Sundar Pichai: Meet Google’s new CEO

Sundar Pichai has been appointed chief executive of Google, after the company’s founders announced plans to restructure its operations under the Alphabet parent company

Google has announced a major restructuring, that will see the internet giant separate its core business from its ambitious research divisions, and launch a new parent company called Alphabet.

As part of the restructure, Larry Page will become chief executive of Alphabet, Sergey Brin will become president, Eric Schmidt will become executive chairman, and Sundar Pichai, who previously oversaw many of the search company’s core products, will become chief executive of Google – which will incorporate search, web advertising, Gmail, YouTube, Chrome and Android.

Mr Page said that Mr Pichai was the natural choice to lead Google, adding that he has “really stepped up” since October of last year, when he took on product and engineering responsibility for Google’s internet businesses.

“Sergey and I have been super excited about his progress and dedication to the company. And it is clear to us and our board that it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google,” he said in a blog post.

“I feel very fortunate to have someone as talented as he is to run the slightly slimmed down Google and this frees up time for me to continue to scale our aspirations. I have been spending quite a bit of time with Sundar, helping him and the company in any way I can, and I will of course continue to do that.”

Others suggested that Mr Pichai had been approached by Twitter, which islooking for a chief executive, and that he was promoted in order to keep him on board.

Mr Page said that Mr Pichai will continue to drive innovation and stretch boundaries at Google, and ensure that the company “can continue to make big strides on our core mission to organise the world’s information”.

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.

However, Mr Pichai’s rise to the top of one of the world’s biggest companies has not been easy. Born in Chennai, India, he had a humble upbringing. His family lived in a two-room apartment, and Sundar did not have a bedroom – he slept on the living room floor with his younger brother.

Although the family did not own a car or a television, Sundar was attracted to technology from a young age, partly thanks to his father’s job as an electrical engineer for the British conglomerate General Electric Company.

“I used to come home and talk to him a lot about my work day and the challenges I faced,” Sundar’s father, Regunatha Pichai, told Bloomberg. “Even at a young age, he was curious about my work.”

The Pichai family got their first telephone when Sundar was 12 years old and, as well as cementing his interest in technology, it helped him discover a remarkable talent for remembering numbers – something that has come in handy throughout his 11 years at Google.

After studying metallurgical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, he won a scholarship to Stanford University to study materials science and semiconductor physics. The plane ticket to America reportedly cost more than his father’s annual salary.

Mr Pichai planned to get a PhD at Stanford and pursue an academic career, but he dropped out to work as an engineer and product manager at Silicon Valley chip maker Applied Materials. After getting an MBA from the Wharton School of Business in 2002 and doing a stint as a consultant at McKinsey, Mr Pichai joined Google in 2004.

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.

Google: a timeline of major events
Google has come a long way in the past 20 years. Here are some of the key events in the company’s history
1995
The founders meet
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin meet at Stanford University. Mr Brin, 21, is assigned to show Mr Page around the campus.
1996
The search engine project
The pair begin to work together on a search engine called BackRub as part of a research project.
1997
Google.com hits the web
Google.com is registered as a domain, the name having been chosen as a play on the word “googol”, the number one followed by 100 zeroes, to represent the near-infinite amount of content on the web.
1998
The company is incorporated
Google as a company is launched, filing for incorporation in California. The first office is in a garage.
1999
New offices
The company outgrows the garage and moves to new premises in Palo Alto with eight employees, then later the same year another relocation takes the company to Mountain View, where Google employs its first chef. The company raises $25m in equity funding.
2000
The world’s largest search engine
Google is launched in ten new languages. Today search is available in more than 150 languages. In June Google becomes the world’s largest search engine, with an index of one billion pages.
2001
Eric Schmidt appointed CEO
Eric Schmidt, a former director of Apple, becomes chairman of the board of directors, then in August he is appointed CEO. Meanwhile Mr Page is president of products and Mr Brin president of technology. The same year, Google image search launches.
2002
AdWords introduced
Google AdWords, first launched in 2000, is given an overhaul with cost-per-click pricing. Google News launches, as does Google Labs which allows users to try out beta technologies from the research and development team.
2003
Blogger creators acquired
The company acquires Pyra Labs, creators of Blogger. Google AdSense is launched.
2004
Google floats
Google launches its IPO with a share price of $85. The company is valued at $27bn. Email service Gmail is launched. Google acquires Keyhole, a digital mapping company which later helps create Google Earth. The European headquarters in Dublin open.
2005
Google maps the world
February sees the launch of Google Maps and in June Google Earth is introduced.
2006
Google buys YouTube
In October, the company announces the acquisition of video site YouTube. A number of new features launch this year including Google Calendar, Google Translate and Google Docs and Spreadsheets.
2007
Android launched
In November, Google announces Android, the first open platform for mobile devices. Also this year, Google is named the best company to work for by Fortune. Street View is started in five US cities. But Google Earth receives some bad press as intelligence sources warn terrorists are using aerial footage from the feature to target British bases in Basra.
2008
The introduction of Chrome
Web browser Google Chrome is launched. Google Suggest, now known as Autocomplete, is introduced on Google.com, predicting search queries.
2009
Google supports innovation
Google Ventures is announced, a fund aimed to support innovation and new technology companies.
2010
Nexus devices and driverless technology
The Nexus series of smartphone and tablet devices using the Android operating system is launched. Google announces the development of technology for self-driving cars.
2011
Larry Page reinstated as CEO
Larry Page becomes CEO, ten years after he passed the title to Eric Schmidt, who is now named executive chairman. Google+ is launched.
2012
Google campaigns against censorship
Google is part of the campaign against the SOPA and PIPA bills in the US, saying they would censor the internet and impede innovation. In April, Google Glass is unveiled, as is Google Drive, a file creation and sharing platform.
2013
Shares pass the $1,000 mark
Less than a decade after Google’s flotation, shares hit $1,000. A milestone for Android as it passes one billion device activations.
2014
Stock split
A stock split creates a new level of non-voting shares and cements Mr Page and Mr Brin’s control over the company.
2015
Alphabet becomes holding company in big corporate overhaul
A massive corporate overhaul separates Google’s core business from its research divisions with a new holding company, Alphabet, of which Mr Page will be chief executive.
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