It was about 12 years ago in May 1992 that I packed by bags and returned to India after a stay of three-and-a-half years in the US. I was fortunate to have an exceptional education in IIT-Bombay and then at Columbia University in New York. When I went to the US, my father had only one thing to say to me: I grew up in a village in Rajasthan and got an opportunity to go to the US in the 1960s. If I could come back then, you have no reason to stay there any longer than necessary. For me, the decision to return to India was made before I left.
The first few years after returning back to India as an entrepreneur were especially challenging. Few things went right. It was frustrating because on the one hand were the grand dreams that I had (to build a great software products company focused on the Indian market in five years) and on the other, were the daily realities of mounting losses and a business with little future. Failure was the grim reality that I had to come to terms with.
Luckily, the next business I did (setting up a collection of portals on India primarily targeted at the global Indian community) did much better. My learnings from those initial years stood me in good stead. After I sold that business in 1999, it was back to square one thinking of what to do next. And then, I went back to my original dream and expanded it how can we build the next-generation computing and information platforms for helping build out Indias digital infrastructure and create affordable solutions for the next 500 million users in India and other emerging markets. En route, I met Atanu (via my blog) and added the transformation of rural India as a second objective.
Whether we will succeed or not, I cannot tell. Our goal is to do good and do well at the same time. Much of what I have written in this series over the past 45 columns comes from within and is something I believe in. It is in some ways, my Business Plan for the next 5-10 years. Perhaps, there are parts which can yours too. For, the India of today is a Field of Dreams.
In many ways, it is like Indias Battle of Independence. There are few among those who started who lived to see the Indian flag unfurl on August 15, 1947. Yet, their efforts were not in vain. Just as Indian Independence was not the work of a few, Indias Development cannot be done by a handful.
This is a journey which needs many travellers explorers, astronomers, scientists, financiers, engineers, economists, and others. Some will make it to the finishing line, others wont. The joy for everyone has to be in the journey.
There are many opportunities to both catalyse (do good) and capitalise (do well) on Indias development. The road ahead does not have any maps. Instead, all we have is a compass. There are slippery rocks. And as we navigate through, we have to, in the words of Dan Bricklin, like the feeling.
TECH TALK As India Develops+T