The Rift In Troika at Google: An Ex-Googler’s Journal

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Lets read that bombshell of a post again by the departing CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. He says “We (Larry, Sergey and Eric) have also agreed to clarify our individual roles so there’s clear responsibility and accountability at the top of the company”. I am bewildered that in 10 years of what Eric calls ‘working exceptionally closely together’ it took a 2010 holiday season for him to realize the lack of efficiency in decision making at the helm of affairs of one of the colossal enterprises of our times.

While at Google, I have had numerous opportunities to listen to Eric over VC, and though I have never thought of him as an exceptional leader, I always believed in his analytical and perceptive skills.

Lets face it, he is seasoned and accomplished, and if it was a governance issue he would have figured it out years ago. So its clear that this is clearly a fissure in the so called ‘triumvirate’ at Google, a possible crack that deepened after the China exit. As I look back and then forward, there are some points I ponder upon.
•    Enterprise: The disproportionate dependency in ad revenues is a problem Google grappled with over years with no solution even in the latest Q4 earnings where it is still at 97%. The only ‘Other revenues’ listed in the income statement is from Google Enterprise Apps, a space which brought in a meagre, but critical, $1.1 Billion of the total of $28 Billion yearly revenue. Schmidt is a veteran of this game having extensive experience while heading companies like Novell. It is extremely critical for Google to escape the clump that it created for itself. Furthermore, with marketers shifting their focus to Social, than search we will see the core revenue channel thinning.
•    Social: The burning, bitter pain point for Google which in a matter of months changed the dynamics of the digital space is still a losing battle for Google. Many of Google’s attempts at creating social ecosystems failed miserably and Google fell flat on its face. Orkut – bombed in India, Google Buzz – dumped worldwide, Google Wave – defunct, Google Me – a rip off of Facebook, still in the womb. Search is fast moving from algorithmic page rank to social graphs based on experience and word-of-mouth. This continued failure could well have been a prompt for the change of leadership. Their latest Google offers (Which got leaked on the 20th of Jan is another sign of lack of innovation and an easy replica of Groupon)
•    Leadership: Now a look at the future. Page takes on April the 4th. From folks who have interviewed Page, he is observed to come across as an extremely private, shy and elusive personality who is not a comfortable public speaker. He reportedly thinks of interviews & meetings as not the best investments. Now that’s exactly the opposite of the kind of person Google needs. Google is a vibrant brand, it needs a dazzling, colourful, bombastic, charismatic, flamboyant leader who is outspoken and articulate.

That brings my mind to the 4th ace at Google – Nikesh Arora, the Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer who grew swiftly through the ranks largely due to some stupendous success in the EMEA region which he managed previously. I have had the opportunity to meet with him and listen to him speak and I know that when he speaks Googlers listen.

•    Internal Culture: Google fosters a culture which they describe as ‘managed chaos’. It is credited with bringing start-up culture into the mainstream. On one side it wants to superficially maintain this culture internally (With its own shadows) and on the flipside it has its face pressed against the window to perform and keep shareholders satiated.
So managed chaos? No! Its more chaos than managed! A highly inefficient setup combined with bloated up egos from academically top notch (But practically very often disastrous!) workforce is what best describes this ‘chaos’. Almost steadily, every new release and internal communication gets leaked to the press by employees themselves in a matter of minutes indicating poor integrity. The Google offers communication (mentioned above) got leaked to Mashable (on 20th Jan) in a matter of minutes straight from the Google Headquarters (Googleplex) including a presentation marked ‘Confidential’! Google as a company needs to introspect deeply about its internal culture and take corrective steps.

The bottom line is that this rift has happened at a time when Google’s going is smooth financially but the impending threats are fatal. When Larry takes over in April, I sincerely hope he has these points taken care of so that billions around the world can scream vociferously ‘I’m feelin lucky’ about the company which changed the way we live.

Written by Arun Varma

Arun is a digital marketing professional who previously worked with Google in India before seeing snow for the first time as a current MBA student at HULT International Business School in Cambridge. He also is a business quiz enthusiast and has hosted and conceptualized several of them.

Twitter: @varmaarun


5 responses to “The Rift In Troika at Google: An Ex-Googler’s Journal


    As usual the great news is that a head of nation, powerful only because it is rich, is visiting. After all, money is all that matters. The way it is made does matter. Kalamadys and Rajas of this wretched country make it in any cruel way they can. Anybody can protest, it does not matter. While ‘cattle class’ is making all the noises Kalmadys and Rajas of this country sleep in the comfort of seven star hotel suites. How correct is Graham Green, honesty, honor and pride are the privileges of the poor, they have every right to keep them! We will keep only the filthy lucre. Coming back to Obama, it is said that it was nice of him to visit the memorial for those were massacred by Pakistanis on November twenty eighth 2008, with the money, equipment and methods of training provided by USA. In fact USA have killed those people and by visiting the memorial of the dead the president will be paying tribute to American ‘Military Industrial Complex’. Prosperity of this ‘Complex’ is the only concern of any administration of USA, Democrats, Republican, White or Black. Wars of Koreas, Vietnams, Afghanistan or Iraq are all creations of this Complex. Thaliban, Al Quida and the like are initially fostered for the sole purpose sustaining this Complex. Its new products are to be tried. Improved versions are to be tested at monotonous intervals. Levels of production of arms are to be progressively increased by literally aggressive methods of marketing, inventing new enemies and going to war with them. President Dwight Eisenhower openly proclaimed that it is his duty to nurture it. Others are not that honest but continue to do it anyway. Ignoring this ‘Complex’ is dangerous as John Kennedy learned too late at his own peril.

    It appears that a Mahabharat story is relevant here as an analogy with two differences. When Pandavas and Kouravas were preparing for the epic war they sought help from their relative, Lord Krishna. It so happened that Duryodhan and Arjun landed in his place simultaneously. He saw Arjun first and granted his wish that he should personally be present on his side. Duryodhan wanted Krishna’s army at his side. This too was granted. On the same lines we foolish Indians will always be granted pleasing presidential visits and platitudes. Clever Pakistanis will be given power of American arms and alms. The differences are that while original Krishna wanted Pandavas to win, presidents of USA are not Gods and they do not want Pakistan to lose and India to win. War or no war conflict is to be permanent and there should be no peace at any time between India and Pakistan. Doctrines of John Foster Dulles that ‘non-alignment is immoral and if you are not a friend you are an enemy’ still continues to guide them irrespective of the party in power. They respect and fear China. They love Pakistan. They have pity and contempt for India but praise its ’greatness’ to please fallible Indians who can be flattered easily.

    Indian Muslims generally have cosmopolitan outlook and secular credentials. Pakistani Muslims are not obliged to be so. Christian administration of USA and Muslim one of Pakistan understand each other very well due to common mythical ancestors. Pakistan has two types of terrorists, friendly ones who kill Indians and unfriendly ones who kill Americans and other Muslims. But then, their quarrel is a family affair. Indians are a different matter. More so for a non-Indian half Muslim like Obama. Indians are, as a rule, snake charmers, mahouts, rope trick people, corrupt, poor, dirty and what more, pagans. Some of them are true. There are some exceptions like Gandhi and we will swoon if an American president praises him forgetting that exception only proves the rule. Further, Indian lives are cheap. As per US standards 99 Indian lives are equal to one American life. As per our own standards it is much less, highest value of one ordinary Indian life will never exceed five months salary of an Indian bureaucrat! Normally it is much less. We love verbal acrobatics and easily fall for flattery. Hence we will shiver with goose pimples by presidential platitudes ‘like India is a great power’. Indeed power of poverty, hunger, corruption and vulgarity of its rich make it uniquely great at the wrong end. One should not forget that it is nice to die by ‘friendly’ fire, Afghans know it very well! It is indeed a great honor to die using the guns, training, money, and sophisticated equipment provided by USA. To crown it, a presidential visit to the memorial for the dead is too good to believe. As for current hypocritical and cunning Indian communists who masquerade as champions of poor, it is an opportunity to shout on his face ‘Yankee go home’ shaking their fists and whisper in his ears ‘take me with you’, smiling meekly.

    07 11 2010 E.Somapalan

  2. I do not know yet what to comment

  3. nice view ,it baffles me that a company the size of Google still has not figured out how to perform a solid retention of their visitors. the is the global platform of people passing through. trying to concentrate on copying the different aspects of successful cyber start ups the loose sight the service which it is know for. sometimes it is easier to look to the top and do everything to get there then being at the top and see the paralyzing abyss below. they could take the email service so much further , so much forward so much more mobile friendly.

  4. This is an decent insight of Google… I’m happy to have had you as my mentor @Google.

  5. Too verbose and flowery. For an ex-employee, I am unsure if G will be too pleased with what you’ve written.

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