September 2023

Chatting Up About India: Technology Not Just For a Few, But For All

Raman Jokhakar, Chartered Accountant


Recently, I had a friend and her family visit us. The next day, she sent a thank you message to convey her enjoyment. She also messaged to say that her eight-year-old son felt our conversation reminded him of Elon Musk, as we talked in an out-of-the-box way about India and many other contemporary topics.

Just last month, the parking contractor near my office changed. When I asked for the new bank details to make an advance payment for the month, he said he didn’t remember his bank account but pulled out a laminated QR code card. He asked, “Why don’t you pay with this; Don’t you have a mobile to pay?”

Both these experiences suggest two points: An eight-year-old knows who Elon Musk is and what he does, and looks up to him, and even the parkingwala carries a laminated QR code card for bank transfers.

These are important changes: how and what children think, who they look up to, and, therefore, what they aspire for have changed. At the street level, the common man wants to receive funds digitally. This is perhaps where we are after 75 years of swaraj looking more ambitious and more confident about the future we want to make. We are using technology that rewards the common man. I haven’t seen this at any time in my life where structural changes at the bottom of the pyramid are visible in how people like things to be done.


These are just two examples, but we see this happening all across. Indians are not doing MORE OF SOMETHING, but MORE INDIANS are doing what they did not do previously. This is a MAJOR change. When household loans increase, the newspapers report about Indians taking more loans. Actually, it’s not more finance taken by households; it is more households taking finance.

This is the current “Ubiquitous State of India”, the word used by Mr Nandan Nilekani. What is happening is dramatic for its spread, scale and speed. As an Indian born and brought up in a closed economy and who didn’t know anything better for years, this is the best time I have seen so many people going through. As a 20-year-old, I have stood in line to submit forms at ROC, Mumbai. I have had people come home to make phone calls or STD calls. I have seen my father get a Padmini car after a request to the MD of Premier Auto. I saw the first colour TV come home in 1982 around the Asian Games, and only a couple of people had it in our apartment block. Over the years, I have seen changes in many areas percolate so slowly within society — without scale, with hesitation, with controlled supply. The generation before me saw the White Revolution (and India today is the largest milk producer in the world). In the past, India had to dance to the tunes of America for food grains, while today, India produces record food g


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