New Chief of Google, with a difference

There is hardly anyone who browses the internet and not heard of Google. From making a mark as a search engine provider Google has grown to become one of the most successful businesses in the world and a leader in frontiers of information technology. The men who lead Google describe their work as ‘helping the world organise its information’. It is an open question if everyone would consider that a good thing given Google’s policies that arguably infringe on individual privacy.

Google has now a new CEO, Sundar Pichai, who hails from the other side of the world. At 43 years his rise to the dizzy height of corporate world in just 20 years is phenomenal. Known as a very amiable person and the kind that doesn’t hog the limelight, it will be interesting to see if his tenure at the helm make any significant shift in the usual corporate view of the people as faceless billions that can be organised and manipulated to increase the wealth and influence of global corporations and super governments ruling over people with the strong arms of police and military. Will it make any difference that he is from a country where its highest visionaries declared the world as a family and humans as beings with an evolving divine presence? I find it interesting to read about the life of the man who as a child travelled by crowded public transport and had no TV at home, in India – for signs of potential, from the flurry of reports about him in the media. It makes promising reading.

Sundar_Pichai by Maurizio Pesce, Image posted under the Creative Common license.

Excerpts from Times of India issue dated 11 Aug, 2015 quoting a report on Bloomsberg in early 2014:

The family of four lived in a two-room apartment, with Sundar and his younger brother sleeping in the living room. During much of his childhood, the Pichais didn’t have a television or a car. For transportation, the choice was either one of the crowded, stifling city buses or the family’s blue Lambretta scooter. All four would pile on — Regunatha driving, Sundar standing at the front, and his younger brother perched on the back of the seat with their mother.

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Pichai excelled at school and won a coveted spot at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, where he studied engineering. After graduating, he won an additional scholarship to Stanford University to study materials science and semiconductor physics.

Pichai’s father tried to take out a loan to cover the cost of the plane ticket and other expenses. When it didn’t come through in time, he withdrew $1,000 from the family’s savings — more than his annual salary. “My dad and mom did what a lot of parents did at the time,” Pichai says. “They sacrificed a lot of their life and used a lot of their disposable income to make sure their children were educated.”

Upon arriving at Stanford in 1993, he tried to buy a new backpack and “was in an absolute state of shock” to learn it cost $60. He later bought a used one on an online bulletin board. Pichai lived with a host family during his first year and spent much of the time miserably lamenting the absence of his girlfriend, Anjali, who later joined him in the US and is now his wife.

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After getting an MBA from the Wharton School of Business in 2002 and spending a stint as a consultant at McKinsey, Pichai arrived at the Googleplex on April 1, 2004. On the day of his job interview, Google launched Gmail, the free email service. Pichai says he thought it was one of the company’s famous April Fools’ pranks.

Source

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Excerpts from Wall Street Journal issue dated 11 Aug, 2015

And when Mr. Pichai assumes his new role later this year, he will oversee nearly all of the $66 billion in annual revenue of the soon-to-be-renamed Alphabet Inc., including the world’s leading online-advertising platform.

That will free Mr. Page and co-founder Sergey Brin to spend more time on Google’s array of emerging businesses and technologies, from its Nest smart-home devices to self-driving carsrobots and cutting-edge research on extending human life.

Unlike some other Google executives, Mr. Pichai is a private man, not famous for racing sports cars or parachuting into Burning Man.

“Humble,” says Keval Desai, a former Google colleague. “He’s very smart, very opinionated and very low key.”

Mr. Pichai’s ascent reflects his ability to create strong products, including Google’s Chrome browser, and later the Chrome operating system. But it also shows his ability to identify competitive pressures, manage others and smooth over differences, both internally and with Google’s business partners.

In a culture sometimes driven by heated arguments and oversize egos, Mr. Pichai is something of an anomaly, a successful executive who doesn’t insist on his position, even when there are strong arguments on his side. He developed a reputation as the kind of person you wanted in the room when decisions were being made.

“He has great relationships,” said Minnie Ingersoll, a former Google product manager who worked with Mr. Pichai early in his career. “He’s just not a polarizing figure.”

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This week’s changes expand Mr. Pichai’s power even further, beyond the core product groups that he’d been assigned last year, and giving him authority over executives who had previously reported to Mr. Page. These new reports include YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Google General Counsel Kent Walker, and Don Harrison, head of corporate development.

Source

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