Beijing time on December 4th, the ceo of any company, who is the head of any company, will be “in the history books”. That is the case with Sundar Pichai, google’s CEO after 11 years in the company. From a student from a middle-class Indian family to Google Chrome’s chief developer, Pichai’s journey to the top of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has been a mixed bag.
By most standards, Mr Pichai’s tenure as CEO was a great success. Since Mr Pichai became Google’s CEO, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has seen revenues rise more than 80 per cent and its share stake has risen about 90 per cent. Given his “record”, one can’t help but ask: How did Pichai become Alphabet CEO in 15 years?
Pichai doesn’t bring his own aura.
Pichai as a teenager (pictured left with a red circle)
In 1972, Pichai was born in Chennai, India’s fourth-largest city. His father was an electrical engineer at British General Electric Company, not a company in the United States, and his mother was a stenographer. Pichai, who has neither a TV or a car, sleeps on the living room floor with his brother at night because there are no spare bedrooms in the two-bedroom apartment.
Pichai, who grew up in a typical middle-class family in India, has been a “leader” since his youth and a student of both character and merit. He was captain of the cricket team and excelled during his studies in metallurgical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology.
After graduating from the Indian Institute of Technology and receiving a scholarship to Stanford University, Pichai soon moved to the United States to study. The price of a ticket from Chennai to the United States was higher than his father’s annual salary at the time.
Pichai earned a master’s degree in materials science and engineering from Stanford University, and later earned an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the top business schools in the United States. Mr. Pichai then began his career in the US, first as a product manager at Applied Materials and then as a management consultant at McKinsey.
The road to promotion
Pichai’s Path to Promotion
With a long career in cobaring and experience, Pichai joined Google in 2004 as a product manager, responsible for innovation slots on software products including Chrome, Chrome OS and Google Drive.
Pichai’s path to promotion at Google didn’t stop, and he later took charge of the popular Gmail email service and the product development of Google Maps. In 2011, he unveiled Chrome OS and Chromebook at a new product launch. On March 13, 2013, Pichai became head of android for the mobile operating system.
In each position, Pichai has demonstrated the ability to drive product growth and attract new users, value both product quality and revenue growth, making Android Google’s biggest growth engine. Mr Pichai was rumoured to have been vying for the job of Microsoft’s CEO when former Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer left. The eventual CEO of Microsoft was another Indian-born executive, Satya Nadella.
On August 10, 2015, Mr. Pichai was named Google’s new CEO, and Google was reconstituted as Alphabet. On October 2, 2015, Pichai took up the role of ceo of Google.
On December 3, 2019, Alphabet CEO Larry Page announced that he would no longer serve as CEO of the company and would be replaced by Mr. Pichai. Pichai is also the CEO of Google and its parent company. Sergey Brin will also step down as president.
CEOs at the time of change
As CEO of Google
Until August 2015, Google’s franchise was in the hands of co-founders Peppa and Brin, who were helped by Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and executive chairman. Together, the three have developed Google from a university project into one of the world’s most successful companies.
In his previous jobs, Mr. Pichai was a trusted member of Google’s leadership team, having served as an adviser to Mr. Page and Mr. Brin. Although his peers consider Mr Pichai to be low-key, his technical skills and foresight have kept him promoted at Google. While his appointment as Google’s CEO represents a major upgrade in his career, Mr Pichai has been in charge of a number of the company’s businesses since October 2014. After becoming Google’s CEO, Mr. Pichai still reports to Mr. Page and Mr. Brin, who are alphabet’s leaders.
In August 2017, Pichai came under the spotlight for firing an employee who criticized the company for its diversity and gender discrimination. In December 2017, Pichai attended the World Internet Conference in China and said that “many Chinese sMEs are opening up international markets with Google’s help”.
Challenges for the future
In late 2018, Mr. Pichai appeared before the U.S. Congress to answer many of the controversial questions of the time. Employees have been vocal in their opposition to Google’s handling of sexual harassment, and lawmakers have threatened to tighten regulations.
Before that, in the three years before Mr Pichai became Google’s CEO, he had been largely unaffected by “political influence”, especially compared to Facebook and Twitter. But that has changed as Google’s critics have become increasingly snoist.
Mr. Pichai has refused to join Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg at a September 2018 hearing of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. Pichai was in the spotlight during a hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on data privacy and search algorithms on December 11, 2018. But the debate over some of Google’s business practices may be far from over.
As Alphabet’s CEO, Mr Pichai will face greater challenges, including how to deal with government regulation (the voice of the spin-off of Google) and balancing google’s relationship with other businesses within Alphabet.
‘In the 15 years I’ve worked at Google, the only constant i’ve seen is the change itself,’ Mr. Pichai said in an email to employees after he was appointed CEO of Alphabet. Considering that Page and Brin said in a joint statement that it was time for the company to streamline management, Pichai is expected to restructure Alphabet, including Google Inc., to further improve governance structures and improve efficiency.
Looking forward to greater success
Alphabet’s many businesses
Brin and Page named Pichai as Alphabet’s CEO in the hope that he would lead the company to greater success. But only time will tell how successful Pichai can be as the dual CEO of Alphabet and Google. Referring to Pichai’s past performance, Alphabet has undoubtedly had a good leader who will be better and better in the years to come.
Brin and Page transformed Google from a traditional technology company into a highly ambitious holding company. But as the new company grows, they know that Alphabet, under Mr Pichai, will go further.