Google is such an overwhelming presence in our life today. Started not that many years by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998 it has become such an integral part of anyone using a computer or accessing the internet anywhere in the world. And as an Indian it feels proud to know that a young man who grew up in India is the one who has been heading the Google business and has now been elevated has taken over as CEO of Alphabet as the founders move out of executive positions. An Indian connection goes back even before the founding of Google in the form of (late) Rajeev Motwani, who did his engineering from IIT, Kanpur. Rajeev Motwani was mentor to Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, when they were PhD students at Stanford university. Read more about Sundar Pichai and his awesome journey in the article below. Team RetyrSmart
From learning the alphabet to managing the Alphabet – the inspirational story of Sundar Pichai
While you were likely sleeping, hours ago Sundar Pichai, 47, became the CEO of Alphabet, the group that owns Google. Pichai is already CEO at Google since 2015 when the company had announced a corporate restructuring creating several different entities like Google, Verily, Waymo, Loon and others, and putting them under Alphabet. Pichai is now CEO at both Alphabet and Google. And he is the CEO, and now the big boss in the group, because Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are taking a step back. Larry Page has resigned from post of CEO and Brin is no longer the president at Alphabet. For Pichai, who has been with Google for 15 years now, the day marks one more triumph in his career.
This is a career that, in a way started, for Pichai started in Madurai. It was in this South Indian city where Pichai was born in a middle-class family. And when we say middle-class, we mean middle class by the standards of 1970s in India. Pichai once talked of his childhood and his modest house. In an interview to New York Times, he had said: “There was a simplicity to my life, which was very nice compared with today’s world. We lived in a kind of modest house, shared with tenants. We would sleep on the living room floor. There was a drought when I was growing up, and we had anxiety. Even now, I can never sleep without a bottle of water beside my bed. Other houses had refrigerators, and then we finally got one. It was a big deal.”
This childhood, however, in different ways prepared him for a career that by any standard can be described as illustrious. This is the career that saw him getting into IIT Kharagpur, struggling with Hindi as a South Indian boy, topping some tests at the college while once getting C grade in one of his papers, going to the US for further studies, working at McKinsey & Company and then joining Google in 2004.
In the same interview to NYT, Pichai talked of how his childhood formed his love for reading. “I read whatever I could get my hands on. I read Dickens. Friends, playing street cricket, reading books – that was kind of the totality of life. But you never felt lacking for anything,” he said.
Pichai visited India in 2017 and on this trip interacted with students at IIT Kharagpur. This is where he revealed a number of interesting bits from his life, including his struggles with Hindi and studies. “When I came to Kharagpur for the first time I thought abe saale was how people usually call each other. Once I shouted abe saale in the mess and it basically caused the mess to shut down for a few days,” he said. And then he revealed that grades aren’t everything. He said that once he C grade in one paper but he got over that soon enough. “I think I did get C sometime (when I was at IIT) … My first year CGP was so bad I had to work hard to make up for it for the next three years,” he had told young students.
In IIT, Pichai also met the woman he would marry later. “I met my wife Anjali at IIT Kharagpur, so whenever I asked a friend to call her, they would shout loudly Anjali, Sundar is here for you,” he had said in 2017.
After IIT, the US happened for Pichai. He finished his engineering in metallurgical engineering in Kharagpur and then moved to Stanford University for MS. He would later do an MBA from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Pichai joined Google in 2004 and there his rise has been meteoric, largely because of his phenomenal success with the Chrome project. Pichai, and his team, was instrumental in creating Google Chrome and then making it the world’s most used web browser. The success with Chrome meant that Pichai started getting more and more responsibility, and his ability — according to those who know him and have spoken about him in public — to lead teams and people coherently was noticed by top management again and again. Pichai is considered soft-spoken and an adapt problem solver without ruffling any feathers. More than his knowledge of products and technology, it is his ability to lead and work with people that has made him the most important man within Google.
After success with Chrome, Pichai gradually started appearing at Google’s media and developer events. In 2013, he was given charge of running Android division and in 2015, he was made the CEO of Google, when the company was restructured and Alphabet was created. Now, he is CEO of both Alphabet and Google.
As Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote their letter, detailing the changes within the group, they were all praise for Pichai, who was once called the man who understands Page the best and translates his vision for everyone else in the company.
Here is what Google founders wrote about Pichai, “Sundar brings humility and a deep passion for technology to our users, partners and our employees every day. He’s worked closely with us for 15 years, through the formation of Alphabet, as CEO of Google, and a member of the Alphabet Board of Directors. He shares our confidence in the value of the Alphabet structure, and the ability it provides us to tackle big challenges through technology. There is no one that we have relied on more since Alphabet was founded, and no better person to lead Google and Alphabet into the future.”