fedex: FedEx picks IIT alumnus Raj Subramaniam to be CEO


WASHINGTON: Corporate America has gone for another Indian-American with the IIT imprimatur to run one of its storied companies. FedEx, the global package and courier services company, ranked 45th on the Fortune list, with $ 84 billion in revenues and 700 aircraft, has picked Rajesh (“Raj”) Subramaniam to lead the firm.
Subramaniam, 56, has a resume that is increasingly familiar in the US business scape — an engineering degree from IIT and an MBA from a US business school, much like his senior Vivek Sankaran, CEO of Albertsons, America’s second largest supermarket chain, and his junior Sundar Pichai, who heads Alphabet, parent company of Google.
He’s also an insider, FedEx being the only company he has worked for from the time he earned an MBA from University of Texas, Austin, in 1991. “FedEx has changed the world by connecting people and possibilities for the last 50 years. As we look toward what’s next, I have a great sense of satisfaction that a leader of the caliber of Raj Subramaniam will take FedEx into a very successful future,” FedEx Founder-CEO Fred Smith said in a statement announcing the succession.
Smith himself is something of a legend, having founded FedEx, derived from its original name Federal Express, in 1973 on the basis of his term paper at Yale describing a system specifically designed for urgent deliveries. He chose to base it in Memphis, Tennessee, because of its location near the mean population center of America and its steady, predictable weather.
Today, Memphis is the busiest cargo airport in the world, home base and hub for FedEx’s 700 aircraft, making it the world’s largest cargo air fleet. The company is now such a familiar name in the business landscape that it has been adjectivised (“Please fedex the package to me”), not to mention it became the moniker to describe one of the greatest sportsmen of all time — Roger Federer.
But even without these embellishments, the Memphis-based company occupies a storied place in American commerce and industry, having pioneered the overnight delivery in the 1970s with its promotional slogan “When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight.” Subramaniam has been with the company for more than half its journey.
After an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, he moved to the US and earned two post-graduate degrees: a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from Syracuse University, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin, before joining FedEx as an entry-level marketing analyst in Memphis in 1991 for a 31-year journey that has took him to the very top.
In a letter to FedEx’s 600,000 employees on Monday, Founder Smith described Subramaniam as a “brilliant and humble man with great empathy for our various constituencies especially our frontline team members and customers… a gentleman of impeccable integrity and is a consummate team player…(with) a wonderful family and a broad network of friends around the globe.”
“Given his mix of experience, I can’t think of a better executive in the world to take on the role of CEO of FedEx,” Smith added.
The (then) Trivandrum-born Subramaniam told the IIT newsletter in a 2019 interview that he moved to Mumbai when he was 15, crediting the institute for his success. “I was surrounded by some of the brightest, most talented minds in the world and pushed to think in a way that still, to this day, impacts nearly every facet of my professional life. Most importantly, some of the close friendships that were built during my time at IIT still endure,” he told the alumni newsletter.