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Going by trending searches, almost everyone has been furiously googling Parag Agrawal’s IIT-JEE rank (77), his salary ($1million) and the name of his wife (Vineeta). But his IIT mates and parents have several more nuggets to share about the new Twitter CEO.
Parag’s father, Ram Gopal Agrawal, 72, who retired from the Refuelling Technology Division of BARC in 2011, said mathematics had been his forte right from his childhood. “He was always interested in computers and cars. Whenever we travelled, he invariably picked magazines and literature on these subjects,” said his mother, Shashi (67).
His mother took voluntary retirement from VJTI (where she was a professor for economics and management), to spend time with the family. Parag’s sister, Kunal, is faculty at the Washington University. The parents currently live in Thane.
Parag was among smartest in class: IITB batchmates
While new Twitter CEO Parag Agrawala always did well in studies, he surprised his parents by becoming one of the top 10 rankers in the state in the class XII boards. “We never considered being a topper a big thing. If he was doing well, we were happy with that,” mother Shashi told TOI. Growing up at BARC also may have contributed to his success in some way, said his mother. “BARC had its own culture. The children were competitive, but at the same time also helped each other,” she said.
After entering the hallowed gates of IIT Bombay, Parag made his mark at Freshtech, an examination which is an open challenge to all freshies. Out of 480, just some 25% of “bravehearts” came forward to take the TechGC.
“Ordinary people like us could not solve a single question; it was tough. But when they announced the results, Parag had tied at second place,” said Devendra Kumar Agrawal, who also joined IIT Bombay in 2001 but in the electrical engineering department. “I recall Parag as being cool, friendly, and brilliant,” said the founder of Dexter Capital. His hostel mates shared their recollections as well.
“The first year of IIT-B is an interesting one. Everyone is trying to find their feet as locally everyone is a hero of their town or coaching class but he scored a 10/10 after the first year and established himself as the smartest person around,” said Ram Kakkad, who was from the same hostel 4 of the Powai campus and is now head of the product division at Hypertrack, Seattle.
Describing him as a clear thinker, level-headed and helpful, Kakkad recalled how he accidentally bumped into Parag on the streets of New York in 2016 when Parag was shuttling between New York and San Francisco. “We had a meal together and I spoke about my start-up and he spoke passionately about Twitter.”
A student of Atomic Energy Central School, school 4, Parag later joined the Atomic Energy Junior College. His teachers remember him as a front-bencher who was innovative in his thinking. “His teachers Omita Mandal and Smita Bobhate rated his problem-solving skills and thinking ability to be the highest in the class,” said principal Anand Kumar. He was felicitated for scoring high marks in class XII exams and for bagging the gold medal in the International Physics Olympiad.
By the time he graduated from IIT-Bombay, he had got a job offer from Capital One and another Bengaluru firm, but he chose to study further. “He had applied to six universities, got selected at five, and eventually picked Stanford for a PhD in Computer Science,” said his mother.
“His wife, Vineeta Agrawala, is also a big force behind his success,” said his mother. When asked about their reaction to the big Twitter announcement on Monday, she said, “We were elated with the news. On the video call we just smiled at each other and that was enough. Whatever he has achieved is by God’s grace and people’s blessings.” Parag last visited India in March 2020, before the pandemic.