'He's shy, bookish type': Schoolmates on Google CEO Sundar Pichai

  • KV Lakshmana, Hindustan Times, Chennai
  • Updated: Aug 11, 2015 16:21 IST

Vanavani Matriculation Higher Secondary School woke up on Tuesday, just like the rest of Chennai city, to the news that one of its “boys”, Sundar Pichai, had been named the new CEO of search giant Google.

Kaveri Padmanabhan, principal of the school nestled in the sprawling forested campus of IIT-Madras, said she and the entire staff of the institution felt proud Pichai was set to become a household name across the world.

“Yes, we would like to invite him to the school and we wish he talks to our students, who would get even more inspired,” Padmanabhan told Hindustan Times.

“All said and done, it is a superlative and fantastic achievement for anyone and it is an absolute honour that we (as a school) contributed to it, howsoever little it is,” the excited principal said.


A notice board at Vanavani Matriculation Higher Secondary School congratulating Sundar Pichai, the new CEO of Google, in Chennai, Indian on Tuesday August 11, 2015. (Handout Photo provided by HT correspondent Lakshman Kochi)

Padmanabhan shared the good news with students during the morning assembly, and told them how it is possible for anyone to become successful if they apply their mind and work hard towards a chosen goal with dedication.

"We are celebrating the moment and the momentous news, and the children are also very happy and want to know more (about Pichai) from us," she said.

"Unfortunately, we have not been around when Sundar Pichai was studying (in the school). But yes, we have some old students whom we are going to tap and talk to the students."

Read:India-born Sundar Pichai appointed the new CEO of Google

Pichai, 43, was born and grew up in Chennai, studied engineering at IIT-Kharagpur and then went to Stanford in the US. He went on to complete an MBA from Wharton School of Business.

He joined Google in 2004, the year the company launched Gmail, and has worked on some of the company's best-known products, from the Chrome browser to the Android mobile software.

Pattu Subramanian, who was two years senior to Pichai in school, remembers him as a "quiet worker, studious and a bookish type".

“He used to have a smile on his face and (was) kind of a bookworm. Once I had the occasion to meet him in Pennsylvania. But I had never thought this shy boy would one day become so big,” he said.

“Heading a global corporation is something very big and it is a matter of great honour and pride for us that someone from our backyard has become the global head of a huge corporation,” said Subramanian, head of logistics at the BMW Plant in Chennai.

Murugavel Selvan, another schoolmate of Pichai, who too was his senior by two years, said he had heard a lot about Pichai over the years.

“A devoted son to his parents, Pichai has done them and everyone of us proud,” said Selvan, an entrepreneur in the IT space.

Recently, Pichai bought his parents a super luxury flat in Chennai costing several crores of rupees, he said. “His elevation as the CEO of a global corporation is very inspiring for us and the young students of Vanavani school and in fact everyone,” he added.

What Pichai’s success has shown is that “whatever the pedigree or background one comes from, success is guaranteed if one works diligently towards a goal”, Selvan said.

Read: Meet Sundar Pichai, the little-known big thinker Google CEO

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