There’s big news today from Google: The company will be restructured under an umbrella company under the name of Alphabet. With Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin ascending the new throne as CEO and president respectively, Google is getting a new leader: product chief and Larry Page deputy Sundar Pichai.
Pichai, who started at Google in 2004, is known as a low-key manager who worked on the Google toolbar and then led the launch of Chrome in 2008. After that success, he became a vice president and then a senior vice president, and began supervising all Google apps (like Gmail and Drive) and then eventually Android. He was promoted to product chief in October 2014, and essentially took over day-to-day operations, adding all of Google’s major products (maps, search, advertising) to his responsibilities. Forbes reported in 2014 that Pichai “is universally well-liked at Google” and that he had been placed on Larry Page’s elite “L-team.”
Pichai is 43, and grew up in Tamil Nadu in southern India. He trained in metallurgy and materials science at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in eastern India before completing a materials science masters at Stanford and an MBA at Wharton. One of Pichai’s college professors, Sanat Kumar Roy, told the Times of India in 2013 that Pichai, “was doing work in the field of electronics at a time when no separate course on electronics existed in our curriculum. … It was very clear from the beginning that he was enthused about electronics and materials.”
Enthused is probably an understatement. Pichai told the Verge in May that, “For me, it matters that we drive technology as an equalizing force, as an enabler for everyone around the world. Which is why I do want Google to see, push, and invest more in making sure computing is more accessible, connectivity is more accessible.”
As Google CEO, Pichai will be likely focus more on products than social movements. In Larry Page’s announcement about the transition, he wrote that “it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google,” and said he felt “very fortunate” to put Pichai in the role. He noted, though, that Pichai would be running a “slightly slimmed down Google.” A smaller Google is still pretty powerful, though.
Curious to learn more about Pichai? Here’s some good additional reading:
- “Sundar’s Google,” the Verge, May 29, 2015
- “Here’s What Our Google Sources Are Saying About Sundar Pichai’s Sudden Rise,” Business Insider, October 28, 2014
- “The incredibly fast rise of Sundar Pichai,” Forbes, October 27, 2014
- “Google’s Sundar Pichai Is the Most Powerful Man in Mobile,” Bloomberg Business, June 24, 2014