Ever since I returned to India after my MS and a couple years work experience in 1992, a visit to the US has been a time for introspection and looking forward. I have been back about 8 times since then. Travelling and meeting people has always helped me refine some of my thinking, and in many cases, extended it. There is something about the US (or maybe it is just being away from India!) which has helped inspire me.
My most recent trip in August was no different. I was there with my colleague, Atanu Dey, to discuss about our Emergic vision to reinvent computing as a utility for the emerging markets, and meet up with companies which may have some elements of technology which we could use to build upon.
In many ways, this trip reminded me of the one I undertook almost exactly a decade ago. Then too, I crisscrossed the country talking and thinking about IndiaWorld. (At that time, I remember Delta Airlines had an option of unlimited standby travel for a fixed price.) This time around, it was a much more planned trip which resulted in over 60 meetings in about 15 days with plenty of points to mull over.
In some ways, meetings are mirrors they help reflect what one is thinking. It hones the presentation. Most importantly, one gets the wisdom of crowds (to borrow the title of a new book by James Surowiecki). Each meeting has something unique based on what people respond do, a different set of hyperlinks is followed. It is possible to distill insights both at a micro- and a macro-level.
The other thing I like about travelling is that it gives me chunky time to think. This is much harder to do sitting in the office here in Mumbai. Airports and flights are particularly good places to switch off from the world around and think through issues which may have arisen from the meetings, or just read a book and ponder its learnings.
On this trip, Atanu and I also drove down route 1 in California for the better part of the journey from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. (We spent an almost equal time on 1, 101 and LA traffic!) Our return journey was on route 5. Going down to LA, we discussed how education could be transformed in emerging markets with the low-cost computing platform that we are building. On the way back, Atanu talked about how southern California had been transformed by the Central Valley Project which brought water to what was essentially a desert area.
I couldnt help but think about the analogy about what we wanted to: we wanted to irrigate the technological wastelands and deserts of India. Someone looked at the Central Valley in California and saw not a desert, but a fertile agricultural belt. Someone had the vision to see a network of roads and a grid of water pipelines. We have to similarly build the grids of tomorrow built around computing and communications.
Theres nothing like a few days of travel in foreign lands to invigorate the mind and help distill the vision for tomorrow. Thats what our travel and meetings did. And in the process, there were some other learnings and observations.
Tomorrow: Road Warrior