Google shocked the entire world when it announced it was separating its core business and its other ventures into a collection of companies that would all be part of a bigger company called Alphabet.
However, becoming part of a bigger company was not Google’s biggest announcement. Google founder and chief executive Larry Page is the new CEO of Alphabet and Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of products became the CEO of Google. The former Stanford University dropout has risen through the ranks of the tech giant over the last ten years to become the face of Google after acing major projects and successfully serving as the master of ceremonies at Google’s annual I/O event.
Pichai, who started working on the search toolbar Google puts in Internet browsers, thought the tech giant should have its own browser. After impressing the two co-founders [but not the then-CEO Eric Schmidt], the Indian-born spearheaded the creation of Chrome, a snowball which perpetuated and transformed into a brand that now includes a line of laptops and streaming devices. Although the public is just getting to know Pichai, he is the reason people are using Google Chrome.
In 2011, he took over Gmail and Google Docs and, two years later, Page put him in charge of Android. The company’s cofounder and new CEO of Alphabet has been relying greatly on Pichai and, when he announced the birth of Alphabet, he said Pichai “deeply cares that we [Google] can continue to make big strides on our core mission to organize the world’s information.”
Last year, Page told Bloomberg BusinessWeek Pichai “has deep technical expertise, a great product eye, and tremendous entrepreneurial flair.” His colleague Caesar Sengupta, who has worked with Google’s new CEO for eight years, told the publication there is no person working at Google who does not like Pichai “or who thinks Sundar is a jerk.” Plus, Business Insider talked to people who know Pichai and managed to find out that the executive is very empathetic, supportive, builds amazing teams and “promotes really good people as opposed to the most political and opportunistic people.”
Pichai was born in Chennai, India from a stenographer mother and an electrical engineer father. He lived with his parents and younger brother in a two-room apartment and, during much of his childhood, the family had no TV or car. Young Pichai excelled at school and won a coveted spot at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, where he studied engineering. After graduation, he received another scholarship to Stanford University to study materials science and semiconductor physics. Pichai told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that his parents “used a lot of their disposable income to make sure their children were educated.” He lived with a host family during his first year at Stanford and missed his girlfriend, Anjali, who later joined him in the United States and is now his wife.
Pichai dropped out of Stanford to work as an engineer and product manager at a Silicon Valley semiconductor maker and spent a stint as a consultant at McKinsey after getting an MBA from the Wharton School of Business in 2002. He arrived at Google just when the company was launching Gmail.
Pichai helped orchestrate the US$3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, the maker of a smart thermostat and in April 2013, he took Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora on a trip to South Korea to tour a Samsung factory and visit the tech giant’s executives in an attempt to convey respect. “I felt there was more distance than I would like in a partnership,” he told Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
A few months ago, Pichai told The Verge he intends to improve Google’s products through machine learning and sketched out an effort to deliver computing capabilities to billions of people around the world. When the new CEO of Google talked about the next billion people about to come online with smartphones, The Verge’s Dieter Bohn got the impression that, for Pichai, Google’s monetization strategy is less important that giving people everywhere the power of Google’s machine learning when and where they need it.
If anyone in Silicon Valley can transform fantasies into realities, that’s Sundar Pichai.