5 reasons behind Sundar Pichai’s ascent to Google chief executive

Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai, a Google senior vice president being promoted to chief executive, delivers the keynote address during the 2015 Google I/O conference for developers May 28 in San Francisco.

(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Sundar Pichai is being promoted to chief executive of Google as part of a corporate reorganization announced Monday that splits the Google search and apps businesses most familiar to consumers from the company’s other ventures -- in healthcare, self-driving cars and more. Alphabet Inc., run by current Google Chief Executive Larry Page, will house both new Google and the “other” group.

Here’s a look at why Pichai, 43, might have been chosen.

1. He knows products. Pichai started at Google in 2004, working on the Google Toolbar add-on for Internet browsers. Now he oversees Android, Chrome, Gmail and other apps, the search engine and advertising technology.

People were confused in 2013 when Google released Chromecast, a $35 gadget to stream videos to TV via a smartphone. It turned out to be a hit. Pichai had helped identify a gap: Video-viewing on mobile devices was skyrocketing, yet a lack of simple tech was stopping people from watching that content on the biggest screen in the house.


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2. He knows how to make money from products. He told Yahoo Finance in May that it’s important to be flexible with business models to “give users what they want in the context [of] how they are willing to consume it.” Many people put a premium on cheap and easy, one reason why advertising still works, he said.

3. He navigated corporate politics well. As the story goes, Pichai at one point in his career would wait outside of the office of his boss, Marissa Mayer, to ensure she was well informed about his team’s activities. The goal was to get positive performance reviews. It seems to have worked, as he kept climbing the ladder.

“Sundar has been saying the things I would have said (and sometimes better!) for quite some time now, and I’ve been tremendously enjoying our work together,” Page wrote in a blog post Monday.


4. His family went all out on education. Pichai’s dad worked as an electrical engineer for a company in India, which helped spur his interest in technology. Though flying to the U.S. for graduate study reportedly cost his family more than his dad’s annual salary, his parents raided their savings account to make it happen, according to Businessweek. Pichai was a top student at among his region’s best high schools and universities.

5. He’s got a vision. Pichai wants powerful computing technology affordable to as many people as possible, he said to the the Verge earlier this year. Calling Google “a great equalizer” that works just well at Harvard as it does in rural-anywhere, Pichai noted, “For me, it matters that we drive technology as an equalizing force, as an enabler for everyone around the world.”

Chat with me on Twitter @peard33


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