Chambers Continues to be the Face of Cisco at Major Events

Chuck Robbins Hardly in the League of Other CEO Luminaries

It does not look like Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, who replaced Mr John Chambers in July this year, is the face the company is keen to project – not as yet.

modi-top-tech-ceosIt was Mr Chambers who represented Cisco at recent meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, held separately a few days apart.

Mr Chambers it was who sat with Mr Modi, along with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and other top technology leaders, at the Digital India dinner conversations aired live a few hours ago by some Indian news channels – NDTV, Times Now and CNN-IBN.

So it was with President Xi last Wednesday at an event that had CEOs of Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, Amazon and LinkedIn among many technology hotshots.

Mr Chambers remains with Cisco as its Executive Chairman, so he will be the automatic choice to front mega events where you have other top CEOs with brilliant academic credentials and professional accomplishments and Prime Ministers and Presidents.

Mr Chuck Robbins, who holds a BSc degree in Mathematics, is hardly in that league of CEO luminaries. How he made it to the Cisco helm is not something I am qualified enough to discuss.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, front-row-center, poses for a photo with a group of CEOs and other executives at Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Washington, Wednesday, September 23, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / POOL / TED S. WARREN

Chinese President Xi Jinping, front-row-center, poses for a photo with a group of CEOs and other executives at Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond, Washington, Wednesday, September 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO / POOL / TED S. WARREN

Mr Bill Gates was a Harvard dropout and Late Steve Jobs did not have an impressive academic background as well. But they were creative geniuses who helped transform the world.

Digital Era Imperative: Incidentally, while a visit to the Cisco headquarters in San Jose was not on the agenda of Mr Modi’s Silicon Valley visit the Digital India dinner was an opportunity for him to catch up with Mr Chambers.

Speaking at the dinner, Mr Chambers spoke about the digital era imperative of “disrupt or be disrupted.”

That is a message he has been articulating for long, with another of his pet phrases being “go digital or die”.

At a Cisco Live conference in June this year, titled Disrupt or be Disrupted, he had highlighted that “companies fail because they keep doing the right thing too long.”

IMG_2900He cannot be wrong as in a dynamic world, companies and countries have to keep reinventing themselves to surge ahead.

Not surprisingly, the Digital India dinner was an event full of platitudes with Mr Chambers saying “the US and India would be very strong together under your leadership.”

Cisco is perhaps the biggest investor in India among American technology companies. But it has a significant presence in China as well.

“One has to compete against one’s ability to innovate, and not against other companies or countries,” he emphasised.

IMG_2896Silly Indian Journalists: NDTV and other Indian news channels got the title of Mr Chambers wrong, referring to him as Cisco CEO, a position he relinquished in July this year.

One Times Now journalist spoke about how India’s past experience with invaders still haunted India. He was referring to the East India Company and the 300 years of British rule in the country that resulted in the country being looted by them.

His argument that the loot made them prosperous, even helping transform a country (England) into a First World economy, sounded too much of a stretch!

Another Indian channel, CNN-IBN, was taking credit for being the first to talk to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. At the same time, Times Now was flashing news about its interactions with Mr Nadella.

IMG_2899Who talks to who first is a scoop in today’s journalistic climate in India!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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