Share Your Thoughts

The United Kingdom’s next Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, began his meteoric rise to the top in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunak will be the first person of Indian descent and the first person of color to lead Britain.  He is the son of African Indian immigrants Yashvir and Usha Sunak. The Conservative Party leader is scheduled to meet King Charles Oct. 25 morning, who will ask him to form a government. Sunak will then make his own speech before leaving for Number 10 Downing Street, where he will serve as the UK’s 57th Prime Minister.

The politician comes from humble roots: his first job was bussing tables at an Indian restaurant in Southampton. “It was not the most glamorous job, it was hard work, but it was amazing just to have a job,” Sunak told podcaster Harry Stebbings on The Twenty Minute VC.

The Big Reveal – Wait For It

After just 44 days in office, Liz Truss — who beat out Sunak to gain the post — was forced to leave her post, making it the fastest exit ever in the history of the U.K. After repeatedly insisting that she is a “fighter, not a quitter,” she had to quit on Oct. 20, when those within her own Conservative Party turned against her, and toppled her, the way they ousted Johnson.

What shattered her credibility was her radical economic agenda that would slash taxes on top earners and strike down a planned corporate-hike tax—a massive package of $50 billion. That threw the market in a tizzy, driving up home mortgage rates, pushing the value of the British pound to a record low against the U.S. dollar and forcing the Bank of England to step in to shore up British bonds. Her plan triggered the two concerns that it would be socially divisive and economically implosive. 

Sunak’s Plans?

Sunak has said very little about how he plans to clean up the mess of a country still dealing with post-Brexit fallout. Britain is facing an economically toxic combination of recession and rising interest rates. The Bank of England is trying to tame double-digit inflation while consumers face rising costs and falling real incomes.

The nation has to restore its international financial credibility after Truss’s plan for unfunded tax cuts and a costly energy price guarantee spooked the bond market last month and forced the Bank of England to intervene, reported Reuters.

To balance a budget shortfall made worse by the rising borrowing costs that the crisis caused, the next prime minister will most probably have to oversee spending cuts and tax rises. A fiscal statement addressing this is due on Oct. 31.

‘India Has Arrived On The World Stage’

India celebrated Sunak’s ascension to Prime Minister, which auspiciosly occured on Diwali. “Congratulations #RishiSunak, first Indian-origin and Hindu set to become PM of UK. Some times ago his family performed Gau Puja. It shows that India has ‘arrived’ on the world stage and we are no longer embarrassed to display our rich cultural heritage,” tweeted engineer Manish Patel.

But one long-time UK resident — originally from Gujarat — told India Currents: “Richie Rich can’t relate to the public. He is self-serving and got us into this financial crisis.”

(Video via Twitter)

Bay Area Beginnings

As for his Bay Area connection: Sunak came to the US on a Fullbright scholarship and graduated from Stanford’s MBA program in 2006. The experience was life-changing, he told Stebbings in the podcast. “Stanford teaches you to think bigger, rather than incrementally. It teaches you about the importance of technology and the importance of business.”

While at Stanford, he met his wife Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy and Sudha Murthy. The couple married in 2009, and stayed on in the U.S. Sunak worked at a series of hedge funds, including Catamaran Ventures, founded by his father in law.

Attracting Global Talent

Sunak has said he wants to bring the start-up mentality of the San Francisco Bay Area to the UK, to make it an attractive place for investors and entrepreneurs. The government has introduced several schemes to encourage entrepreneurship and attract talent, including unsponsored business visas, which are not tied to a job, the global talent visa, and an innovator’s visa.

“While Stanford clearly made its mark on him, it’s less clear whether Sunak made much of a mark at Stanford,” wrote The Guardian. The newspaper interviewed a dozen professors and lecturers from that time who said they had no memory of teaching the the UK’s next prime minister.

With additional reporting by Sunita Sohrabji.

Alakananda Mookerjee

Alakananda Mookerjee lives in Brooklyn, and is a Francophile.