How Sundar Pichai Became The Most Powerful Indian Inside Google?



All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come

– Victor Hugo

Sundar Pichai’s time has of course, come.

Last week, Larry Page, co-founder CEO of Google transferred absolute powers to Sundar Pichai, making him the most powerful Indian inside the world’s largest Internet Company. Sundar Pichai is the new second-in-command inside Google, and will directly report to Larry Page.

Sundar Pichai, who is the Senior Vice President for Android, Chrome and Apps has now being given command for all the products which Google offers: search, maps, Google+, commerce and ads, and infrastructure teams.

Sundar Pichai

Only YouTube and other semi-independent units like Nest, Google X, and Calico would be out of his responsibility. Youtube is currently headed by Susan Wojcicki, who is the sister of Anne Wojcicki, the ex-wife of co-founder Sergey Brin. Google was founded in her garage, and she was the one who let Larry Page and Sergey Brin start Google in her garage. She is a veteran inside Google, and she too reports directly to Page. Her domain and hierarchy level can be termed as parallel to Sundar Pichai now.

In an internal memo sent by CEO Larry Page to all their employees, he said, “Sundar has a tremendous ability to see what’s ahead and mobilize teams around the super important stuff.”

Giving an insight into their future roles, he said in that memo, “I will run a more business-centric meeting with our functional leaders and Sundar, drilling into sales, partnerships and deals as well as any important legal, finance, HR, government relations or PR issues.”

Hence, in a way, Larry Page will focus on the business related matters inside Google, meanwhile providing Sundar with free hand to run the products side.

As we analyzed the meteoritic rise of Sundar Pichai within Google, we came across 3 major reasons which prompted his sudden and fast elevation to the top:

Google needs the teenager mindset

Larry Page understands that for a technological and Internet company like Google, innovation is the key to growth. If they stop nurturing ideas and acting on them, then their growth story can come to screeching halt.

In the internal memo, he shared this fact openly, while at the same time justifying the promotion of Pichai, as he said, “As you age, even when you’re still a teenager like Google, you have to work hard to stay innovative. Innovation is messy, a disruptive process, and people tend to be more comfortable doing what they’ve always done with a few minor tweaks,” Explaining the elevation of Pichai, and his own role in the overall development of Google, he said, “I’m making … changes today to ensure we continue to strive for market-leading excellence and beyond in our existing already hugely successful products while also getting the next generation of big bets off the ground,”

In several interviews and media interactions after this decision, Page pressed on the issue of innovation, and the ability to make “faster, better decisions” as his sole intention for this restructuring activity.

Pichai is known for his ability to ship products with an assurance of near-perfection, and some analysts are claiming that the elevation of Pichai to #2 position in Google has been done so that Google can now come out with ‘integrated and cohesive’ products which fulfill their ‘teenager’ mindset and help them develop their own eco-system of world class products.

Sundar Pichai has done them in the past, and he is capable of doing in future as well, which brings us to the number 2 factor, with a little bit of his professional history.

Google Toolbar & Chrome Success

Sundar established his credentials and reputation with the successful implementation of Google Toolbar and then Google Chrome. Google Toolbar was the one of the most important ingredients of Google’s success with browsers such as Internet Explorer and Mozilla as it made Google the default search engine for the user.

When Microsoft made it tougher for Google to install this toolbar, they launched their own browser: Chrome, the development of which was spearheaded by Pichai. Chrome was a super success, as within few years it garnered more than double share of what IE had at one time, and it cemented Google’s position in the search market as well as in the browser game.

It was after the success of Chrome that Pichai was made Vice President, and then Senior Vice President. He got the invite to the exclusive L-Team, which comprised of senior product managers inside Google and which reported to Page directly.

It is said that during this time, Pichai and Larry Page developed a cozy relation, as he was able to ‘articulate’ Page’s viewpoint and futuristic plans in simpler; doable actions infront of this team, and Page was mightily pleased with his performance. Some insider jokes termed Pichai’s main task was to manage Larry and some called him the spokesperson for Larry as well.

The super success of Chrome prompted Page to hand over Android to Pichai, and the rest is history.

This was made possible only because of the team management and motivation skills which Pichai had, and this brings us to the concluding point.

Impeccable team management and No-Fuss Attitude

We went through several anecdotes and stories about Pichai, and came to know one very interesting fact: Everybody loves him. Google insiders sincerely believes that he actually cares about people, and their problems. One ex-Google employee told, “without a doubt, one of the best people I’ve worked with”, adding that when he gave his resignation, Pichai came up with additional support and assistance to help him.

Another ex-Googler says, “He promotes really good people as opposed to the most political and opportunistic people.”; another person close to Pichai said, “Pichai can gracefully navigate the politics of a company as large as Google.”

Now, there are some old timers who had joined Google before Pichai, and the thought of reporting to a person who was alteast 4 levels lower than them can create some friction, as one of the sources said, “Most of Google remembers him in a much more junior role. For some of the old-timers, reporting to the guy that used to be four-levels below you is a challenging thing.” But despite these apprehensions, Page decided to go-ahead and give him the second-in-command position, which speaks volume about his ‘substance over style’ attitude.

He is known as a person who will attend a meeting, sitting at the back, and listening intently to all the suggestion and ideas and conflicts shared by him team, and then at the end of the meeting, he will suddenly come up with a plan and blueprint which no one can refuse.

Sundar Pichai was born in Chennai in 1973, and before he joined Google in 2004, he had worked with Applied Materials and McKinsey & Co. and attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University and the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur.

Last year in the month of April, we had featured Sundar Pichai as one of those Indians who made it big inside Google, and after 17 months of that post, all other Indians mentioned in that post will report to Sundar. Extraordinary achievement to say the least.

We wish him super success in taking the Google growth story to even greater heights.

Are you aware of any interesting anecdotes / story about Sundar Pichai? What according to you made his sudden elevation inside Google possible? Do share your views by commenting right here!

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