Bill Gates is in India to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Of course there was media frenzy, the result being that every English news channel had an ‘exclusive’ interview of the man himself! I watched a snippet of an interview on mute (don’t ask why, long story) while channel surfing and I was struck by just how old he was looking. I have this image in my head of Gates, with his owlish glasses and youthful looks, looking very much the college-dropout-tech-startup-cute-millionaire. I had to tell myself that that was many years ago and that technology as MSFT defined it has now been around for much of my lifetime.
I never thought of myself as the techie kinds when I was growing up. In high school, I always skived off the programming classes. After all, I’m the person that signed up for mechanical engineering only so that I’d have to do the bare minimum number of programming classes. But then I am also the person that went to work in a tech firm. Sigh. Anyway, I realized, however, that much as I hated programming, I had great respect for technology as such and what it could do for societies and businesses. I think I really found my “calling”, if I could call it that, in the internet and Web 2.0. I became a big tech buff, even though I remained in absolute dislike of social networking because of the lack of privacy (ha ha I’m a blogger).
And this brings me to the present. I’ve taken technology so much for granted that the first thing I did in India was to take an internet connection - even before I took a cell phone one! (So maybe I’m a little too addicted, so what?!) I spend a fair bit of time tracking tech news on Digits and WSJ and of course I obsessively follow all things Google. And therefore, imagine my surprise when I realized that not everyone with a hotshot MBA and working in a hotshot Day Zero Indian company is on the social-networking-site-for-professionals. I found that a lot of people my age did not feel the need to know so much about all the techie stuff out there – so not so much twitter or xobni for them. It came as a bit of a surprise to me when my enthusiasm for document versioning software (as a suggestion to implement in this office) was met with quizzical looks.
Anyway, I’ve long since made peace with the fact that their professional world probably does not hinge on technology as it does for those in some of their global offices. I remember talking to a recruiter from MSFT in the fall at school, and I asked him where he saw his product (a communications tool) go in India, where high speed internet is still a bit of a luxury. And he said that the problem is being solved by Google, who are aiming to get high speed internet into areas serviced mostly by dial ups and painfully slow broadbands. If high speed internet and wifi were to become commonplace in India, as it is in the US now, then will we see a new business opportunity here? For starters, I would be open to the idea of an information sharing portal a la craigslist. I’d love all big malls to have their own website so that I know what stores I can find there along with phone numbers and store timings. I could go on, but I’ll stop now. However, I’m super stoked that I can find Google maps directions for all Indian cities now. I just found directions to a new restaurant near work that I’m going lunch at tomorrow!