Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who rose through the ranks in the world's biggest tech giant Google, says his life in Chennai had a unique "simplicity", and that it was not a big deal even when his family didn't have a refrigerator in their house. Pichai said growing up in India was "nice compared with today's world" because despite the lack of resources to buy even basic things like a refrigerator, people "never felt lacking for anything."
"We lived in a kind of modest house, shared with tenants. We would sleep on the living room floor. There was a drought when I was growing up, and we had anxiety. Even now, I can never sleep without a bottle of water beside my bed. Other houses had refrigerators, and then we finally got one. It was a big deal," the IIT-Kharagpur alumni said during an interview with the New York Times.
Pichai did his bachelor in Metallurgical Engineering. He also holds an MS from Stanford University in Material Sciences and Engineering, and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Pichai said he used to read a lot during his early days in Chennai. "I read whatever I could get my hands on," says the Google CEO. He summed up his life in India as -- "friends, playing street cricket, reading books".
Pichai said he travelled on a plane for the first time after he got admission in the prestigious Stanford University. "To come and just have these labs in which you had access to computers and you could program, it was a big deal to me. I was so wrapped up in that, that to some extent I didn't understand there was a much bigger shift happening with the internet," he told the daily.
He said his approach to technology with the family is a bit "conflicted". "...because I see what my kids learn from all this... My son is 11 years old, and he is mining Ethereum and earning money. He's getting some insight into how the world works, how commerce works," said Sundar, who, along with his wife Anjali Pichai, has two children -- daughter Kavya Pichai and son Kiran Pichai.
Pichai says he realises that technological shift has been happening much faster now than before, but maintains that his "son still doesn't have a phone". On the issue of fake news, propaganda, and misinformation, Pichai says the problems arise, as a company, when it becomes difficult to draw a line between what is "OK and not OK". Because he says, countries have different opinions on these issues. However, he affirms that it is a great time to be alive, despite all the negativity around. "When people say, 'Wow, there's a lot of challenges,' I always say, "There's no better time to be alive'."
Under Sundar Pichai, Google has achieved new heights in the product, engineering and innovation. But, at the same time, the technology behemoth has also been embroiled in some controversies, including sexual harassment allegations against some of its executives, hacking of Google Plus data, its AI-powered military equipment programme, among others.
Recently over 20,000 Google employees held a protest against the company for allegedly not doing enough to curb sexual harassment allegations. Though Google claims it has fired as many as 48 employees for sexual harassment, including 13 senior level executives, it allegedly gave a hero's farewell to top executives Andy Rubin, known as the father of Android. Reports suggest he was let go after allegations of sexual harassment emerged against him in 2014 but that the company gave him a hefty exit package of Rs 663 crore even though it was legally not bound to do so.
"People are walking out because they want us to improve and they want us to show we can do better. We're acknowledging and understanding we clearly got some things wrong," said the Google CEO.
Edited by Manoj Sharma