Success Stories: Indians Who Made it Big in America

Indians have made tremendous contributions to America in a variety of fields including technology, business and education. In fact, they have become such a prominent part of American society that Indian characters have started appearing in American films and comics (think of the Harold and Kumar film series made in 2004 onward and Raj Patel, a character introduced by Archie Comics in 2008). One reason why Indians have been so successful there is that America has provided a great platform for them to grow.

So, to encourage you as you move towards your goal of higher education in America, from time to time we will be posting stories on Indians who, like you, went to America for education and then became great successes. There are dozens of inspiring success stories to pick from. Our first one is on Vinod Khosla, co-founder and first CEO of SUN Microsystems, the company that, among other things created:

  • the Java programming language
  • the Network File System (NFS)

and also significantly evolved several key computing technologies, including

  • Unix
  • RISC Processors
  • Thin Client Computing and
  • Virtualized Computing

We hope that you will enjoy and be greatly motivated by the enormous achievements of those who went to America before you. (See next post for Vinod’s story).

Indians Who Made It Big in America: Vinod Khosla


An entrepreneur is someone who dares to dream the dreams and is foolish enough to try to make those dreams come true.”

~ from the website of khoslaventures

Education Track:

  • B. Tech (Electrical Engineering), IIT Delhi
  • Masters in Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
  • MBA Stanford Graduate School of Business


  • Net worth 1.5 billion as of March 2013 (according to Forbes)
  • He has created 6 jobs for everyday that he has been in America
  • One of the founders of Indian School of Business

His Story For a superb read on Vinod Khosla’s life, philosophy and achievements click here

Vinod Khosla Quotes:

“My philosophy in life is I don’t mind failing in trying new things. But it better be relevant if we succeed. I don’t mind the low probability of success, but I better be impactful if we do succeed.”

“Our willingness to fail gives us the ability and opportunity to succeed where others may fear to tread.”

and here’s one from Michael Jordan, who is obviously a role model for Vinod Khosla

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Dr. Harchol-Balter on the Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose is an extremely important part of your application packet (click here for an explanation). A well-written SOP that brings out the most important facts about you as a candidate for higher studies, can open the doors of opportunity for you. On the other hand an SOP that tries to impress but focuses on facts that the admissions committees consider irrelevant can lose you the opportunity that you have dreamed of.

In the extract below Dr. Harchol-Balter, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie-Mellon University points out two common mistakes that many applicants make:

The grade regurgitator – “In my high school, I was ranked Number 1. Then I got a perfect score on my college entrance exams. Then I competed in a statewide math competition and I was the best. Then I competed in a national programming competition and I was 5th. In college, my GPA was 3.95 out of 4.0. For these reasons, I believe I will do well in your graduate department.”
What’s wrong with this? This portion of the essay is a waste of space. Awards are certainly relevant, however any award you won should be listed on a separate piece of paper which is titled “Awards and Honors” and which you can include with your application. There is no reason to tell us all this in your essay. It will only piss-off the people reviewing your application because they already read all this information earlier in your application and they now want to hear about research.
The boy genius – “When I was born, my mother gave me a glass ball to play with. I would lay and look at the prisms of light shining through my ball. At age 3, my father brought home our first computer and I disassembled it and then put it back together. It was then that I knew I wanted to become a computer scientist. By age 5, I had taken apart every appliance in our house. At age 6, I became a chess whiz ….”
What’s wrong with this? We simply don’t care what you did as a child, and we don’t believe you either. You’d be surprised how many applications from Einstein-wanna-be’s we get. If you really think this is relevant, put the important facts on a separate sheet of paper, and include it in your application. It’s best if your essay can stick with stuff you did in college and later.


Related Blogs on Application Documents



How I Realized I Had to Do a PhD


For some people the realization that they are really meant to do a PhD comes only after having got some research-related work experience. In fact Dr. Harchol-Balter recommends it before jumping into a doctoral program. Here’s how her career path led her to the realization that she should be doing a PhD:

“After I finished my B.A. in CS and Math, I went to work at the Advanced Machine Intelligence Lab at GTE in Massachusetts. At first I was very excited by my paycheck and the great feeling of being independent. I also really enjoyed my area of research at the time: pattern recognition and classification. I was working with frame-of-reference transformations involving eigenvectors of autocorrelation matrices. It was exciting! However I quickly realized that I wanted to know more. I wanted to know why some algorithms produced good results and others didn’t. I wanted to come up with my own algorithms. I worried that I didn’t have enough of a mathematics background to answer my own questions. In summary, I wanted to delve deeper. Everyone around me thought I was odd for wanting these things. I left after 2 years and went to graduate school. That first month of graduate school I looked around and realized that everyone there was just as weird and obsessed as I was, and I knew I had made the right decision.”

Read Dr. Harchol-Balter’s own article on Applying to Ph.D. Programs in Computer Science from which this has been excerpted.

Read a review of Dr. Harchol-Balter’s article here.

Read excerpts from her article on recommendation letters and statements of purpose,