Softly spoken: Sundar Pichai is perhaps one of America & # 39; s most influential business leaders
The soft-spoken fellow who sat before the US Congress this week was not too impressive, it has to be said.
Shy, laughing, he spoke with the self-confidence of a shrewd teenager who tried to convince a bartender to serve him his first pint.
His suit, clearly not his everyday uniform, hung so uncomfortably with his lanky frame that it could not be suspected that he had been involuntarily pulled by an assistant after hours of fruitless bargaining.
But then Sundar Pichai is not a man who has to impress someone in particular. As chief executive of Google, he is perhaps one of America's most influential business leaders and certainly one of the most profitable.
The technology company, whose parent company Alphabet is the largest in the world, earned almost £ 9 billion last year. Pichai's own house remuneration was only a pittance of £ 200 million.
When author Tom Wolfe came up with the term Masters of the Universe, they were the power brokers of Wall Street who were the kingpins of the business world.
Today everything revolves around the FAANGs – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google. These are the companies that not only provide the American economy with electricity. They now run virtually the whole world.
Pichai's company knows the clothes you buy, the videos you watch, the recipes you like and the goodness you know what you have looked up this morning.
Did those political blowhards who were roasting him this week on data privacy believe that they are powerful? Besides this Indian brainiac, they hardly know the meaning of the word.
Pichai was born into a middle class family and grew up in an apartment in the South Indian city of Chennai. Living space chez Pichai was rather limited.
He and his brother had to sleep on the floor of the living room.
Pichai's parents both worked – his father an electrical engineer, mother a stenographer – but life was far from idyllic. The neighborhood suffered from drought, of which Pichai said that he is still worried to this day. He never sleeps without a bottle of water next to his bed.
As a baby, the family did not have a car, refrigerator or telephone. When they got the last two items when Pichai was a teenager, he witnessed the way technology can transform lives for the better.
Modest start: born in a middle class family, Pichai grew up in an apartment in the South Indian city of Chennai, where the living space was rather limited
At school he was a smart student and captain of the cricket team. He was also a chess sailor. After Pichai won a scholarship for Stanford, his father dried up the family savings to buy his airline ticket to California. It was there at the university that he met his wife Anjali. He proposed in their last year.
He started working at McKinsey as a consultant before joining Google in 2004 with his search engine. His reputation grew there after he and a group of fellow engineers had designed the web browser Chrome. The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were skeptical at first and wary of Microsoft's powerful Internet Explorer.
Pichai, convinced them differently. Nowadays Chrome accounts for about 60 percent of the market.
When he was promoted to Android's head, Google's smartphone software, in 2013, it seemed only a matter of time before he was looking for the best job.
Two years later, when Page and Brin decided to restructure their creation, and formed parent company Alphabet, the Google corner office was transferred to Pichai.
The job comes with its fair share of political headache. Complaints about Google over the years include aggressive tax avoidance, data harvesting and the digital advertising duo with Facebook, which has left the struggling newspaper industry on its knees.
There was also a recent upsurge of Google employees around the world in protest against the way they deal with allegations of sexual harassment.
Pichai seems a serious enough guy. As with all Faangsters – Apple's Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook – public criticism of the company tends to be met almost with a meek, butter-like-non-melting shrug.
After years of dodging the spotlight, his appearance in Washington this week was the first time he was publicly testified.
It is almost as if these tech-boys have difficulty understanding what accountability means. Maybe they should try Googling.