Becoming the CEO of any company can be a difficult challenge. Becoming the CEO of one of the most high profile, profitable businesses in the world is particularly noteworthy. Who is Sundar Pichai, and how was he able to quickly advance through the ranks at Google to reach one of the highest positions at the company? Lets find out
Sundar Pichai was born in Madras (now Chennai), Tamil Nadu, India in 1972 to Tamil parents Lakshmi and Regunatha Pichai. 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. Sundar grew up in a two-room apartment on 46th Street, 7th Avenue, in Ashok Nagar, Madras.
Pichai completed his Class X at Jawahar Vidyalaya school located in Ashok Nagar, Chennai, and completed the Class XII from Vana Vani school located in the IIT campus, Chennai. Pichai earned his degree from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT KGP) in Metallurgical Engineering. Sundar’s professors at IIT recommended he pursue a PhD at Stanford University, but he decided to pursue MS and MBA degrees instead. He holds an MS from Stanford University in Material Sciences and Engineering and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was named a Siebel Scholar and a Palmer Scholar.
American Academia and Starting at Google:
Sundar earned a master’s degree in material sciences and engineering at Stanford and then received an MBA from one of the top business schools in America: the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
He began his career in the United States working as a product manager at Applied Materials and then as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. He was hired by Google in 2004.
The rise and rise of Sundar Pichai
Mr Pichai’s appointment as chief executive of Google is an endorsement of his talents as both an engineer and a manager. Since joining Google in 2004, he has risen rapidly, leading innovation efforts for Chrome and Chrome OS, overseeing the development of Gmail, Drive and Maps, and later taking on responsibility for Android.
In a recent profile by Bloomberg magazine, Mr Pichai was described as soft-spoken, self-deprecating and well-liked. “I would challenge you to find anyone at Google who doesn’t like Sundar or who thinks Sundar is a jerk,” said Caesar Sengupta, a vice president who worked with Mr Pichai for eight years.
He started off working on Google’s search toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox, but quickly suggested that Google should build its own browser. Despite some resistance from then-CEO Eric Schmidt, he won the support of the company’s co-founders, and Google ended up launching Chrome in 2008. Today, Chrome is the most used browser across desktop and mobile, representing 25pc of the market.
Mr Pichai went on to help develop the Chrome operating system for laptops, which stores data in the cloud rather than locally on the device. Chrome OS runs on Google’s Chromebooks, which are particularly popular with the education sector. Analysts at Gartner recently predicted that sales of Chromebooks will increase by 27pc in 2015.
After supervising the development of some of Google core applications like Gmail, Google Drive and Google Maps, Mr Pichai was also given oversight of Android in 2013, taking over from Android founder Andy Rubin. He has since led the expansion of Android from a mobile-only operating system to a platform for smartwatches, TVs, cars and even payments.
Mr Pichai’s promotion to product chief in October 2014 made him Mr Page’s second-in-command, with oversight of day-to-day operations for all of Google’s major products including Maps, Search and advertising, as well as new products like Google Photos and Google Now. His new title of chief executive essentially consolidates this role.
The appointment has been hailed not only as a personal achievement, but as a reflection India’s growing importance in the global technology industry, following the appointment of Satya Nadella as chief executive of Microsoft last year. Mr Nadella congratulated Mr Pichai on his new role, along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi:
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 11, 2015
Congrats to @sundarpichai, Google’s new CEO. Larry couldn’t have picked a better person for the role.
— Jeff Weiner (@jeffweiner) August 10, 2015
@sundarpichai Congratulations on your promotion!
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) August 11, 2015
The Bottom Line
Founders Brin and Page set Sundar Pichai up for great success as the leader of the new Google, but only time will tell how successful Pichai will be in his new role. If past performance is any indicator, Google is in good hands and will perform well in the coming months and years.
Brin and Page made a bold bet transforming Google from a traditional tech company into a diverse holding company with lofty goals. However, as the new company grows, they know they will always have Google, with Pichai at the helm, behind them as a steady source of profits.