Well, even before I warm up my fingers on the laptop keyboard and the flow of words from my head gets going, I want my readers to know that this post is in response to my friend Dan Antion. Last week, Dan wrote about “How long does it take for technology to be accepted into everyday business culture?” He spiced it up with some great examples and tossed it up with his superlative sarcastic tone that made me force to write something like this which you’re going to read in a short while. Of course, if you want to read the original you have to go to Dan’s site and read it there, because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to pitch it up to the same level, but I’m focusing on the Indian perspective. It may be that somewhere down the line I may get too sentimental because I love my country and want to see it on par with any developed nations in the world.
Okay, so where do we start? Well, let’s start on a positive note that India is a land of billions of talented people that can baffle you with what they can think and do. India has managed to make its mark in terms of technology and IT and over 2 million people of Indian origin live in the United States and work in some of the most respected and reputed firms across the US. India also is among the only six countries in the world that launches its own satellites, has the second largest stock exchange in the world after NYSE and is among the few countries that makes its own supercomputers. However, surprisingly not much of that technology power translates into making India self-sufficient and efficient. It maybe that I’m just seeing a smaller picture of the entire macro-image and that technology has propelled India ahead compared to other Asian nations, but it does not reflect much on the grassroot level, does it?
A better way to put it across is Indian nationalized banks. In the 1980s, there were no international banks here, even if they were only the upper rich class would had access to it, the rest 95% of the population would use the regular government banks. So, the moment you open the door, there’s a guard with a really big double-barrel shotgun and a cartridge belt on his waist. You pass through him and you immediately hear these typewriter noise all over, long desks with people working and some people sitting on the sofa waiting patiently for their turn to withdraw money or to deposit cash. Not a desktop in sight. It would take around 20 minutes to go through the whole process. Now, fast forward it to 2015, nothing much has change, you walk in you see the same guard, okay, the double-barrel shotgun is now missing and replaced with a smaller one at some banks, but that’s not gonna speed up your withdrawal or cash deposit process. Although, desktops are everywhere, the employees using them are as slow as the software running in those computers. Most banks use CRT monitors which I’m sure they get at a very discounted rates. Apart from that, when you want access to certain facilities public banks have these lengthy forms that you need to fill up. So every time you want some facility, you fill up a form. Can’t you just extract my information from your database? Do I have to write my details over and over until I get tired of writing my own name and address? So, the overall time consumed now is again somewhere close to 15-20 minutes. Whereas when you walk into some of the private banks things are pretty quick. I’m not saying that private banks deliver better service than public banks, the experience differs in many different ways, but again the question is how long does it take for technology to be accepted into everyday business culture?
Just a few days ago, I was writing on the ‘laser dentistry’ when I came across a website that said that while most American dental professionals keep talking about laser dentistry in all their events, expos and conventions, the fact is that only 7% of the American dentists actually use lasers in their dental practice. Now, I can only imagine how many Indian dental professionals might be using lasers here. Of course, the biggest hurdle is the cost and the re-training that dental professionals have to go through. Again, the technology is already accessible, but it will take quite some time before lasers become a part and parcel of Indian dentistry, or for that matter American dentistry as well. If you still want to use lasers, you need to be ready to spend more money.
Even in terms of agriculture, manufacturing and transport, India does incorporate technology to speed up the process, but still majority of the work is done by the labors that work hard day and night to produce and allow us to live the life we live. The biggest concern for India in terms of technology is not what to incorporate, but how to incorporate? India is a labour-abundant country and that means infusing more highly advanced technology can lead to more unemployment. On the other hand, majority of the Indian working class is not tech-savvy. Now, please don’t tell me that most Indians know how to use smartphones, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about incorporating technology which makes a difference to the nation and even at a personal level. India has the capability to make use of genomics technologies to help increase annual yield by around 30%, but not much of that is incorporated. The farming techniques across the country is still primitive and dependent on the monsoon pattern. If we have the technology to save water when are we going to incorporated it on a large scale? Almost every year, India faces water shortage issues and that is mainly due to human activity. We have the best dam builders, agriculture experts and engineers and the technology to channel water the way we want it, wherever we want it, but still farmers struggle and commit suicide because they’re heavily dependent on the monsoon which is unreliable.
There is no doubt that technology plays an important role in our lives today and India is catching up with the latest trends globally. However, a lot of things remains on the paper and never translates into reality. Even if it does, it does not really resolve the problems at that point in time. Companies make tall claims that they incorporate the best technology to simplify and smoothen customer experience, but the moment you purchase the product, you get to know that the only technology that works in India is pick up your phone and call the customer support. Anything else is just the future.