TECH TALK: Envisioning A New India: A Land of Contrasts

Every year around this time (December-January), I get to meet many of my friends who have settled in the US as they visit India. A lot of the talk centres around India, how it is changing (or isn’t), how India is viewed abroad, and what is our future. It is interesting to get different perspectives and think about the future. Maybe it’s the nature of the time – the winter setting, the holiday period, little less work – that makes us that much more philosophical around the New Year!

For many who have become NRIs, the image of India is frozen as to when they first left India. In short visits here, it is easy to see the external changes (from the congestion and pollution to the express highways, shopping malls and the proliferating cellphones). But the deeper change that is happening in India and Indian attitudes is much harder to fathom. Even as the old India exists, side-by-side a new India is being created – one in which people are as comfortable drinking coffee for Rs 5 in a roadside Udipi restaurant or for Rs 50 in a Barista.

The contrasts are stark, the opinions divided. Even as new residential and commercial complexes sprout all over the country, a few rains wash away the roads – every year. Even as Indians discover Goa, Kerala and Sikkim for their holidays, the queues outside the American embassy don’t seem to be getting any shorter! Even as a Nicholas Negroponte visits India half-a-dozen times in 2001, computer sales for 2001-02 will actually by lower than the previous year at an anemic 1.65 million units.

Even as India has the world’s best cricketer in Sachin Tendulkar, the team hardly ever wins. Even as India produces the largest number of films, what our best earn is less than what Harry Potter did in a single day in the US. Even as India has a Taj, there is a Dharavi.

India is a great concept, but with poor execution.

Can India and Indians change? Can India really become a Great Nation in the coming years? Can we build the India of our Dreams in this generation? Can we do this despite our politicians and bureaucrats? How can what’s happening in the world of Technology help us do this? Can the next decade be India’s Decade? Or is India the perennial also-ran?

I’ll provide my thinking in the coming columns, but would also like to hear from you. I am by nature an optimist (living in India, you have to be – tomorrow has to better than today!). I also believe that us ordinary people can do extraordinary deeds. What India becomes or doesn’t become is up to each one of us – and we can all make a difference.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.