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Home / Columns / Sundar Pichai is spicy rasam in Google's fuzzy Alphabet soup

Sundar Pichai is spicy rasam in Google's fuzzy Alphabet soup

India-born Sundar Pichai has been named CEO of Google as part of a surprise corporate overhaul that saw the search giant forming a new parent company called Alphabet Inc.

columns Updated: Sep 17, 2015 12:36 IST
Narayanan Madhavan
Narayanan Madhavan
Hindustan Times
Chennai-born Sundar Pichai was named new Google CEO. (AFP File Photo)
Chennai-born Sundar Pichai was named new Google CEO. (AFP File Photo)( )

They first trusted him to shape the future of search. Now they want him to defend its past as well.

If Alphabet Inc, the new holding company that would be led by search engine Google, signals an array of gambits and gambles that the MountainView-based giant takes in its bid to lead an ever-expanding frontier of technology, the handing over of the reins to Chennai-born Sundar Pichai as the core unit's CEO underlines the importance of the cash cow that must fund all the dreamy risks that Alphabet as a whole takes to keep the world in general, and particularly investors, enthralled.

In the English language, an alphabet soup usually signifies a hotch-potch of confusing abbreviations. Everything from Google Glass and self-driving cars to offering internet for all on the planet symbolise futuristic dreams that Alphabet's overall CEO Larry Page will carry on his shoulders. On the other hand, Sundar Pichai's territory -- mainly the flagship search business, YouTube and Google Maps -- are like the distilled rasam, the clearer spicy soup that Chennai is famous for.

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

The bespectacled, bearded Pichai, all of 43, was leading Google in its key expansion phase on its biggest successful bet yet after its desktop search -- the Android platform that dramatically altered the global landscape in mobile phones by countering Apple's iPhone on the one hand and on the other, making proliferation of mobile Internet in remote areas of Asia and Africa seem so easy.

It is important to understand that this proliferation was intended to help Google in its next phase of likely hyper growth -- mobile search. Microsoft, led by fellow Indian-born Satya Nadella, has been struggling to make Bing an alernative to Google search, which by far is now an English verb for search that symbolises the monopoly that Alphabet will draw its juices from for its diversification.

Chrome, another product that Pichai led, has a 56% share in browsers, which is remarkable considering it is only seven years old in a market that had seen Netscape Navigator, Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer lead the field for more than a decade.

It is the Android-and-Chrome cocktail that makes Pichai a natural fit to lead the giant's core cash cow in its next wave.

Chennai-born Pichai who studied at IIT, Kharagpur and topped it with impeccable technology and management education at Stanford and Wharton, brings a sprightly mix of engineering, strategy and above all (they say), an ability to lead a hundreds of rockstar innovators, designers and geeks in a harmonious atmosphere.

Pichai's challenge will now be to ensure sustained innovation in search, turning YouTube into the world's leading broadcast platform
(it seems to be already on its way there) and keeping cash flows happy enough to splurge on the dreams that Page will be heading even as it has an eye on Wall Street.

Remember, Google has failed time and again in its social experiments such as Orkut, Wave and Buzz. Google Plus is hardly anything to write home about in the world of Facebook and Twitter. Refined social searches backed by data science are in a way challenging Google's search monopoly in advertising revenues. Pichai needs to figure all that out.

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

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