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Indians hail Pichai’s rise to top Google job

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images/AFP | Google’s Sundar Pichai delivers a speech in San Francisco on May 28, 2015

The Indian press has hailed the announcement that Sundar Pichai will lead Google as the company launches a major restructuring initiative, pointing out he is only the latest member of an Indian-origin “elite” leading major global firms.

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News that Sundar Pichai will be the next CEO of Google, Inc did not go unnoticed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week. On Monday night the Indian premier tweeted: “Congratulations @sundarpichai. My best wishes for the new role at @google”. A few hours later Pichai, who was born into a working-class family in the southern Indian city of Chennai in 1972, acknowledged Modi’s “warm wishes” with his own tweet. “Hope to have the opportunity to meet you soon,” Pichai wrote.

The announcement that Pichai will head one of the most profitable and powerful Internet companies in the world has also inspired and energised ordinary Indians as the national press widely covered Google’s strategic move.

The Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported that India’s tech scene was “elated” over the news that one of their own would replace Google co-founder Larry Page as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. Page, in turn, will become the CEO of a new umbrella group – Alphabet – that will oversee Google as well as other so-called “moonshot” ventures, like self-driving cars and science projects.

IANS wrote that Pichai had come to "symbolise" the new India: “Talent, technology, innovation and managerial acumen.”

Delight at Pichai’s appointment was echoed in prominent Indian newspapers, which heaped praise on Google’s founders for their decision. “Larry Page, known to pick strong executives and push them without micromanaging, has done the right thing by choosing Pichai to succeed him as CEO. Globally, successful businesses lure the best talent, wherever they are from,” said the Economic Times in an editorial on Tuesday.

Betting on Chrome

The Hindu daily reported that news of Pichai’s promotion sparked an “editing frenzy” on his Wikipedia page, with a handful of Chennai schools vying to claim him as a former alumnus, and school officials scrambling to dig up old transcripts or any other relevant record with Pichai’s name on it.

Alice Jeevan, the principal of the Jawahar Vidyalaya school, told the Hindu that she had located a transfer certificate that showed Pichai had studied in her institution from 1979 to 1987, but nothing else. “Had he been a naughty child, we would have remembered him,” Jeevan was quoted as saying.

Indeed, Pichai was a disciplined student with a natural talent for memorising numbers. He was accepted at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, where he earned his Bachelor of Engineering degree and won a scholarship to attend Stanford University in the United States. He would then get an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

He worked at the semiconductor maker Applied Materials and as a consultant for McKinsey before his first job as a product manager at Google in 2004. He would go on to play major roles in the launch of Google Chrome – considered a risky venture in 2008 – and the now ubiquitous mobile phone operating system Android.

“The Google founders no doubt recognised that Mr. Pichai was a man on an evangelical-type mission for pushing the boundaries of technology,” The Hindu wrote in reference to the man’s meteoric rise to the top of the company.

Be like Nadella

Among other people who were quick to congratulate the new Google CEO was Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft Corporation, who like Pichai was born in India.

The Indian press was quick to draw parallels between the two men, reminding readers that Pichai is not a pioneer among Indians in Silicon Valley, but part of a growing “elite” heading international corporations, and which includes Nadella, Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo), Lakshmi Mittal (ArcelorMittal), Ajay Banga (MasterCard), Shantanu Narayen (Adobe) and others.

“Indians heading global companies are no longer exactly a novelty. Nevertheless, the elevation of India-born Sundar Pichai to Google CEO is remarkable” the Economic Times wrote.

A similar sentiment was expressed in the IANS, which noted: “Besides strengthening Indian and American tech partnership, elevation of Pichai and Nadella to top posts underscored the fact that India has become a storehouse of global talent in technology and management.”

The Financial Express chalked up the success stories to Indians' technical skills and talent for adapting to different environments and challenges. “Experts believe that Indians' focus on good education and ability to work in difficult situations are aiding to this rising trend and more and more Indians could rise to top positions at global companies in near future,” the newspaper wrote.

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