Chennai digs for Pichai’s past

The new Google CEO was born and brought up in the southern metropolis

August 12, 2015 03:43 am | Updated November 16, 2021 05:55 pm IST

Pichai Sundararajan aka Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President, Android, Chrome and Apps at Google, during a press conference at the launch of Google's Android One platform, in New Delhi on September 15, 2014. 
Photo: Kamal Narang

Pichai Sundararajan aka Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President, Android, Chrome and Apps at Google, during a press conference at the launch of Google's Android One platform, in New Delhi on September 15, 2014. Photo: Kamal Narang

He was a very quiet boy and kept to himself most of the time. This is how the city remembers the new Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

The search for his Chennai connections began soon after news of his new role at Google was announced. Schools, alumni associations and the media came together to track down Mr. Pichai’s roots in the city.

Mr. Pichai was born and brought up in Chennai, but left the city after he completed his class XII in 1989.

At his alma mater, Jawahar Vidyalaya (JV) in Ashok Nagar, the phone has been ringing non-stop since Tuesday morning. “Only when the media alerted us to the news did we start looking through our records. He studied here from 1979 to 1987, and then switched schools,” Alice Jeevan, school Principal said. While the school was able to locate his transfer certificate, they have not yet found his other school records.

“Had he been a naughty child, we would have remembered him,” she said. Mr. Pichai was a quiet student and, though he studied well, was not the school topper.

One of his schoolmates, now in Kolkata, recalls being in the same class with Mr. Pichai, but says they were not good friends. “The only thing I remember is that he and Shankar Subramanian used to compete for the highest marks in science.” She did not wish to be identified.

Vanavani, where he is believed to have attended Classes XI and XII, has been unable to locate his records yet.

The alumni association at Jawahar Vidyalaya managed to collect some details of Mr. Pichai’s association with the school. A.S. Kumar, who manages JV Beyond Batches, a Facebook group of the alumni, has been in touch with Mr. Pichai’s parents who are in the U.S. “On Tuesday morning, I met his 91-year-old grandmother Ranganayaki. While she was happy for her grandson, she was too frail to meet many people and did not come up with much information,” Mr. Kumar said.

“We tried contacting his batchmates, but most of them are not in town. Mr. Subramanian, who works with IIT-Madras, is currently in the U.S. on deputation with Google,” he said. Mr. Pichai had not officially joined the alumni association.

A visit to his house, a few streets away from the JV school, yielded a little more information. The green independent house at the corner of the street had a partially-covered Alto car parked in an open shed. Two caretakers sitting outside said they had barely met “Ayya’s older son,” who would only come on fleeting visits. One of Mr Pichai’s former neighbours spoke of how they would occasionally play badminton together. “We have been neighbours since the family moved into the house in the 1970s. But Sundar would only come out to play during the holidays,” he said. “Sundar, whose nickname at home was Rajesh, was with PSBB, K.K. Nagar, during his kindergarten days. He switched to JV when he moved here,” he said.

1What is Alphabet? A collection of companies, the largest of which will be Google. Alphabet will include businesses like Google X, Calico, Google Capital, Google Ventures etc.
2Why the name? They chose the name Alphabet as it is a collection of letters which represent a language, which is the core of how they index with Google search.
3The company was created in order to make management of all their businesses easier. Google will be slimmed down by removing subsidiaries from Google that are not related to their main internet product and placing them under Alphabet.
4Alphabet Inc will replace Google Inc as the public-traded entity and all shares of Google Inc, will automatically be converted to the same number of shares of Alphabet.
5•All companies under Alphabet will have independence to develop their own brand rather than developing Alphabet as brand itself.
6The creation of Alphabet is said to make the company more fiscally accountable. The company will be reporting financial results in segments, which will give a clearer picture of how the business is performing, making it more transparent for investors.
7Alphabet will allow the leaders to focus on more creative and ambitious projects like the glucose sensing contact lenses and their drone delivery project Wing.
8Google doesn't yet own, so instead is the home of Google's newest company.
9Other projects that are under development include self driving cars, Internet balloons and Google Glass.
10Google will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet. The company’s stocks were up by 5 per cent after the announcement made by Larry Page.

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