Who Is Ajay Banga, the Indian American Unanimously Chosen To Lead World Bank?

Banga’s stint at Mastercard brought him into the limelight as one of the most prominent Indian Americans in the US.

3 min read

(This article was first published on 23 February 2023. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives in light of Ajay Banga's appointment as the next president of the World Bank.)

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Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui

The Joe Biden administration in the United Sates nominated former Indian American Mastercard executive Ajay Banga to become the next president of the World Bank, after the institution’s current chief David Malpass announced his intention to step down early. 

Banga’s nomination will set into motion a month-long confirmation process which will end with a final decision by the World Bank board. Traditionally, the president of the World Bank has remained an American citizen chosen by the United States.

In a statement, President Biden said, “Ajay is uniquely equipped to lead the World Bank at this critical moment in history.” 

“He has spent more than three decades building and managing successful, global companies that create jobs and bring investment to developing economies, and guiding organizations through periods of fundamental change,” he added. 

Banga is currently the vice chairman of private equity fund General Atlantic.


A Stellar Career 

The Indian American executive was born into a Sikh family in Pune, where his father, who served in the Indian Army, was posted. Through his early life, Banga grew up in various parts of India, living successively in Secunderabad, Jalandhar, Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Shimla.

Banga told the New York Times that his upbringing across various cities in India made him extremely adaptable. 

“The one thing it did for me more than anything else was this easy adaptability, the willingness to adjust and the willingness to just fit in; I think it’s helped me in all my life,” Banga said.

Having completed his primary education at Hyderabad Public School in Hyderabad, India, Banga went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Economics from Delhi University’s St Stephen's College. Subsequently, he pursued a Post Graduate Programme in Management from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. 

He retired from Mastercard, one of the largest financial technology companies, after he quadrupled its profits over his decade-long tenure. Banga’s stint at Mastercard brought him into the limelight as one of the most prominent Indian American executives in the US. 

He begun his professional stint at Nestle, where he spent over 13 years working in roles that were spread over sales, marketing, and general management. Subsequently, he joined PepsiCo and was a key member in the brand’s launch of fast food franchises in the then-recently liberalised Indian economy. 

  1. What Else? 

    With a sharp inclination towards social development, Banga also spearheaded the Citi group’s Microfinance initiatives across the world . 

    Moreover, he has also been a part of the President Barack Obama’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations and is also a Padma Shri recipient. 

    The chairman of the US-India Business Council, which represents over 300 of the largest companies that invest in India, Banga’s star studded resume also features a stint as the chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce. 

    A close of ally of Vice President Kamala Harris, Banga is also a part of a group of 10 executives who worked with the Vice President’s Office to raise $1 billion to stem the root causes of immigration from Central America, which Harris claims include corruption, poverty, climate change, and political instability. 


Nomiation Welcomed

However, Benga’s nomination invited a few questions regarding the White House’s choice to not nominate a woman, since the institution has never had a woman serve as its permanent president. 

Officials pointed to Banga’s dynamic background and his strong track record of being inclusive and promoting gender equality within the institutions he worked at.

His nomination was also seconded by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who said that Bnaga’s background will make him an important stakeholder in the World Bank’s ambitions to reduce poverty and combat climate change. 

“Ajay Banga understands that those core objectives are deeply intertwined with challenges like meeting ambitious goals for climate adaptation and emissions reduction, preparing for and preventing future pandemics, and mitigating the root causes and consequences of conflict and fragility,” Yellen said.

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