The Chennai lad the world is googling about

K V Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on January 23, 2018

Sundar Pichai


Pichai has been virtually behind every key platform or product that Google has launched

The rise of Sundar Pichai, 43, to the post of CEO at the most popular internet company did not happen overnight. It has been sort of expected ever since Google handed over the responsibility of its day-to-day operations to him last October.

His ascendance also indicates Google’s willingness to transform itself and compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter. With its mindshare dwindling, Google needs someone who understands the millennial generation well. A perfect ‘product guy’, Pichai fits the bill.

Before Google

Like the founders, Pichai too went to Stanford University. He did his Masters in Material Sciences and MBA at Wharton before stints at Applied Materials and McKinsey. He joined Google in 2004 just about the time the firm had begun to completely take over the internet.

The Chennai-born techie has been virtually behind every important platform, product or service that Google launched.

Be it Chrome or the popular Android platform or Drive, Sundar played a key role in the product development and roll out. He is a firm believer in using technology to improve the quality of people's lives.

Early life

Born in 1972, Pichai hails from a typical Indian middle-class family, with enough to have a normal life but not enough to spare for luxuries. A quiet and brilliant kid, he went to Jawahar Vidyalaya Senior Secondary School and, then, to Vanavani Matriculation school in the IIT-Madras campus. He went to IIT Kharagpur for his graduation in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering and won the BC Roy Silver medal for securing highest marks.

It was not easy for the family to send Pichai to the US for his higher studies at Stanford University where his future employers Larry Page and Sergey Brin studied.

A low-key techie, Pichai is quite an ‘influencer’ in the social media.

He has 1.61 lakh followers in Twitter and 28.58 followers on Google Plus. Mostly devoted to the product successes and announcements from the firm, Pichai also promotes adventures -- a trait Page liked most. Page had famously said that one must have “a healthy disregard for the impossible”.

Pichai believed in this too. But unlike the founder, his articulation comes in the form of the products that he visualises and builds. But he faces some tough challenges as the firm begins to reinvent itself.

Not an easy task

Take for example how the world has greeted him on his elevation. Ever since the news of his elevation was announced last night, Facebook and Twitter were flooded with posts showering praises on the Indian-born techie.

It remains to be seen what Pichai will do to make Google have a successful social networking site — will he build one, or go for an acquisition?

Also, Facebook is giving Google run for its money with its video-sharing, streaming service threatening to usurp the leadership of YouTube.

The 17-year-old firm had witnessed closure of quite a few services, including Orkut and Buzz. Glass failed to meet the expectations. Pichai’s Google Plus profile had a link to Google Reader, which too was shut down.

Google had once challenged the supremacy of the IT giant Microsoft. It is now facing similar threats not only from FB and Twitter but from several start-ups from its own backyard.

As Sundar Pichai devices a roadmap for Google to drive along the bumpy road, his elevation has a message for the Indian IT industry and academia – it’s time we take products seriously.

Published on August 11, 2015

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