Softbank snatches Arora, but Google rumbles on

Masayoshi Son's recent big pick banks on Nikesh Arora driving his firm firmly into the future so it can compete with the likes of, well, Google.


A few days ago, one of the more famous Indians in the tech sphere decided to quit one of the more famous tech companies around. Nikesh Arora, longtime Chief Business Officer at Google, and widely credited with growing Google’s Ad business, quit the company after ten years to join as Vice-Chairman of Softbank and CEO of its Internet and Media operation. He will be replaced by Omid Kordestani, who has been a senior adviser to Larry Page, founder and co-CEO of Google.

The move signals Softbank's—or shall we say Masayoshi Son's—global ambitions and that it and he is girding up to take on the next big thing: Softbank's desired acquisition of T-Mobile which will first have to go through a grueling round with US regulators before it sees the light of day.

As this article reveals, the T mobile acquisition would be an epic triumph if it goes through, and dwarf the previous US$21.6 billion purchase of Sprint. The scale of Softbank's vaulting global ambition and the speed with which it has tried to meet it could be one of the business world’s standout stories in this century so far.

The writer of this article puts it better than I can by saying that "it was not long ago that his goal of overtaking Japan's incumbent mobile operators seemed like bravado, but soon it could be remembered as a quaint ambition from an early, parochial stage of SoftBank’s development." Here is a great piece about the proposed T-Mobile merger and Masayoshi Son’s personal story, vision and drive.

Masayoshi Son

I'm not sure if it's great coincidence or otherwise that Arora—who graduated from the Indian Institute of Technolo Varanasi with a degree in electrical engineering and then acquired both a Master of Sci­ence in Finance from Boston College as well as an MBA from Northeastern University—was the head of T-Mobile’s European operations before joining Google in 2004.

However, it's quite clear as to why Son was interested in a person who commanded, according to reports, a US$50 million-a-year paycheck while at Google. According to this article, Arora was pivotal in expanding Google's ad markets and cajoling brands to up their spends on its syndicated sites as well as Youtube which it owns. Prior to becoming business/sales head, Arora ran Google's European ops and eventually also had oversight over the Middle East and Africa. Under Arora Google has 31.9 percent of the global digital advertising market, an overwhelming leader, with Facebook far behind at 5.8 percent.

So, has Google lost out on this transfer of talent?

Not according to this writer who thinks that since Google is pushing into new frontiers of business such as Android's entry into smartwatches, televisions and automobiles, there is a general desire for fresh faces. This could be a partial explanation for the recent exit of other star executives such as Vic Gundotra, who oversaw the Google+ social network and Salar Kamangar, who was CEO of YouTube but who has now moved onto another role.

The new kids on the block (hardly characterizable as 'new', you will agree) are destined to catapult Google in bold directions and stratospheres considering their lineages. Apparently, former Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally is going to be joining Google's board (to potentially catalyse the auto software and self-driving car foray) and Andy Rubin who was the godfather of Android, is now neck deep in another future focus area, robots.

So, while Son is probably congratulating himself on a good buy, the Google machine, posting record revenue and profits this quarter, keeps rumbling on.