The appointment of Sundar Pichai, 42, as head of products at Google is bigger news than it appears. True, there is no immediate move to groom the IIT, Kharagpur engineer as successor to current CEO Larry Page (who is, as we all know, quite young) and his title still reads a bland “senior vice-president”.
But there is plenty of stuff that would point to his significance.
Running a company like Google requires more than your usual smart management and that would keep Page busy. As a path-breaking company in a global landscape, Google has to handle everything from disparate acquisitions to dealing with strange laws across cultures.
In such a context, handling core products is an immense responsibility at Google. In a sense, Sundar’s presence is more significant than that of Nikesh Arora, who left Google as chief business officer this year to become the vice-chairman of Japan’s Softbank. Arora is more of a business mind with an expertise in telecom.
Sundar is a hardcore software geek with business expertise (a Wharton MBA, mind you) and is arguably the Silicon Valley’s most important person after Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and Apple CEO Tim Cook. And he has been leading Android, which has revolutionised mobile telephony.
Sundar, in the coming days is poised to easily tower over his fellow Chennai-born US CEO Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo or Hyderabad native Satya Nadella of Microsoft.
And yes, since Pichai is short for his father’s name, for Indians at least, his reference as Sundar makes more sense.