Vice President of Global Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google
Google’s go-to trade expert
Key previous position: Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
Education: Princeton; London School of Economics; Columbia
Notable fact: Second-gen Indian immigrant
Karan Bhatia explains technology to the most powerful people in the world. One day he can be found walking a senator through the complexities of artificial intelligence; the next, testifying on Google’s political neutrality. When he isn’t on the Hill, he’s often abroad, educating foreign heads of state and other leaders; Bhatia’s team of 300 works in 60 countries across the globe.
At Google, Bhatia is bringing a new focus to emerging markets. Since he started at the company last year, he has created a team dedicated to regions that often get less attention from tech companies: Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
The move is inspired, in part, by his background. As deputy U.S. Trade Representative in the George W. Bush administration, Bhatia focused on trade policy in Africa and Asia. His family is from India and he grew up in Kenya and Bangladesh, so he knows what a difference access to information can make.
“If you’re a farmer in Bangladesh who has always had one place to sell their crops because [you didn’t know] anything but the price that the local wholesaler is willing to pay you,” he said, “and all of a sudden you’re blessed with a phone and you can see that 10 miles down the road … you could be making more, that’s life-changing stuff.”
Back home, Google’s top policy priorities are playing an ever-larger role on the national political stage. Bhatia says he is working to address “protectionist trends” that could limit the future of the internet. Meanwhile, faced with two Democratic presidential front-runners with plans to break up big tech, he’s focused on communicating the value Google brings to ordinary people.
His passion for that mission is clear when he discusses how he decided to join the company after a decade leading General Electric’s government-affairs team.
“When you think about the industries of our generation—what are the sectors that, [in] 100 years, people are going to talk about—tech is what they’re going to talk about. … And a lot of the rules and norms that are going to govern how this industry works are being discussed and shaped and formed right now.”