Google CEO Sundar Pichai visited his alma mater IIT-Kharagpur today. Pichai is currently in India on a work and personal visit. The Google CEO had earlier announced the DigitalUnlocked programme to help small and medium enterprises in India go online.
At IIT-Kharagpur, Pichai answered questions from students at an open-air theatre in the campus. The Google CEO discussed his life on campus in an event titled ‘A journey back to the past to inspire the future’. The event, which was attended by over 3,500 students, was streamed live by Google on YouTube.
Sundar Pichai noted it was an amazing four years for him at IIT-Kharagpur. “It been phenomenal to come back,”he said. Pichai met his wife Anjali at the IIT campus. He pointed out how difficult it was to call girls from their hostels when there were no smartphones.
“I met Anjali at IIT-K and she was my classmate. Just to go get someone at the girl’s hostel, you had to walk in the front and request someone to call them. And they’d go in and loudly say – Anjali, Sundar is here. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience,” he said.
On asked how have things changed in terms of technology, he said the rate of which things have been progressing in India is phenomenal. “We didn’t have phones back then. I remember waiting for a long time to get a rotary phone at home. Didn’t have access to computers growing up. Clearly the progress has been phenomenal.” the Google CEO said.
Recalling a funny anecdote from his college days where he called someone Abey Saale. “As a freshman, couple of weeks into being here I came from Chennai. I had learnt Hindi in school but never spoke much. Just listening to other people, I thought that’s how you address people. One day there was someone in the mess, and I had to call him, and I called him Abey Saale. In my first couple of weeks I thought you call people that way. Next thing, I know folks in the mess were quite upset, and they closed down the mess temporarily.”
“I interviewed at Google on April 1, 2004, which is April Fool’s Day. Google had just announced Gmail and it was invite-only. But people weren’t exactly sure if it was a April Fool’s joke. So, I remember doing my interviews during the day and people kept asking me what do you think of Gmail, but I didn’t have a chance to use it and I thought it was a April Fool’s joke,” Pichai said.
“My first three interviews, I couldn’t answer well because I hadn’t used the product. In my fourth interview when someone asked me have you seen Gmail and I said no, he actually showed me the product. And then the fifth interviewer asked what do you think of Gmail and I was able to answer then,” he added.
In a rapid fire round, Pichai was asked how he spends his free time. He replied that he likes to spend time with his children who are 13 and 9 years old, and that he loves watching cricket and football as well.
Another student asked what his GPA was at IIT. The Google CEO replied to this question on a lighter note saying he was too embarrassed to admit his first year’s GPA, but that he did much better in the last three years.
Pichai also revealed that Infosys founder Narayana Murthy was his ideal during his college days. “I admire people like that who put India on the map,” he said. He added that he loved watching Tendulkar play.
Next Pichai was asked about his favourite Bollowood actress, to which he replied it would be Deepika Padukone. A student asked Pichai what she’d have to do to replace him. “I’d tell her Be careful what you wish for, but happy to discuss over a cup of chaai,” he said. The function ended with a selfie with everyone.