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Google 'caches' Yahoo!’s top geek in India

Tuesday, 17 October 2006 - 12:29am IST

Google has come up with a prize catch: arch rival Yahoo!’s chief technology officer in India, Prasad Bharat Ram.

BANGALORE: Google, which has till now been on a futile search to hire good talent for its research centre in Bangalore, has come up with a prize catch:  arch rival Yahoo!’s chief technology officer in India, Prasad Bharat Ram.

Ram played a key role in building a 750-strong team of scientists and engineers in the two years he headed the company’s Bangalore centre. That must come as big relief for the world’s most-used search engine.

In the last three years, Google India has been able to grow its R&D team to just around 100 scientists.

Ram would be Google’s third R&D head. The first was Krishna Bharat, who built Google News, followed by Arvind Jain.

“Prasad Ram brings to Google a wealth of experience in technology development and organisation building, as well as a deep knowledge of the local Indian market,” Alan Eustace, vice president of engineering at Google said on Monday, hinting the dire need of the world’s largest Internet firm, to bring in more talent for its centre, also a key for its growth in the emerging market.

“Yahoo looks around the world and Asia is a key place for growth in the next 10 to 15 years. India obviously is at the heart of that chart,” Yahoo co-founder David Filo said in
a recent interview to DNA.

Ram Shriram, an Indian who invested in Google as a startup and sits on the board of Google, admitted last week that the search giant was not able to attract enough talent in the country.

“I know first hand that we’ve had a bit more of a challenge trying to hire engineers for Google in Bangalore compared to other parts of the world,” Shriram said.

Google said Ram’s appointment underscores the firm’s continued investment in India and commitment to its Bangalore R&D centre. But it does not divulge investment or staff details in the country.

“Prasad Ram has decided to move due to personal reasons. We value his contribution towards our organisation and wish him success,” Yahoo! India R&D CEO Venkat Panchapakesan said.

But it was not as smooth for Google, when it poached Kai-Fu Lee from Microsoft to head its China R&D centre. Both the giants fought a bitter court battle before reaching an out-of-court settlement in December 2005.

“By building on the already strong talent that exists at Google Bangalore, the centre will continue to build innovative global products as well as to bring new ideas to better serve our Indian users,” Prasad Ram, a IIT-Bombay graduate, who earlier had a stint at Xerox in the US, said.

A Google spokeswoman told DNA that Arvind Jain, whose profile is used by Google’s print advertisement to lure talent, would continue to play an important technical and leadership role, both in Bangalore, and for the rest of the company.

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