Google's new CEO aims to make products easier to use

Google's new chief executive, Mr Sundar Pichai, is said to have "a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use".
Google's new chief executive, Mr Sundar Pichai, is said to have "a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use".PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SAN FRANCISCO • In a technology industry partial to dramatic, larger- than-life top executives, Mr Sundar Pichai will have to work hard to be ranked among that colourful crew.

However, the new chief executive of Google Inc is anything but unknown in the Silicon Valley.

The India-born executive has been the most powerful engineer below Google co-founder Larry Page since late last year, and it was just a matter of time before he was elevated to the top job.

Mr Pichai will now oversee YouTube, Android and Chrome and will be in charge of search, advertisements and infrastructure at the subsidiary of Alphabet - which will soon be the parent company of all of Google's core businesses.

The leap for the 43-year-old, who aims to make products easier to use, is impressive considering his humble beginnings.

Born in India's Tamil Nadu, Mr Pichai spent his early years in the Chennai region. For much of his childhood, his family of four did not own a television or a car, and only got their first telephone when he was 12 years old.

Mr Pichai earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology's Kharagpur branch. His parents are said to have used a lot of their disposable income to make sure their children were educated, which included providing airfare and living expenses for their older son when he won a scholarship to Stanford University in the 1990s.

He went on to attain a master's degree in science from Stanford, as well as a master's in business administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania before working as an engineer at Applied Materials, and in management consulting at McKinsey & Co.

He joined Google in 2004 and made a name for himself early as a product manager, working on high-profile efforts like Web browser Chrome.

Chrome grew like a weed, exploding from a single-digit percentage of market share to become the most widely used browser across desktops and mobile devices in the world, according to StatCounter.

"Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use - and he loves a big bet," Mr Page wrote on his blog.

Rumour has it that Mr Pichai was lured by Twitter to run its consumer product unit. He was also said to have been in the running to replace Mr Steve Ballmer at Microsoft - a job which eventually went to another Indian, Mr Satya Nadella.

Mr Pichai is well liked by many in the software community at large for his affable manner and friendly approach to his subordinates and contemporaries.

"Sundar never has a bad day. His positive energy is contagious and his optimism attracts the best talent," said Mr Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist and former colleague.

NEW YORK TIMES, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2015, with the headline 'Google's new CEO aims to make products easier to use'. Print Edition | Subscribe