Everything You Need To Know About Parag Agrawal, the New Indian-American CEO of Twitter

The lowdown on the new top guy’s background, the monies he’ll be making from hereon, and the best memes he’s triggered.

30 November 2021, 11:14am

On November 29, Twitter’s co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down from his high-profile position to hand over the reins to his relatively obscure handpicked successor, Parag Agrawal. 

As Dorsey announced he would be stepping down after 16 years at the helm of the microblogging platform, he stood by his belief that Agrawal – formerly the company’s chief technical officer (CTO) – was the right choice for the role. 

In an email announcing his departure, Dorsey stressed that Agrawal understood the company and its needs best. “Parag has been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around,” said Dorsey, further describing his successor as curious, probing, imaginative and self-aware.

But even as Dorsey – who reportedly stepped down from Twitter to focus on his payment platform Square – heaped praises upon Agrawal’s capabilities, the new CEO that everyone’s furiously googling right now remains relatively unknown, save for one controversial 2010 tweet of his that is doing the rounds. In a testament to the bizarre times we live in, the new Twitter CEO started off his new stint by being trolled on Twitter. 

So, who is the new guy heading Twitter?

Parag Agrawal is a 37-year-old Indian-born techie originally from Mumbai, who has been working with Twitter for the last 10 years. Agrawal graduated from India’s renowned Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B). His mother was a school teacher while his father held a senior position in an institute for atomic energy. He later earned a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University. His Stanford doctoral thesis, published in 2012, is titled “Incorporating Uncertainty in Data Management and Integration.”

Earlier in his career, Agrawal was involved in data research programmes with Microsoft, Yahoo and AT&T Labs. He joined Twitter in 2011, and took over as the company’s CTO in 2018. In this position, he oversaw the company’s technical strategy, and was responsible for many of its scaling efforts in machine learning and AI. 

Because Agrawal is of Indian origin and because Indians are always very interested to know if you’re married (else they might set you up), “Parag Agrawal wife” has emerged as a popular search term in its own right. Agrawal’s own profile sweetly reads that he’s a “device following @vintweeta.” That’s his wife, Vineeta Agarwala, and her bio reads that she’s a physician and an adjunct clinical professor at Stanford School of Medicine. The pair have a son named Ansh, who has his own Twitter page too, of course. 

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How is he disrupting the game?

At 37, Agrawal is the youngest CEO in the S&P 500, a stock market index that tracks the performance of 500 leading publicly traded U.S. companies. He has also joined the ranks of several other Indian-origin techies holding high profile positions, including Google CEO Sunder Pichai, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Adobe President and CEO Santanu Narayan, and IBM Group’s CEO Arvind Krishna. 

“Our purpose has never been more important. Our people and culture are unlike anything in the world. There is no limit to what we can do together,” Agrawal tweeted in a note soon after the announcement. 


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Why is he being trolled on Twitter already?

Agrawal’s tenure as Twitter chief immediately started in the most painfully Twitter-ish way: a pile-on based on a tweet he made a decade ago.

The tweet in question was made on October 26, 2010, and quotes an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It says: “If they are not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists.”

Agrawal’s 2010 tweet now has more than 9,000 quote-tweets and climbing. The majority of the quote-tweets are from people claiming some version of “reverse racism,” i.e. that Agrawal is actually being racist to white people, which in the feverish conservative imagination is a real problem. 

How much money will the new guy make?

Agrawal will receive an annual salary of $1 million-plus bonuses, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Moneycontrol reported that he will also receive restricted stock units (RSUs) valued at $12.5 million that will vest in 16 equal quarterly increments, starting February 1, 2022, along with performance-based restricted stock units in April 2022. 

Dorsey, on the other hand, ​​had declined all compensation and benefits other than an annual salary of $1.40 since 2018 as a testament to "his commitment to and belief in Twitter’s long-term value creation potential.”

How did desis react to the news?

With feverish excitement, of course, as we’re prone to do when anyone we even remotely identify with (even when they might not identify with our culture anymore) gains a place of power and prominence. Google recorded searches for everything from who Agrawal is to his IIT background and his salary, to even wanting to know more about his wife.

Hilariously, many have tweeted to him directly, requesting for a blue tick next to their name and to ask how to increase their followers. Because we’re not famous for respecting boundaries, some even went as far as to reach out to the new CEO’s wife, Vineeta, and asked her to “convey” messages to her husband or help their accounts get better reach. 

Is choosing an Indian-Origin CEO a strategic move?

Maybe. Twitter has the most users in India after the U.S.A and Japan, but this year, the Modi government has also been criticised for trying different tactics to clamp down on free speech, including social media censorship. ​​

Twitter acknowledged that the Indian government asked it to take down several dozen tweets earlier this year, which were about the COVID-19 pandemic in India, as first reported by Indian news site MediaNama. One of the blocked tweets was in fact a link to a VICE article about a mass Hindu religious bathing ritual being held in the river Ganges during the devastating second wave of COVID-19. The India that Silicon Valley once loved has been a different one in recent years, but Big Tech is still focusing on the country with a billion people, and maybe having an Indian-origin person at the top can help matters. 


 That’s not to take away from Agrawal’s credentials, though. Indian immigrants are among the most highly educated in the U.S., and foreign-born students have filled the gap as fewer Americans are studying computer science and engineering. These skills, along with a push for diversity and inclusion that most big companies are focusing on, might’ve worked in the choice of candidates.

Wow, okay. Now just hit me with the best memes on the new guy.

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An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.
An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.
An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.
An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.
An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

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