Opinion » Comment

Updated: October 7, 2011 19:04 IST

Jobs script skipped India, twice

Deepa Kurup
Comment (19)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
A Macbook Air floats in the window of the Apple store at Legacy Village in Beachwood, Ohio on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.
A Macbook Air floats in the window of the Apple store at Legacy Village in Beachwood, Ohio on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.

Having returned disillusioned with Indian spiritualism in the 1970s, he later abruptly closed his centre in India.

It wasn't “all romantic,” as Steve Jobs said at the inspiring commencement address that he delivered at Stanford in 2005. Talking about that phase in his iconic life when he chose to drop out of college and spend time simply dropping in on interesting lectures — including one on calligraphy, which gave him ideas he would later incorporate into the first Macintosh 10 years later — he recalled his weekly excursion across town for one good vegetarian meal a week at the Hare Krishna Temple. His “curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless” later on in life, he said.

This popular quote, often invoked in order to establish the elusive “India connection” to this great success story, went viral on the web soon after Jobs' sudden demise was announced on Thursday morning.

Jobs' real Indian connection, however, dates back to the 1970s, when he made a trip to India while working at the video game developing firm Atari, along with college-mate Dan Kottke, who later became one of the earliest employees at Apple Computers. Like many of their generation, the duo travelled to India in search of ‘enlightenment', and to meet Neem Kairoli Baba, a Hindu spiritual guru and Hanuman devotee obviously better known in the West than in India.

According to one story, when they arrived at the ashram, the Guru had already passed on. Another version has it that Jobs was disappointed with the “spiritualism” he encountered, and was quoted in one of his biographies as having said: “We weren't going to find a place where we could go for a month to be enlightened. It was one of the first times that I started to realise that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Karoli Baba put together.” Yet another biography, by Micheal Moritz, says he found Indians “far poorer than he had imagined, and was struck by the incongruity between the country's condition and its airs of holiness.” His friend Steve Wozniak, is quoted as recalling Jobs returning from his India travels a Buddhist, shaven-head and all.

If India disappointed the young Jobs, three decades later it was his turn to let down the Indian technological industry when he decided to close down his month-old India operations in May 2006. The 30 employees Apple had hired were retrenched, and the grand plans to ramp up operations by hiring 3,000 workers for a technical support centre were shelved.

At a time when companies overseas were turning to India — most notably his contemporary and rival Bill Gates — he chose to stay away. A report in BusinessWeek attributed this to the “tough-minded executive” in Jobs, who knew “when to cut and run.”

However, its sales and marketing team in India continues to be headquartered in Bangalore.

Keywords: AppleSteve Jobs

More In: Comment | Opinion

Maybe you should read this article from The Hindu "I learned intuition
in India: Jobs told biographer" Deepa Kurup. Should make you eat your

from:  Reesh
Posted on: Oct 24, 2011 at 21:20 IST

While Steve Jobs was a great man, and we all love and respect his work, he essentially failed in his spiritual quest because, as a serious spiritualist will have learned, there is no instant karma, no instant spiritual progress, no instant enlightenment - if one really takes the time and shows the patience to understand.
Jobs was a great intellectual but it does appear that he was prone to knee-jerk reactions to people even late in his life (some of his responses to flaws in the iPhone/iPad were unnecessarily and downright rude). Even though he may have practiced Buddhism, he seems to have failed to grasp the principle of loving kindness by miles. In conclusion, then, an experienced Indian 'baba' would say - perhaps he will be learning these very principles in his next life! And oh yes. If he really looked, or had the kind of tools that Google gave us later on, he would have found the likes of Paramahansa Yogananda's setup right next to him in California!

from:  Wadhera
Posted on: Oct 22, 2011 at 05:06 IST

India ploughs on in its beliefs of God Baba's and Devi Maa's sadly none of these have the power nor the spirituality to address the real issues of India: Poverty, Corruption, Exploitation of Poverty and the poor. How can one say one is holy and yet embrace the caste system, the ill-treatment of women, of widows, any religion that allows and promotes inequality will naturally find few followers outside its own fold. Travel around your neighbourhood as a stranger and see what we accept as normal, the filth, the open sewers, garbage, the homeless, leftover construction dirt. We have no pride in our surroundings, take false pride in our achievements and see no need to improve. We treat our Politicians as Gods and make deals with our gods like we would with politicians "Fulfill my wish and I will give you a garland of marigold" so why would God who owns the world want his marigolds back? Steve was right, but Steve never met Gandhi, his actions liberated the world from colonialism.

from:  Janki Das
Posted on: Oct 18, 2011 at 23:52 IST

We need to remember that Jobs was in his 20's when he came to India. His fascination probably started when he visited the Hare Krishna temple in Portland. He obviously did not have much knowledge about Indian culture and history and just thought spirituality as a commodity(he wanted to learn in a month). In his statement about the poverty in India and its airs of holiness, he missed a point that spirituality is only one of few things that can be practiced by rich and poor alike and its the exact opposite of materialism. What Edison did improved peoples lives physically and coming from a western mindset its not surprising that he would be disappointed. But being a broad minded person, he pursued excellence(believed in Buddhism which is very noble minded and Karma)in the area he liked. He is a role model and its nice if he benefited from Indian spirituality, but only he deserves the credit for what he achieved.

from:  Srinivas RS
Posted on: Oct 8, 2011 at 22:49 IST

Yes, these Westerners come with their backpacks and spend 6 months doing
the Indian route - Varanasi, Hampi, Goa - and expect to find not only
their version of Indian spirituality but also themselves!! What a joke!

from:  Rohan
Posted on: Oct 8, 2011 at 18:31 IST

I am glad that his statement comparing Edison to Marx and Baba is known to us so we can stop wearing blinkers. but having said that i suppose he made that statement in his youth. His aversion to Karl Marx is understandable given that his philosophy wd not have provided him the ecosystem that allowed him to amass wealth, build a monopoly right.

from:  Pranesh Vir
Posted on: Oct 8, 2011 at 13:51 IST

Jobs knew about the substandard quality of modern tech labor...early....No wonder he is a visionary. I only wish others follow suit.

from:  Supram bir singha
Posted on: Oct 8, 2011 at 09:38 IST

Excellent story telling us how our desire to find Indian roots to success is misplaced. Thank you.

from:  arun Ram
Posted on: Oct 8, 2011 at 03:48 IST

SP, you are absolutely right. It is our pre occupation with the certification from the white man which led to colonialism and neo colonialism of India. Steve Jobs was a great man no doubt. How does it matter whether he liked India or its philosophy?

from:  Raman
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 21:08 IST

Should we keep worrying over westerners' like or dislike of India? So
Jobs didn't care for Indian spiritualism. So what?

from:  SP
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 19:24 IST

Steve Jobs must have had a sour Indian experience during his stay in India in the 70's. He might have expected a lot to learn about “spiritualism” in India, but would have failed. Remember, he dropped out of college deliberately because he realized the education he enrolled for was below his expectation. He even dared to think differently which cost his job in his own company that he founded. We have to admit that he was a person of his own vision, thinking, and philosophy. He doesn’t settle with something that fails to enthuse him.

from:  Sushant Paikaray
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 16:49 IST

Steve never took Indian spirituality and culture as a joke. He was a strong believer in Indian spiritualism. An Indian can feel proud of this.

from:  Sunil
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 15:45 IST

There is nothing Indian about the Hare Krishnas. In fact, they were sponsored by British Intelligence.

from:  Sean OLeary
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 15:34 IST

Jobs had one very important thing in his life, that has deep
connections to India. His religion,Buddhism.It was not just about
faith. It's about principles of Life.

from:  Abhinav Gautam
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 14:46 IST

Western thinkers always puzzle extreme poverty of India and its love for spirituality.If they understand seriously why this paradox is in India,they can realize that this extreme poverty only reason for Indians turn to spirituality. Why sciences were not born in India? Sciences are born only in particular circumstances.That kind of challenges are not available in India.I think monsoon is only reason which prevented to Indians to search scientific reason for each and every thing.Indian monsoon is always remain eccentric and adjust this unpredicted monsoon Indians became fatalist and they turn to spirituality.

from:  Ramesh Raghuvanshi
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 13:20 IST

"It was one of the first times that I started to realise that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Karoli Baba put together." I'm so saddened to see this statement coming from such a great visionary. Every great man has his own unique purpose. No one would deny that Edison changed the world. But what about the 1.4 billion people who still don't have access to electricity? Karl Marx's purpose, may be, was to improve the lives of those bottom few. So even though his thoughts did not improve the lives of privileged ones, they did change the outlook of the world towards equality and justice, and did inspire many come up with new social theories. India has had a number of great Neem Karori Babas in past. And f you realize, they never intended to change the world. They travel just to spread their views on the purpose of life. Comparing baba or Marx with Edison would be like comparing spirituality or philosophy with physics! Just doesn't make sense!!

from:  Niv
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 12:36 IST

Jobs didn't owe anything to India. Inspite of all the hullabaloo, India produces mediocre Engineering, Creative and Management talent. Almost all of Indian code writers are the equivalent of Software coolies.

from:  Swami Narasimhan
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 08:40 IST

What Steve said is correct. We are good in talking great about culture and religion. We don't talk about poverty. Steve was a practical man.

from:  T.Subramanian
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 08:23 IST

Mr. Jobs decision not to continue the tech support in India had more to do with American attitudes towards 'off-shoring' jobs than anything he might have felt about India. It has become a standard joke in this country about calling for tech support and reaching an agent whose accent makes him incomprehensible.

from:  Marc Myers
Posted on: Oct 7, 2011 at 08:16 IST
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