The Indian Wiz Kid

It was April Fool’s day of 2004 and Sundar’s first job interview for Google. Google had just announced Gmail and it was invite-only event. He wasn’t sure if it was an April Fools' joke. Sundar gave three interviews, and he was asked what he thought of Gmail, but he couldn’t answer it very well. During his fourth interview, someone showed him Gmail and then he was able to tell them what he really thought about it. Like every other employee, he was expecting to be interviewed by Google founder Larry Page, but that did not happen. However, after the process was over, he got to know that he was selected for the job. Sundar was thrilled.

Sundar Pichai was raised in an ordinary family in a two-room apartment in Chennai. His mother was a stenographer while his father was an electrical engineer for the British conglomerate GEC managing a factory that made electrical components. A prodigy child with a flair for numerical recall, Sundar could remember every number he dialled when his family bought the first ever landline. He displayed an interest for technology at a very young age and was always curious about his father’s work. He would listen intently when his father used to come home and talk to him about his work day and challenges he faced.

Pichai excelled at school and won a coveted spot at IIT Kharagpur, where he studied engineering. After graduating, he won an additional scholarship to Stanford University to study materials science and semiconductor physics. He planned to get a PhD at Stanford and pursue an academic career, but briefly dropped out to work as an engineer and product manager at Applied Materials, a Silicon Valley semiconductor maker. After getting an MBA from the Wharton School of Business in 2002 he worked as a consultant at McKinsey. But the turning point in his life arrived on 1st April 2004 when Pichai joined Google Inc.

After joining, Sundar worked on Google’s search toolbar as a part of a small team. The toolbar gave users of Internet Explorer and Firefox easy access to Google search. The success of Google’s toolbar gave Sundar the idea that Google should develop its own browser. He discussed his idea with his seniors, but faced an objection from the-CEO Eric Schmidt, who thought that developing a browser would be too expensive. However, Pichai ultimately convinced the co-founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, to launch Google’s own browser. He played a pivotal role in the ultimate launch of the

browser, Google Chrome, in 2008. Chrome proved to be a great success as it allowed the users to directly access Google’s search engine.

Chrome eventually became the No. 1 browser in the world, surpassing Internet Explorer and Firefox. It also paved the way for other products like Chrome OS, Chromebooks and Chromecast. Sundar became VP for Product Development in 2008. He became a well-known face, rising up the ranks and appeared more often at Google presentations. By 2012, he had become the Senior VP of Chrome and apps. As a leader, Pichai emphasises the importance of delegating responsibility and teamwork. Running an organization at the scale of Google with 60,000 people, he realized the importance of strong leaders. He focussed on empowering people at all levels of the organisation, and instead of trying to be successful, he made sure he had good people and removed barriers to their being successful.