Legend: Sundar Pichai

From his childhood in India, Sundar Pichai worked hard to become CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies, we take a look at his path to success

Pichai Sundararajan, known more commonly as Sundar Pichai, is an Indian-born American executive and CEO of Alphabet and Google.

Early life and education

Born in Madras (now Chennai), India, Pichai grew up in a two-room apartment where he slept on the living room floor with his

younger brother. The family did not have a car or television and Pichai himself recalled the first phone being brought into his home when he was 12 years old.

He grew up in a Hindu family with his father, an electrical engineer, and his mother, a stenographer.

After gaining his degree in metallurgy engineering and a silver medal at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, Pichai was awarded a scholarship to study at Stanford University. His plane ticket from Chennai cost more than his father’s annual salary. At this university, he studied for his Master of Science in materials science and engineering.

Following his studies at Stanford University, Pichai then worked for his MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Here he was named a Siebel Scholar and a Palmer Scholar, respectively.

Developing products to bring Google success

At the beginning of his career, Pichai worked in engineering and product management at Applied Materials and in management consulting at McKinsey & Company.

It was in 2004 that Pichai started working for Google as the head of product management and development. He was hired to lead the development of Google Toolbar and then he looked to develop Google Chrome which was released in 2008. In the same year, Pichai was named vice president of product development and took a more public role in the company.

At the company’s I/O developer conference in 2011, he launched the Chrome OS and Chromebook.

Clearly doing a good job, Pichai was then made senior vice president in 2012 and two years after that he was made product chief over both Google and the Android smartphone operating system.

From humble beginnings to CEO of Google

With all the successful work Pichai had been doing at Google it comes as no surprise that other tech companies looked to poach him from Google’s services. In 2011 it was reported Pichai was aggressively pursued for employment by Twitter.

Not only did Twitter fight for Pichai’s expertise, but in 2014 he was also touted as a possible CEO for Microsoft. In both cases, Google was determined to keep Pichai and offered him large financial packages to stay.

Supporting the company’s acquisition of Nest Labs in 2014, Pichai is known to have helped Google secure the $3.2 billion deal.

After all his hard work with Google, it came as no surprise that its founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced the creation of Alphabet Inc in 2015 that Pichai was named CEO of Google, which was reorganised as a subsidiary.

During his role as CEO of Google, Pichai remained largely apolitical and he declined to appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in September 2018, alongside Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

By the end of 2019, Pichai became the CEO of Alphabet Inc. 

As of June 2021, Pichai’s network is approximately USD$1.3bn and he earns USD$2m per year as CEO of Google and Alphabet. This is on top of the stocks and shares he owns in the company.

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