He was the wizard
Of a thousand kings
And I chanced to meet him
One night wandering
He told me tales
And he drank my wine
Me and my magic man
Kinda feeling fine
-- From The Wizard, by Uriah Heep
There was a time when Kannan Pashupathy dropped me home on his bicycle. As classmates in south Delhi, we would share adolescent jokes and gossip and listen to some hard rock with another benchmate whose house and heart were large enough to accommodate loud music and equally loud friends.
I would have never imagined that he would appear decades later back all the way from Mountainview, California to meet me, with both of us wearing professional hats to discuss a phenomenal company for which he works.
Kannan is director of international operations for Google, and his job is to scout for the best investment opportunities for arguably the world’s most avidly watched company, and the role includes studying government policies, surveying educational institutions, meeting heads of state and looking for talent everywhere.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to see the stuff I would have almost paid to do for the things I do,” he said over Assam chai, nearly throwing me on my watch-that-PR-mode. “It is to the point where I can almost design the perfect country,” he added.
He went on to give some details on how he met the president of Iceland (which, he proudly informed, is warmer than Germany and has three Indian restaurants), and how Google did not invest there somehow because the talent was not as abundant as he would have liked.
And there hangs the tale of the company which in a way is spearheading a new kind of globalisation. If McDonald’s was about serving the same burger or similar burger everywhere in the world, Google is a tad different. For Google, you could almost say that expansion does not lead to globalisation, but the other way around.
One thing I learnt was that Google needs computer engineers by the dozens, but not the usual linear variety, but ones that think creatively.
Since they are hard to find, Google will go anywhere and do a lot to keep them. It allows private time to its estimated 5,000-plus engineers to pursue an interest within their company time.
Recruitments involve tests that find out if the engineers have an interest in art of some kind and culturally, different points of view are deliberately built in.
“Everybody who gets hired gets interviewed by people across three continents,” Kannan said. This kind of unique globalisation has led in a short span of 2 or 3 three years to more than 20 engineering locations and 30 in all, including places like Belo Horizonte in Brazil, Trondheim in Norway, Aarhus in Denmark, St Petersburg and Moscow in Russia and of course, Bangalore and Hyderabad in India.
While local language markets are part of the strategy, there is also the fact that culturally and ethnically, the diversity really builds up.
You could say that in that sense, Google’s idea of globalisation is much different from that of McDonald’s which is a synonym for predictable uniformity.
But the finest part is how Google engineers come up with strange contraptions. At its famed headquarters, Google has an Internet-linked electronic globe which shoots a ray of light every time 1,000 searches are made from computers in a particular location.
Kannan says he was packed off to Africa, after they found that the Dark Continent hardly threw up gleaming lights in a world that was glittering otherwise.
By now, I was beginning to buy his line on his job. If meeting him reminded me of the first stanza of the Uriah Heep song we loved as teenagers, his company reminded me of the last.
So spoke the wizard
In his mountain home
The vision of his wisdom
Means we’ll never be alone
And I will dream of my magic night
And a million silver stars
That guide me with their light