Chirag Desai

At the stroke of midnight hour


Famous words from an inspiring speech. India celebrates another year of independence, and there’s a lot on my mind.

Every year on this day, I introspect a little. What does this day really mean to me? The answer is weird. It means a lot — and yet, it somehow means so little. I feel patriotic, I feel inspired, I love the tri-colors fluttering everywhere, I’ve attended the flag hoisted ceremonies organized as far out as Philadelphia. Yet I come up with an empty feeling when I think about what I have done. For my country. At all.

The thoughts take me broader, farther. I think of the world. Of the crises and of the mess. And I re-call my favorite TV show of all time, one that — as it drew to a close — highlighted what it means to be human, not Indian or American or Middle-eastern, or anything else for that matter. What we can achieve as a species, and what we are destroying. Of political power, and corruption, racism and hatred and cold war.

Is this what we are really about? If so, I genuinely don’t feel like being human on those occasions.

I could go on, but I think I want to focus on what needs to change, rather than what cannot be touched or controlled.

Over the last year, maybe a couple years, I started to find my call, and interestingly, it lies in technology (and food, but that’ll kill my point right now). Over the last few years, I’ve witnessed, thought about and complained about changes in technology, the impact it’s having on our day-to-day lives. I have some clear thoughts on what I think technology should be doing, which inturn defines what it shouldn’t.

Social Media

A lot has changed since the advent of Twitter. Facebook was around way longer, but it was always a closed network — something to help you create a close-by community, or keep in touch with your friends and family. Twitter opened it all up — by giving us access to people we’d never be “friends” with in the Facebook paradigm but could still interact with without losing the feeling of privacy and control. It became a news feed, a community builder and a conversation starter all in one. In India, this has grown over the last couple of years. Today news channels regularly display opinions collected via twitter (and even facebook). It is starting to bring people together, giving them a voice and channelize support (or opposition).

I think this will slowly but surely impact governance in India. Sadly, our political system is 64 years old (and not in the good way) and well, rubbish. In India, there is a large group of people who think the political system is pointless to bother with. But there’s a young upcoming group of this generation who is going out there to make their point too. It may take a few years, but social media is going to help improve it, and with it, things will change.


The broader technology scope is equally interesting. I frankly hate a lot about the status quo, and more importantly, the attitude people have towards technology — especially in the corporate area. I’ve been looked down upon, called an idiot and laughed at purely because one look at me makes people know I’m an Indian IT guy, and then I must be like every Indian IT guy. It’s a funny kind of racism.

I’ve even been told that people are moving away from working with Indians because the cost-reduction does not offset the time and energy required to get Indians up to speed and up to the right level of professional working since we are “so far behind”. Is this what and where we want to be?

It is time to change that.

It’s our own damned fault too, and it needs to change with us first. Indians in technology need to stop coming off as bookworms, because we can be so much more. We need to stop rejecting new technologies and fighting over stupid bans, and focus on what we can do to improve the way we do things. Starting with education. And not stopping there. In some arenas, technology is so backward it’s not even laughable. I’ve even had bad experiences even with the big names and the way they treat us, their customers, fellow Indians.

This is an open call to any organization in India who wants to change they way they do things, and the way they use technology, and need advice. Heck, I’ll even do as much as I can of it for free. All I ask is you have an open mind to embrace what I have to say and accept that there needs to be a change in attitude. If you don’t like what I have to say after that, no problem. Tweet, drop me a line on LinkedIn, Google+, whatever.

I’ve started it a little bit too. And while it hasn’t been easy, I will keep trying until technology peers in India — the local, day-to-day folks just as much as the big guns — change their attitude towards technology, operations and most importantly — the way they treat their users, customers and us in general.

It’s an odd goal, I know, but this is how I can contribute.

How will you?