Pichai Sundararajan, better known as Sundar Pichai, is the chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, celebrates his 50th birthday on June 10. Pichai rose to this exalted position through hard work. He came from modest beginnings to become one of the world's most successful professionals under the age of 50. Here's look at key moments in his life and what his peers say -
When Sundar Pichai took over as the Google CEO in 2015, Larry Page, his predecessor and co-founder of the search engine, said: "I feel very fortunate to have someone as talented as him to run the slightly slimmed down Google."
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Pichai's promotion had brought him suddenly from his senior vice-president of product position to Page's "L-Team," an inner circle of executives.
Pichai rose through the ranks due to his hard work and perseverance. On his 50th birthday, here's a look at some of the key moments in his life.
Pichai Sundararajan, aka Sundar Pichai, was born in India on June 10, 1972, and grew up in Chennai. His mother worked as a stenographer before having children, and his father was an electrical engineer who managed a components factory for the British conglomerate GEC.
Pichai's family lived in a two-room apartment where he and his younger brother slept in the living room. Pichai's family first got a telephone when he was 12-years-old.
After completing his schooling at Jawahar Vidyalaya Senior Secondary School, Chennai, and Vana Vani School, Pichai did his graduation in metallurgical engineering from IIT Kharagpur.
After his graduation, Pichai travelled for the first time to the US to do his Master's at Stanford University in materials science and engineering, followed by an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Travelling to the US was also the first time Sundar had ever been on a plane, he had told New York Times in an interview. "I always wanted to be in the Valley. I kind of knew that’s where everything happened," he had said.
Sundar had planned to get a PhD in materials science and semiconductor physics and become an academic. However, Forbes reported that he dropped his plan to become an engineer and product manager at Applied Materials, a semiconductor manufacturer in Silicon Valley. This was before he did his MBA in 2002.
After getting his MBA, Sundar worked as a consultant at McKinsey and Company before joining Google in 2004.
Pichai initially worked with a small team on Google's search toolbar.
According to the Forbes report, it was Pichai's idea that Google set up its browser. Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were in favour of the project, although then CEO Eric Schmidt had objected to it. Chrome went on to become a huge success. Later in 2019, when Pichai was named the CEO of Alphabet, Schmidt tweeted that Pichai had "everything Google and Alphabet need".
Congratulations to Sundar - he has everything Google and Alphabet need. Thank you to Larry and Sergey for everything - your insight and brilliance, your intensity and your friendship. https://t.co/1Ui0VLJHO8— Eric Schmidt (@ericschmidt) December 4, 2019
Pichai is said to have supervised a number of Google’s core projects like Google Drive, Gmail and Google Maps.
In 2013, he was made responsible for the oversight of the Android operating system. He was promoted to the head of products in 2014.
Finally, when Brin and Page restructured the company in 2015 under Alphabet, Pichai was named the CEO of Google.
Pichai is married to his college sweetheart Anjali, whom he met at IIT, Kharagpur.
In 2022, Pichai was named for the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award by the Government of India.
What his peers say about him?
While describing Pichai, IAS officer and former colleague Ujjwal Kumar Ghosh said one of the reasons behind the success of the Google CEO is that he “harnessed the collective energy and talent of his colleagues”.
“Sundar Pichai’s brain storming sessions were sessions in learning. He discussed every small thing in great detail,” the Hindu quoted Ghosh as saying in 2015. The IAS officer said if Pichai was working on a product or system, he would not be satisfied till it was completely error-free.
Former IIT hostel mate and a Mumbai-based entrepreneur Phani Bhushan told Economic Times that Pichai was a “very shy and reserved guy.”
“In those times, getting into an IIT was easier than getting a girl from IIT. We all were surprised when we found out that Pichai was getting married to Anjali as he was a very shy and reserved man,” Bhushan said.
Another former colleague at Google had described Pichai as a person who could handle chaotic and stressful situations with ease.
Speaking to Business Insider in 2015, the colleague who requested to remain anonymous said the news of Google unveiling its Chrome browser in 2008 had leaked before the official announcement. When the marketing team was called to office to work on the issue, Pichai was there and he didn't seem angry about the leak, the source said. In fact, Pichai handled the situation calmly.
"What was amazing was