Google gobbles up local messaging start-up Pie

Google's Mr Sengupta says Pie fitted the Internet giant's plans for an engineering team in Singapore as its staff "showed they understood what it is to build a mobile service which is to provide content that can be used on a handheld device".
Google's Mr Sengupta says Pie fitted the Internet giant's plans for an engineering team in Singapore as its staff "showed they understood what it is to build a mobile service which is to provide content that can be used on a handheld device".ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Move part of plan to start engineering team in S'pore to tap new wave of Net users from Asia

Internet giant Google has acquired local business messaging start-up Pie to kick-start its engineering team in Singapore.

All nine Pie engineers will start work in Google's office in Shenton Way tomorrow. The acquisition price was not disclosed. As it has been absorbed into Google, Pie will also wind down its own service.

Pie fitted Google's plans to start an engineering team here as it was focused on building a mobile-centric service, said Mr Caesar Sengupta, vice-president of The Next Billion Users, which refers to a Google team working on products for the next wave of Internet users.

"They also showed they understood what it is to build a mobile service which is to provide content that can be used on a handheld device.

He became a Singaporean 10 years  ago when he had worked here with local software firm Encentuate. After the firm was sold, He worked for Google in the US and relocated to Singapore two years ago. 

Locating an engineering team in Singapore signals Google's strategic refocus on Asia. It did not say how many engineers it will hire.

Google recognises the next billion Internet users will come from this region and it needs to be ready to support them with new products and services, said Mr Sengupta.

What excites Mr Sengupta is his plan to create a Singapore core in the local engineering team,

Google and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong discussed the hiring of Singapore engineers during his visit to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, last week.

Mr Sengupta wants to attract Singapore engineers working overseas, especially in tech firms in Silicon Valley, to join his team here as "Asia offers incredible opportunities". He points to the vibrant online market with the emergence of large Internet firms valued at more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) like consumer Internet platform Garena and taxi mobile app Grab.

"If you're a technologist, the future of computing is here. Besides, Singapore has an amazing quality of life," he said. The Republic is safe and the education system is good. The family support structure is "phenomenal", unlike some other centres where domestic help is expensive and hard to come by.

He will convey this message at a hiring information session on March 8 at Google's headquarters in Mountain View. This session is open to any Singapore engineer working in Silicon Valley. He will also be giving talks at local universities to encourage computer science and engineering graduates to join his team.

Another hiring strategy is to increase the number of interns that Google takes in annually. It will now offer them jobs in the engineering team once they complete their internships.

Mr Sengupta said the engineering team in Singapore will focus on building new products and services for first-time Asian Internet users who hop online with low-cost mobile phones. "These phones have lower technical specifications, which means that users may get patchy Internet connections. We need to develop new services to ensure that their Internet experience will be good," he stressed.


Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that Mr Sengupta became a Singaporean two years ago. This is incorrect. He became a Singaporean 10 years ago but relocated to Singapore two years ago.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that 'Another hiring strategy is to increase the number of interns that Google takes in annually. It will now promise them jobs in the engineering team once they complete their internships'. Google has clarified that 'it would now offer them jobs in the engineering team'.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'Google gobbles up local messaging start-up Pie'. Print Edition | Subscribe