Sundar Pichai: The Lesser Known Genius

I am an Apple, Inc. fanatic and, as a result, always am at a dearth of compliments for the company’s competitors. However, I cannot help but acknowledge the geniuses that work at such technology powerhouses. Sundar Pichai, the Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome, and Apps, at Google  is one of these masterminds.

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Sundar Pichai

Humble Beginnings

Pichai was not born into the royal blue, and he represents the true image of a self-made success.

Sundar was born in Tamil Nadu, India in 1972. His father was an employee at the British giant GEC, and his mother used to be a stenographer before she decided to have children. The Pichai family resided within a modest apartment without the luxuries of an automobile or television. In a nutshell, like many of the families back then, the Pichai family was not the most affluent family in India.

From an early age,  Sundar had an innate attraction to technology. This attraction to technology combined with his efforts secured him a spot at the Indian Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in India. From there, Pichai went on to purse studies in the arena of materials science and semiconductor physics at Stanford University. Sundar wished to pursue an academic career and planned to utilize Stanford as a conduit to do so. However, in the process, he dropped out of Stanford, and, instead, decided to work as an engineer and product manager at Applied Materials, in Silicon Valley.

*Cue in Google*

In about 2004, Sundar joined Google, and became part of the team that was working on Google’s toolbar. This toolbar was being designed to be implemented into leading browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc. as an effort to bolster the usage of Google’s web search engine.

While designing the piece of software, Sundar vouched that Google simply create their own web browser. He finally won the approval of Google’s co-founder Larry Page, and then-CEO Eric Schmidt for this project.

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Sundar Pichai at the D11 conference.

As a result, Chrome was invented. The web browser proved to deliver a faster performance than its competitors, and eventually, emerged as the dominant and most popular web browser.

Right there from the very start, Sundar had illustrated why he was such an incredible asset to the company. He had the brains of an engineer, the acumen of a businessman, and the execution of a manager. This very well explains why Google awarded him with $50 million in stock options in 2011 to stay at Google. (He had then received a competitive offer from Twitter)

From the browser, Pichai shifted his focus on developing a computing platform which would be heavily based on the technologies of the internet. This vision was conceived into reality with the Chrome OS. As a result, Chromebooks came into existence, and they have fared well in comparison to the rest of the PC market.

However, the decision that put Sundar on the high-profile radar of the mobile industry came in 2013.

Andy Rubin, the founder of Android, had managed to cloister the Android division from the rest of the company, and that particularly irked individuals on every level of Google’s hierarchy. In 2013, Larry Page convinced Rubin to allow the Android division to work more closely with the other teams at Google. Such a move would further intermingle Android and Google’s services, and bolster innovation.

However, the agreement was short-lived.

Andy later changed his mind, and decided to deviate from his agreement with Page. As a result, the company persuaded Andy to hand over the reigns of Android and he then continued to work at Google on other projects.

Android and Pichai

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Sundar at the Google I/O conference.

Larry Page then handed the Android division over to Sundar Pichai. This move alone, made Sundar one of the most prominent individuals in the portable electronics industry as he now had control of the world’s most popular mobile operating system.

“I was worried about disruption.This was a small team  executing well” said Pichai in regards to the decision.  However, Sundar proved to do a rather well job.

Once Pichai took over, he opened the doors of the division and allowed for other divisions within Google to work with the Android team, something that was not particularly going to take place under the leadership of Andy Rubin.

Under his leadership, Android has taken great leaps in innovation with features such as Google Now, and with the newly introduced Android L.

Pichai and his dent

Sundar while at his job, has also aimed to improve relations with Google’s partners. For instance, he, Chief Business Officer, Nikesh Arora, and CEO Larry Page visited South Korea to meet Samsung executives, and tour a factory over there.

Pichai has particularly managed to improve relations with Samsung a company Google shares special relations with. He has managed to balance the needs of Android and the needs of Samsung. As a result, both the companies share a, relatively, less complicated relationship.

Sundar’s dent on Google I/O

Google I/O is Google’s annual developer conference, and upcoming products and updates of Android are announced at this venue.  However, Google I/O’s have now transformed into Sundar-shows as they tend to be, primarily, hosted and run by Pichai.

At the I/O conference this year, Sundar broke tradition by announcing the next version of Android.

Usually, Google announced Android updates at the end of the year. This, consequently, derived scorn from OEM partners as such a time-table would leave them with insufficient time to deliver the newest Android version to their newest handsets by the lucrative holiday season.

Sundar and Google: What next?

Pichai has definitely kept himself busy at Google by expanding Android to other technologies as well (watches, wrist bands, etc.).He is for sure dedicated to doing his job and to making sure that Android is always on the cutting edge of the competition.

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Sundar at Google I/O conference.

However, what does the future hold for Pichai?

The media, recently, has begun to foment talks about how Sundar might be regarded as the successor of Larry Page.

In fact, in one interview  by Bloomberg, Sundar was asked: “Do you see yourself as CEO one day?”

His response, “Ha, ha. Ah, no, look, I mean, Larry is very, very committed to Google for the very, very long run. My passion is with computing. I’m fortunate to … be a part of two large open platforms.”

Well played Mr. Pichai, well-played. Your diplomacy and tact in handling situations was quite evident in your answer.

Regardless, of what happens next, Sundar has for sure made his impact on the portable electronics industry, and has successfully lead his divisions at Google.

Only time will tell what holds next for Sundar and Google.

This article was partly adapted from: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-06-24/googles-sundar-pichai-king-of-android-master-of-mobile-profile

 

 

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