Jobs script skipped India, twice

A Macbook Air floats in the window of the Apple store at Legacy Village in Beachwood, Ohio on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.   | Photo Credit: Amy Sancetta

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.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 7:27:38 PM |

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