What did Steve Jobs really think of India?

What did Steve Jobs think of India?

What we know is little – a patchwork of assorted quotes from media interviews or biographers. It would be interesting to see if Walter Isaacson’s biography of the tech and business visionary, due in November, will shed any more light.

While we wait on it, here are a couple of thoughts derived from published sources.

The first is a remark Jobs made about arguably his greatest adversary – Microsoft’s Bill Gates, also a university dropout.

“He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger,” Jobs said.

Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Pic: AP.

The remark suggests Jobs placed great store in his own acid experience as well as the visit to an ashram in India – that of Neem Kairolie Baba up in the northern part of the country.

But it still differs with what he told Jeffrey Young and William Simon for their biography of Jobs titled: “iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business.”

“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 realize that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Kairolie Baba put together,” Jobs told his biographers, suggesting that he may have considered his India visit a failure.

In later years, India never was on Jobs’ horizon, not even the new India to which the world clamoured. I believe this was because he was so engrossed in reviving Apple from the dead. Besides, he was focused on revolutionary gadgets such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad that could never have been made even in India. The closest India’s army of engineers came was contributing a small module that went into some versions of the iPod. Also, Jobs did not seek cheap outsourcing to build his world-class products.

One of the things that many say about Jobs was that he was ahead of his time in the 1980s when he was unceremoniously booted out of the company he famously co-founded. Jobs would have been ahead of his time even in 21st century India. After all, we still are a country of failed Nanos and $35 tablet computers.