When Google unveiled the Chrome browser in September 2008, not many paid much attention to the developers of the Internet browser that Google claimed at that time would revolutionize our browsing experience. That kind of grandiose claim is of course expected from a company introducing a new product into a very competitive niche in the software world. The feeling then amongst the public is Google had decided to join the ‘browser wars’ as it was known then. The dominant players then were Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari.
As a matter of fact, the browser was introduced to the Indian sub-continent in the same month in 2008 by a group of Google’s developers led by a certain Sundar Pichai. The soft spoken, slightly built man that stood before a packed hall delivered his pitch as if he knew the language of nerds and non-geeks. Everybody in the hall was left in no doubt about what the browser could do. That is one of Pichai’s strongest trait: the ability to take some complex idea and break it down so that everybody understood what was going on.
That event in 2008, was Pichai’s 4th year as an employee of Google, a global conglomerate where his star had being steadily rising since he joined them. 7 years later from that event, he achieved what 95% of the world population can only dream of. He was made CEO of Google after a parent company, Alphabet, was created to replace it in the stock market.
How did such a humble Indian from a very modest background rise up to the top of the business and tech world?
Born in the Indian town of Chenai in 1972, to Mr Lakshmi Pichai and Regunatha Pichai, he completed both his primary and high school in the same town before moving to Kharagpur for his tertiary education at the Indian Institute of Technology and graduated with a degree in Metallurgical Engineering. A full and comprehensive educational biography can be found in his wikipedia page here . Instead of going for his doctorate in metallurgy, as adviced by his undergraduate professors, he opted instead to go for an MS and MBA in the US. He was awarded the Siebel Scholar in the University of Pennsylvania where he got his MBA. The Siebel Scholar is usually conferred on the 27 most outstanding students in the top universities in the US and some selected universities world wide. It comes with a cash prize of $35,000.
So how did a man who studied Metallurgical engineering ended up being a top executive in a software company? The key is in his thesis back in university. He did a brilliant research in a little known aspect of electronics. His thesis dealt with implanting molecules of other elements in Silicon wafer to alter its properties. It was obvious from school that he was very interested in electronics and materials. That was how Google got interested in him. He was the one that convinced OEMs to install Google as a toolbar which would result in Google search being easily accessible on hundred of millions of computers worldwide. He was also in charge of the development of Google drive, Chrome os, and the Android os.
According to some childhood friends and neighbors who remembered him as kid, Pichai was a nerdy, shy kid who had no time for extra curricular activities. He only showed his competitive nature only when it was time to collect test papers from his teachers. Then he would go round the class comparing his scores to others to make sure he had the highest scores.
In Google headquarters, colleagues say he is a likeable fellow who is very humble. They claim he really makes time to attend to people’s problems no matter how small or mundane they are.
He is married to his college sweetheart, Anjali, and they are blessed with two kids. He loves playing chess in his spare time.