he does actually run. Every day. It is his fitness regimen. “Given my schedule, it is all I can do. I run at least five km a day. Even today, I was up early – the jetlag helped – and did five km.”
Nadella’s voice is neither baritone nor falsetto; his accent not entirely permeated with the American drawl. He speaks in an assertive, courteous way. When he wants to make a point, he slices the air with precise, emphatic gestures.
Nadella will not be drawn into discussions about Make in India or Digital India. He says he has the micro view. The Microsoft view, actually. He is evangelical about his company’s core values; its emphasis on innovation; its goal to be a platform for entrepreneurs; and about “the mobility of experience rather than the mobility of device”.
The cricket analogy comes unbidden – as it should for someone who is known to be fanatical about the game – when he talks about his company’s staying power. “It’s like Test match cricket. You need to play many good innings and have a good batting average. When I see that we are competing with a new class of people every five years, I think ‘wow’.”
So I ask him about his cricketing heroes. “I grew up in Hyderabad in the 1970s and Hyderabad had a great team in those days. My fondest memories come from Hyderabad players of that era, the likes of ML Jaisimha and Abbas Ali Baig.”
For someone known for his love of books, the literary reference is slipped in seamlessly as he namechecks the British-Venzuelan scholar Carlota Perez’s Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages.
Nadella is keen to talk about work, but I want to know what his usual weekend is like. His broad smile stretches his gaunt face. “Well, my weekend starts with an ambition to read ten new books and it ends with not having read ten new books. But I certainly get started on some of them.”