The story of Rajat Gupta is a complex narrative that defies easy categorization as either purely inspiring or cautionary. Despite facing challenging times that led to his imprisonment, Gupta, once one of the most revered and wealthiest Indian CEOs globally, still commands admiration for his remarkable journey from orphanhood to becoming a powerful business leader and committed philanthropist.
Gupta’s life took a tragic turn when he lost his father at the age of 16, followed by the death of his mother just two years later. Left orphaned with his three siblings, Gupta demonstrated resilience by forging ahead without external support.
His academic prowess was evident when he secured the 15th All India Rank in the IIT entrance exam, eventually earning a mechanical engineering degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi. Despite an offer from the Indian major ITC, Gupta opted for a scholarship to study at Harvard University in the United States.
Joining McKinsey & Company in 1973, Gupta climbed the ranks and made history by becoming the first Indian-origin CEO of a multinational company when he was elected Managing Director in 1994. During his leadership, he played a pivotal role in increasing McKinsey’s revenue from around $1.2 billion in 1993 to about $3.4 billion by 2002. Additionally, Gupta co-founded the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad in 2001 and served as a director for Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble.
Gupta’s net worth, once estimated at around $100 million, led him to aspire to join the billionaires club, transitioning from a renowned consultant to a master dealmaker. However, his association with a friend, Raj Rajaratnam, involved in an insider trading scandal, marked the beginning of Gupta’s troubles.
In 2012, he was found guilty of insider trading charges by a federal jury, resulting in a two-year prison term, including eight weeks of solitary confinement. Gupta, upon his release in 2016, issued an apology for letting people down, acknowledging “errors and misjudgments,” but maintained his stance of not being an insider trader. His story remains a complex blend of triumph and downfall, leaving a lasting impact on the corporate and legal spheres.