Who is the Indian set to be WhatsApp's next CEO? 5 quick facts

Neeraj Arora is an IIT Delhi graduate.

 |  3-minute read |   07-05-2018
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World's largest messaging service, WhatsApp, which recently crossed a billion daily users, has been facing some tough questions of late. Despite being on an upswing commercially, it has had to face some heat over the controversy that its parent company, Facebook gave birth to with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal

For long, questions have been raised over WhatsApp's alleged role in infringing upon data privacy by forwarding user data to Facebook and even third-party firms. These fears may only grow in the coming days as the company seeks to focus its energies in engaging with commercial entities with its new WhatsApp for Business app.

As such, the coming weeks and months will prove to be exceedingly crucial for WhatsApp. However, with its CEO Jan Koum stepping down, reportedly due to disagreement over WhatsApp's plans to include ads within the platform, the stakes are higher. The US-based messaging service will now have to navigate troubled waters ahead with a new captain at the helm.

According to rumours, next in line is Neeraj Arora, a 39-year-old business executive of Indian origin. Here are five things to know about him. 

WhatsApp's business guy

Per his Linkedin profile, Arora is the "Business Guy" at WhatsApp and has been handling "all things business" at WhatsApp since 2011, thus his association with the messaging service pre-dates Facebook's takeover of WhatsApp. If his bio is anything to go by, his keen interest for the business side of the operations could help the platform grow not just as a destination for friends and families to interact with one another but also see it become a destination for advertisers and businesses looking to expand their business. 

An IIT graduate

Arora completed his higher education in India with a B-Tech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi in 2000. He went on to pursue MBA in finance and strategy from the Indian School of Business in 2005-2006. 

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Worked with Paytm and Google

Prior to working with WhatsApp, Neeraj Arora held many important positions at firms in India and abroad. Starting his career in 2000 as a product manager with the private cloud sharing and governance platform Accellion, he built pieces of the core technology for them. 

He also worked with Times Internet Limited for a year, and later went on to join Google as a corporate development manager in 2007. He was then promoted to the role of a senior member of the team where he served for another year. Arora also remained on the board of digital payments firm Paytm from June 2015 to February 2018.

Growing WhatsApp in India

Arora's role has been central to WhatsApp's expansion plans in India. His joining the company in 2011 coincided with a period of tremendous growth for the country during which it became the most widely used messaging service in the country. According to a story published in Quartz, his efforts led to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications and Tata Docomo bundling unlimited usage for WhatsApp with their plans. 

In the league of Indian-origin leaders in Silicon Valley

Though still not certain, if Neeraj Arora finally does end up securing the top job at WhatsApp, he will not only become the most influential man at the messaging firm but will also be the latest Indian to play a major role at a leading tech firm in Silicon Valley. 

He will join the league of stalwarts like Sundar Pichai at Google, Satya Nadella at Microsoft, Shantanu Narayen at Adobe, and Vinod Khoslathe, co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

Also read: Judicial backlog: How India can end the long wait for justice

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