arrow_back Is India changing?

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This week I landed in San Francisco and walked into a T-Mobile store to get a new sim card for my trip. I asked for plans and the store clerk asked if I wanted a 2 GB plan or a 5 GB plan. I said 2 GB/day is fine when they replied it is for a month!

In India I get over 60 GB/month of mobile data, but I was fascinated that top data plans in US don’t get anywhere near that. That is one tiny example of how India is changing.

At a time when we are moving everything from education to healthcare to governance to entertainment, shopping and security online, the data availability is a key element to a nation’s success. It was impossible to think even 5 years ago that India would get ahead of the US in this! India’s mobile data usage is among the highest in the world! Average mobile data usage at 11 GB a month: Nokia.

When I left India in 2004, we were talking of a teledensity [number of phones/people] in single digits. Not only everyone has a phone now, but the smartphone penetration is getting universal by 2020.

About 12 years ago, my grad school friends and I were spending an evening doing some tech predictions for India. When will Google Maps come to India? Given the complexity of Indian roads, maybe 2040. How about ubiquitous wifi hotspots? Maybe 2030. How about the ability to seamlessly rent cars? When will an equivalent of social security number to connect all accounts? Maybe 2050.

Our predictions were remarkably off. By 2016, Indians were massively using Ola/Uber powered by Google Maps. It was the default option to get anywhere. In no time India has brought the entire country in Aadhar ecosystem and drastically simplified many things. Recently I lost my mobile phone. I just walked into a nearby Airtel store, gave my thumbprint for Aadhar authentication, and got the sim card deactivated and new sim card activated in less than 2 minutes.

Urban Indians are seamlessly shopping online and increasingly trying out new technologies. Technology gap between the US and India has reduced remarkably.

Ten years ago, I visited India to meet my family and the US, to get technology. Now, the situation is getting reversed.

When I left India for the first time in 2004, our airports sucked and the US airports like JFK, LAX and Logan looked way better. Now, our airports in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi are remarkably more convenient than the ones in the US and Europe. Mumbai, Delhi emerge as world’s best airports in global passenger survey

Our highway networks were horrible at the start of this century. Now, I can zip across the countryside in the new highways at speeds comparable to US interstates. And to do that I can rent a car from Zoomcar or equivalent in a far more seamless way than I do in the US with Avis or Hertz.

Sure, our cities like Bangalore have horrible traffic and freak the hell out of visitors. But, that will improve too.

Our cities are all getting Metros and if you are connected to the metro [such as in Delhi], the commute is much more convenient than the BART in SF and T in Boston and the coverage is rapidly growing and in about 5 years I expect to see viable metro rail connections in all major cities of India. How metro rail networks are spreading across India

The middle class homes in India have amenities pretty much the same as the middle class homes in the US. I find the difference getting less and less.

Sure, some of the basic facilities are still weak. But, they are improving too. Rural India will reach 100% toilet coverage by December 2018

Electricity is still a problem, but we are slowly solving that. Electricity reached all Indian villages on Saturday. Still millions of individuals homes to get electrified but the hope is they will all get it in next 2 years. India's $ 2.5 billion scheme to electrify every household explained.

Domestic fuel is still a problem, but we have been rapidly converting homes to LPG. India becomes second largest domestic LPG consumer. A few years ago only middle class homes could afford LPG and that too after a long wait to get the connection. Use of kerosene, diesel falls, LPG consumption rises on clean energy drive.

Rural India is changing too and getting students to schools. From 100 per cent child labour to academics, this Tamil Nadu village tells a different tale.

A generation ago we were ripped apart by terrorism and violence. We would hear of bomb blasts or cities under siege. Those have fallen dramatically. At a time when rest of the world is quite violent, India is among the most peaceful.

And we are trying some bold new ideas. India Wants to Give Half a Billion People Free Health Care and India launches world's biggest healthcare program.

And we are jumping directly to renewable energy in a big way. The World's Largest Solar Plant Is Now Online.

We have a long way to go and enormous problems to solve in education, employment, water, gender equality and clean air. Our generation has a unique opportunity to get these solved and turn a developing nation into a developed nation. The question is do you want to sit in an already developed nation (that is in fact in decline) and leave no legacy behind, or get your hands at solving real problems and leave behind a real legacy. The question is do you have the man [or woman] in you to face the real problems or just spend all your energy escaping it and live a life of anonymity.

Will India get developed by the time I die? Yes, we will.

We are getting there. And we WILL get there!

India Dreams Collection: Ideas for changing India.

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