WASHINGTON/Nagpur: India-born Sundar Pichai was named CEO of Google on Tuesday by the company’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin in course of a re-organization that created a mother company called Alphabet.
Pichai, 43, a Chennai native who went to IIT Kharagpur and later to Stanford and Wharton, will take charge of a slimmed down Google (quickly dubbed Google Minus) that Larry Page said will be stripped of companies “that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products,” which will all go into Alphabet. Page will be CEO of Alphabet.
The new mother company will include, besides Google, units such as Calico (which focuses on Longevity), X lab (which incubates new efforts like Wing, Google’s drone delivery effort) and units dealing with life sciences (such as the one working on smart contact lens that detects blood sugar level). Google’s investment arms, Ventures and Capital, will also be part of Alphabet.
“We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant,” Page said in a blog explaining the rational for the restructuring, adding that the “new structure will allow us to keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities we have inside of Google.”
Still, Google will remain the biggest piece of Alphabet. Explaining Pichai’s elevation, Page said he (Pichai) has really stepped up since October of last year, when he took on product and engineering responsibility for Google’s Internet businesses.
“Sergey (Brin) and I have been super excited about his progress and dedication to the company. And it is clear to us and our board that it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google. I feel very fortunate to have someone as talented as he is to run the slightly slimmed down Google and this frees up time for me to continue to scale our aspirations,” he wrote.
He said he has been “spending quite a bit of time with Sundar, helping him and the company in any way I can, and I will of course continue to do that.”
A straight elevation for Pichai would have meant that two of the world’s five largest companies by marketcap are headed by executives of Indian-origin — Pichai at Google which is ranked #4, and Microsoft, which is ranked # 5, is helmed by Satya Nadella.
But it won’t be so straightforward. Page explained that Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly-traded entity and all shares of Google will automatically convert into the same number of shares of Alphabet, with all of the same rights. Google will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet, which he (Page) will helm. The company’s two classes of shares will continue to trade on Nasdaq as GOOGL and GOOG.
Still, the elevation is a milestone for Indian-origin CEOs, of whom there are at least half dozen in Fortune 500 companies, including Indra Nooyi at Pepsi, Ajit Banga at Mastercard, and Sanjay Mehrotra at SanDisk. There is a good chance that the third ranked Berkshire Hathaway too could be headed by a PIO with Ajit Jain strongly tipped to succeed Warren Buffett. Apple and Exxon Mobil are ranked #1 and #2 respectively.