Friday, April 5, 2013

Why iStores are not Indian

(I know that I said that I was going to blog more about India yesterday, but the decision to post this was actually unrelated to that pledge.)

If you've studied the biography of Steve Jobs, you realize that he didn't spend all of his formative years with geeks, hunched over a keyboard.

Not at all.

After dropping out of Reed College, he hung around the campus and dropped in on a calligraphy class. Then he went to India.

Apparently the lessons from India didn't necessarily rub off on his company, as this Feld Thought notes.

[W]e’ve actually just returned from almost a year away, the last 6 months in India. I realize that a lot of what I see is colored with the lens of India, but maybe that’s helping to make things more clear....

One of the first things I planned on doing once home was to buy a shiny new macbook to replace my 4 year old white macbook. Maybe going to the mall, rather than just buying it online was my first mistake, but the cult of apple and the temple that is that store made me gag the second I walked in there....

[I]n the store, what I noticed was a culture of elitism and insincerity. I had a 4 year old laptop with me, and was treated like a Luddite because I didn’t look up to speed.

But perhaps there's a reason why iStores don't reflect an Indian spiritual mentality. Unlike the calligraphy classes, the time in India had a negative effect on Jobs:

After his India trip, he concluded: “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 Kairolie Baba put together.”

That statement tells a lot about who Jobs really was – and why his Indian connection never really happened beyond a broad interest in Buddhism.

Jobs wouldn't be the first or the last person to seek spiritual enlightenment in India and leave with some disappointment. But the episode again demonstrates my belief that there is no universal set of ethics in the world; a place that seems like a temple to (some) Americans appears obscene to people from other parts of the world.
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