CEO of Google
Sundar Pichai, the man who runs Android, is now the CEO of Google, a Google that has morphed and become the part of a larger entity called Alphabet.
Sundar Pichai was born in Chennai, India in 1972 to Tamil speaking parents Lakshmi & Regunatha Pichai. He is married and has a daughter. His father Regunatha Pichai was a senior electrical engineer for the British conglomerate General Electric Company (GEC) and managed a factory that made electrical components.
The family lived in a two-room apartment where Sundar and his younger brother slept in the living room. The Pichais didn’t own a car and they got their first telephone when Sundar was 12 years old.
Sundar studied in Jawahar Vidyalaya till Std X and then in Vana Vani Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Chennai. A top student, he studied engineering at the well-regarded Indian Institute of Technology – Kharagpur and then went to Stanford on scholarship. His plan was to get a PhD in materials science and semiconductor physics and become an academic, but he dropped out of the program to work as an engineer and product manager at a Silicon Valley semiconductor manufacturer, Applied Materials.
He holds an MS from Stanford University in Material Sciences and Engineering and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Next he worked as a consultant at McKinsey before starting at Google.
Pichai joined Google in 2004 and was the driving force behind Google Chrome browser and the Chrome OS. Initially, Pichai started with handling the ‘Google’ search toolbar in the upper right corner of Web browsers, well before the launch of Google’s own browser. This was the time when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was still dominant across the world. The success of the Google Toolbar, was what helped build his reputation at the company. When he first joined the company, he seemed like one of many smart, capable employees who came from a humble background.
In 2008, the Google Chrome browser was launched by Pichai’s team. In 2011, Pichai was promoted to Senior VP and also took charge of Gmail and Google Docs.
But perhaps the biggest responsibility of Pichai was Android in 2013 when he replaced Andy Rubin, the man who developed the platform. Pichai continued to be in charge of Chrome as well.
His promotion was seen as a sign that Google might eventually merge Android — its very successful mobile OS– with the Chrome OS, although that has not happened so far. At the end of 2014, Pichai was made the Google Product Czar with all product heads, with the exception of YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki, reporting to Pichai. He was directly reporting to Larry Page. In August 2015, Pichai has been named the CEO of Google itself.
Pichai’s dominance at Google has been very visible especially since his promotion as Android head. In fact, he has become the sole face of Google’s senior ranks at its annual I/O developer conference, which is one of the most awaited and watched events from the company.
According to various profiles and news reports, the new Google CEO is a known team player and one who can handle tough negotiations. A profile on The Information pointed out that when Pichai reported to Marissa Mayer (who is now the Yahoo CEO), he was known to wait for long hours outside her office in order to ensure that his team got the performance scores they deserved. Additionally, what helped Pichai was his nice-guy nature and the fact that he retained the best of his team.
A post on Quora by a former Google employee, which had been written at the time of Pichai’s promotion to Google Product Head, said Pichai “avoided making enemies” at the company and “navigated” Google’s “politics to make his team successful”.
Another profile on Fortune noted that Pichai was “universally well-liked at Google”. More importantly Pichai had come to be Page’s right hand man and even accompanied the Google CEO when the latter was trying to acquire WhatsApp, according to the report on The Information. Pichai is also believed to have played a major role in Google’s acquisition of Nest.
Another BusinessWeek profile pointed out that Pichai had led the negotiations when Samsung and Google’s relationship had taken a turn for the worse over the South-Korean company’s launch of its own Magazine app with the Galaxy Note 3.
Of course, for India Pichai’s promotion also means a lot. After Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, he become the second Indian man to head one of the most important technology companies in the world.