Pichai, 43, the current company vice-president, has worked on some of the company’s best-known products, from the Chrome browser to the Android mobile software.
Google chief executive Larry Page announced the change on Monday, saying he will hold the same title at Alphabet. Co-founder Sergey Brin will be the president at Alphabet, the new holding company for the tech giant’s newer ventures such as research arm X Lab, investment unit Google Ventures and health and science operations.
Sundar Pichai, the man who runs Android, is now the CEO of Google, a Google that has morphed and become the part of a larger entity called Alphabet. Larry Page, who will now be the CEO of the larger entity, made the announcement in a blogpost and said he was excited to see Pichai take on the role of Google CEO.
We take a look at his rise in Google.
Sundar Pichai was born in 1972 and grew up in Chennai. An IIT Kharagpur alumnus, he later attended Stanford for MS and Wharton for his MBA. Pichai’s father was an engineer with GEC. Before he joined Google, Pichai worked in engineering and product management at Applied Materials and in management consulting at McKinsey & Company.
Pichai joined Google in 2004 and was the driving force behind Google Chrome browser and the Chrome OS. Initially, Pichai started with handling the ‘Google’ search toolbar in the upper right corner of Web browsers, well before the launch of Google’s own browser. This was the time when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was still dominant across the world. The success of the Google Toolbar, was what helped build his reputation at the company.
In 2008, the Google Chrome browser was launched by Pichai’s team. In 2011, Pichai was promoted to Senior VP and also took charge of Gmail and Google Docs.
But perhaps the biggest responsibility that Pichai was Android in 2013 when he replaced Andy Rubin, the man who developed the platform. Pichai continued to be in charge of Chrome as well.
His promotion was seen as a sign that Google might eventually merge Android — its very successful mobile OS– with the Chrome OS, although that has not happened so far.
At the end of 2014, Pichai was made the Google Product Czar with all product heads, with the exception of YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki, reporting to Pichai. He was directly reporting to Larry Page. In August 2015, Pichai has been named the CEO of Google itself, a promotion that was bound to happen soon.
Pichai’s dominance at Google has been very visible especially since his promotion as Android head. In fact, he has become the sole face of Google’s senior ranks at its annual I/O developer conference, which is one of the most awaited and watched events from the company.
So what helped Pichai’s dynamic rise in Google?
According to various profiles and news reports, the new Google CEO is a known team player and one who can handle tough negotiations.
A profile on The Information pointed out that when Pichai reported to Marissa Mayer (who is now the Yahoo CEO), he was known to wait for long hours outside her office in order to ensure that his team got the performance scores they deserved. Additionally, what helped Pichai was his nice-guy nature and the fact that he retained the best of his team.
A post on Quora by a former Google employee, which had been written at the time of Pichai’s promotion to Google Product Head, said Pichai “avoided making enemies” at the company and “navigated” Google’s “politics to make his team successful”. Another profile on Fortune noted that Pichai was “universally well-liked at Google”.
More importantly Pichai had come to be Page’s right hand man and even accompanied the Google CEO when the latter was trying to acquire WhatsApp, according to the report on The Information. Pichai is also believed to have played a major role in Google’s acquisition of Nest.
Another BusinessWeek profile pointed out that Pichai had led the negotiations when Samsung and Google’s relationship had taken a turn for the worse over the South-Korean company’s launch of its own Magazine app with the Galaxy Note 3.
Of course, for India Pichai’s promotion also means a lot. After Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, he become the second Indian man to head one of the most important technology companies in the world.