Can Indian-origin techie Thomas Kurian help Google rise above Amazon in the cloud?

After CEO Sundar Pichai, Google is bringing in another person of Indian origin at the top.

Last week, the internet search major said it will appoint Thomas Kurian as head of its cloud business. He will replace Diane Greene who has been running the show since December 2015. Kurian will join Google on November 26 and transition to the leadership role at Google cloud in early 2019.

He spent 22 years at Oracle starting with a product management role in 1996, before resigning this September. A Princeton University engineering graduate, Kurian also has an MBA from Stanford. He climbed the ranks to become the fifth highest-paid tech executive by 2010. At the end of his Oracle stint, he was president of product development.

Kurian quit Oracle following differences with executive chairman Larry Ellison over the company’s cloud business, according to a Bloomberg report.

In his new role, Kurian is tasked with helping Google’s cloud business catch up with rivals – Amazon Web Services remains steadfast at the top, Microsoft’s Azure is a distant second, while Google, IBM, and Alibaba are roughing it out for the third position on the leaderboard.

Data: GartnerData: Gartner

The Indian connect

In 1986, Kurian, who hails from the Pampady village of Kottayam district in the southern Indian state of Kerala, enrolled at Indian Institute of Technology Madras. However, he quit within six months and moved to the US to pursue his bachelor’s degree.

Prior to Oracle, Kurian did a six-year stint at McKinsey & Company.

Anshu Sharma, founder of anti-phishing business Clearedin, who has worked with Kurian in the past, calls him “one of the most astute strategists in enterprise today,” praising his business sense, networking ability, and hiring skills. “Software market rewards #1 and #2 way more than most other markets. He built Oracle into (the top 2-3 player in many, many markets,” Sharma wrote on Twitter. “So, get ready for $50-100 billion in M&A from Google Cloud in the next 12-18 months.”

Kurian’s appointment marks another win for persons of Indian origin in the US, who, despite comprising less than 1% of the US population, had founded 8% of all American technology and engineering startups by 2012. Already, Google has Pichai at the helm and Microsoft is headed by Satya Nadella. Adobe, too, has Shantanu Narayen holding the reins.

Kurian’s twin, George Kurian, is also a prominent Silicon Valley leader, serving as CEO of multi-billion dollar storage company NetApp.