famous Indian personalities
From Ranbir Kapoor to Satya Nadella, these famous Indian personalities tell a story of success, one written by leaving India for greener pastures. Source: Patrick Baz/Red Sea Film Festival

Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr B. R. Ambedkar are not only similar for being famous Indian personalities.

They also studied abroad, before returning home to make a difference in India.

Though it was not common then, Indian students leaving their home country to pursue an education overseas have become quite common. Currently, there are 199,182 and 52,545 Indian students in the US and UK, respectively. 

Studying abroad began during colonial times when the British selected them to go to Britain to develop a corps of officials to help govern India.

This continued even after independence.

Indians sailed away to countries such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and more, in search of a good education.

Today, some of the most well-known CEOs and professionals in the US were once Indian students.

From Gandhi to Sundar Pichai, these famous Indian personalities speak of a success story, one written by leaving India for a degree in more developed nations.

What’s behind their journey from student to sensation?

We take a closer look at these famous Indian personalities, where they studied and how they rose to the top of their careers.

Here is a list of five famous Indian personalities who  attended university abroad:

famous Indian personalities

Dr. Manmohan Singh was the prime minister of India from 2004 to 2014. Manjunath Kiran / AFP

Dr. Manmohan Singh 

Elected the 13th prime minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh served two terms from 2004 to 2014.

He started off his academic journey at Panjab University, where he gained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics. 

He then went on to complete the Economic Tripos at the University of Cambridge, where he graduated with honours.

In 1960, he joinedNuffield College, the University of Oxford, to complete his doctorate of philosophy in economics. 

Singh is a recipient of the second-highest civilian award in India, the “Padma Vibhushan.” He was once  listed among the top 100 influential people in the world by TIME.

famous Indian personalities

Amartya Sen is an Indian economist and philosopher, who has taught and worked in the UK and US since 1972. Raveendran/AFP

Amartya Sen   

An award-winning economist, writer and philosopher, Amartya Sen has contributed massively to economics.

At Trinity College, Cambridge, he earned his BA in Economics and then completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge.

Then, at just 23 years old, he was appointed as the Professor and Head of the Economics Department at Jadavpur University, Calcutta.

Sen is a prolific economic, receiving the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, the Adam SmithPrize and the highest civilian award in India, the Bharat Ratna, for his contributions.

famous Indian personalities

Satya Nadella is the executive chairman and CEO of Microsoft. Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Satya Nadella     

Originally from Hyderabad, Satya Nadella has now settled in the US.

After completing his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka, he moved to the US.

He then pursued his master’s degree in computer science at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s College of Engineering & Applied Science.

“His prior academic background was in electrical engineering,” says K. Vairavan, emeritus professor and former chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“But he took less time to complete our challenging and strong MS programme than most students who already had a solid computer science background.”

“I would attribute his impressive success to his intellectual ability, hard work and razor-sharp focus.”

Nadella is known as one of the most powerful tech executives worldwide.

Currently the CEO of Microsoft, he obtained this position after his work pioneering the cloud computing division of Microsoft. 

In 2019, he was named Financial Times Person of the Year and Fortune magazine’s Businessperson of the Year.

famous Indian personalities

Indra Nooyi is an Indian-American business executive and former chief executive officer and chairperson of PepsiCo. Source: Mat Hayward/AFP

Indra Nooyi

Move aside, Gauri Khan.

Known as one of the most influential women in the world, Indra Nooyi was ranked as one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” by Forbes Magazine.

After completing her MBA at the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta, she went to Yale School of Management to complete her master’s degree in public and private management.

Nooyi held the number one position from 2006 to 2010 on Fortune magazine’s annual ranking of “Most Powerful Women” in business.

She is the former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. In 2007, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in India. 

famous Indian personalities

Ranbir Kapoor is one of the highest-paid actors in Bollywood. Source: Sujit Jaiswal / AFP

Ranbir Kapoor     

One of the heartthrobs of Bollywood, Ranbir Kapoor is one of the most successful Indian actors in the industry.

The talented actor and director relocated to New York after college to pursue a degree in film-making at the School of Visual Arts

He also attended the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, where he gained his knowledge and skills for acting.

Kapoor has won six Filmfare awards and is currently one of the highest-paid actors in Bollywood.