Nearly 25 years after he graduated from there, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai on Thursday visited his alma mater, IIT Kharagpur.
Nearly 25 years after he graduated from there, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai on Thursday visited his alma mater, IIT Kharagpur (IIT-KGP). This was his first visit to India and to the college since he became Google’s CEO in 2015.
A crowd of over 3,500 students and professors waited patiently for Pichai — he was late for the event by almost an hour — on an unusually warm January morning. When he spoke, they listened to him in pindrop silence, bursting into thunderous applause every now and then.
The Google boss was not at his candid best, but there were some moments. One was when he said, “What happens in college dorms stays there.” He was responding to a question on what posters he had in his room. Pichai was a resident of the Nehru Hall hostel at IIT-KGP.
Another such moment was when he spoke about the time he called out to somebody “abey saale” (something akin to “you idiot” in English), because he thought that’s how people addressed each other in Hindi, and all hell broke loose. Pichai, who grew up in Chennai, said while he learnt Hindi in school, he never really had the opportunity to speak it before he came to IIT.
He spent time at Nehru Hall, his home of four years, took a trip down memory lane and talked to the current residents. “The dorm looks exactly the same. Some things don’t change,” he said.
“I got into Google because Larry didn’t interview me”
He met his wife Anjali at IIT. They were batch mates. While he was doing his engineering in metallurgy, she was studying chemical engineering. Talking about their courtship, Pichai said in those days of no mobile phones, he would go up to the only girls’ hostel (then) on the campus — SN Hall — and ask any girl going in to tell Anjali he was waiting for her. The messenger would inevitably shout out loud: “Anjali, Sundar is here for you,” and everyone would hear her, Pichai said with a shy smile.
Talking about his on-campus courtship with wife Anjali, Pichai said he would go up to the girls’ hostel and ask any girl going in to tell Anjali he was waiting for her
In October 2015, Google restructured the company by creating an umbrella holding company called Alphabet. Google — the search and internet business, became a subsidiary, like Calico, GV, CapitalG, Veril, X, and Google Fiber. Pichai was appointed the CEO of Google at that time.
India is a key market for the internet giant, which is locked in a larger global battle with Facebook for advertising dollars, and others like Apple and Amazon for the next billion users. To that end, Google has made many moves in the country in 2015.
Most recently, it rolled out free Wi-Fi at 100 Indian railway stations in partnership with Railtel, a government-owned broadband provider. The idea is to roll out the service to 300 more stations, or about 5% of all Indian railway stations. Not to be left behind, Facebook wants to take this a step further and provide internet to nearby villages using Railtel’s infrastructure.
India is a key market for Google. Recently, it rolled out free Wi-Fi at 100 Indian railway stations in partnership with Railtel, a government-owned broadband provider
Back at the amphitheatre at Kharagpur, a student jokingly asked Pichai how powerful he was at Google and if he could have a Google Doodle dedicated to IIT-KGP for a day. Pichai said there’s a dedicated team looking into Google Doodles, and even if he were to send a mail they might not listen to him. However, he said that he looks forward to having the institute featured as a doodle in a meaningful way in the future.
“There are lot of great people who don’t get into IIT”