Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Will We Ever Change?

Posted on: February 2, 2009

Its 10:13pm. I just came back from IITM, after listening to a talk by Nandita Das on “Cinema and Social Change”. I have to admit that until today, I knew that the name had something to do with the Cine world, but I had no other associations of it. This is the first one, and it probably will last that way – thanks to Today.

There is something good about being in a University campus, and working there. You sometimes feel younger beyond your years, and sometimes you just feel out of place. In either case, it provides you an alternate reality – not that I wish for it, but the difference in perspective in opinion and viewpoint is one that I thoroughly enjoy.

I overall liked the talk. It was simple, casual, touched upon personal lives – had a wee bit of self promotion – was optimistic, and the tone was real. But perhaps the message was exaggerated.

See, Gandhi said the words “Be the change that you want to see”. Quite powerful words, and one that finds itself many meanings, depending on what lens you are wearing. Nandita felt free to use those words to stir up a moment, and even an applause from an audience. I dont blame her, but I think its a very common mistake. Let me tell you why.

Those words are around sixty years old. Look around you and tell me what has changed. Probably a little. Thats what nobody tells us about. I think we have developed this over-romantic ideology of what “Change” is. It’s really the simple things, and the little steps really. India going from a country which was under an empire, to becoming self-governing, to actually being one of the “positive” news in the economic situation – That’s change. But none of it comes easily. And if you look at things from an individual standpoint, you probably wont even have much to talk about.

Societal changes take ages to come into being. I have almost come to the conclusion that people never change. Its nice to stand on stage and talk about not getting angry when we are insulted. But the man was right, man is social and we are animals. And the first instinct is to get angry. And those who do act differently are either insane or, saints – both of which takes some working internally. The masses simply don’t comply with those rules.

So why am I writing about this topic in a supposedly “Startup guy’s” perspective. Because I think change is at the essence of entrepreneurship. We all aspire for it. We would love for what we create to take the world by storm, but most of us will live to see that thats not true. The world in most cases will act quite indifferent to it – not even hate it, which is the worst part. My mentor raised me repeating those words as I was making my baby steps. That was his way of preparing me for the real world. I couldn’t thank him more for it.

So does radical change ever happen? Absolutely. It happens only twice. One, if people are chasing after something that they desperately want. Its the romantic change. People will go to hell and come out unscathed to get that girl, that house, that future for their child. And there is one other occassion when that beautiful transformation happens – when we are at the brink of extinction.

Tell the world now that we need to save energy, and preserve water, and take care of this planet. They wont. But when our own life is going to be threatened, we would shut down all of our gadgets in a heartbeat, and happily prefer to live in the forests, in an unconnected world, oh so easily. Drastic change does happen… yep, but when we are in the precipice of extinction. If you are a startup though, that’s probably not the scenario you want to aim for 🙂

Be the Change… inspiring words, but somehow I have a feeling that those words will be scribed in futuristic placards and placed in a museum eons from now, and we still wouldnt notice the changes around us… because we missed everything. Because the change really is in the smaller things. When you can raise the tolerance level amongst ourselves by a few seconds, when one atleast starts listening to another for his viewpoint, and simply when we start reaching out for our ancient trait – of being an argumentative Indian, I believe thats where change really takes place.

10 Responses to "Will We Ever Change?"

Nice one!! I concur with you on the experience you had at IITM campus, it is reinvigorating and hurting at the same time, for one fleeting moment you start feeling the part of the place, and even before that feeling sinks, you realise that you can never be a part of it anymore!!! Even I witnessed the same when I went to my insti…

As far as Change is concerned, I am sure there will not be radical changes, considering the political scenario we have in India, but as you mentioned it will be the small changes that will drive the nation ahead.

And Gandhiji’s word still hold, its just that we dont want to listen anymore, we cant expect the policies and the policy makers to change when we, the youth are not playing our part, how many of us vote???

Satya Vyas

Not necessarily, India today is quite different from what it was in 1991 and hopefully it will be a different place in 2025 than what it is in 2009.

But Vijay….even the small changes have to start somewhere…at some individual level…only those individual baby steps will lead to some societal changes. Majority of the society are followers – they just follow. So, they need to be told what to do. One Obama’s “Yes, we can” on a raised platform inspired millions. Yes – we are yet to see any outcome of that inspiration, it may as well be short lived. But it was worth trying. The masses need rhetoric speeches – otherwise even the wee bit will not be done.

I didn’t hear Ms Das speak, so I’m not qualified to make specific comments. However, how else do you suggest/propose one motivated individual brings in change? It has to start with individual effort- only that will initiate the domino effect.

And I too get angry when insulted (Not critiqued, or interrogated). Isn’t it the right reaction? Patience is a good thing, but it is also a good thing to have respect for one’s justified & mature opinions, and rights to a decent life. So far, I thought this is a necessary trait to survive in today’s world. Yeah – at the same time, do not harm others to grab your piece of the sky. Basic rule.

Or do I have the wrong value as an aspiring social entrepreneur?

– Kakoli

wow! You captured the beauty of the university campus in really nice words: An alternative reality that is a bit idealistic, full of hope and offers a different perspective.

Totally agree on the causes of radical change: When its selfish or when things are at the verge of extinction.

Imagine someone in 2007 making a hue and cry that….The Economy is going to blow-up and proposes to nationalize the Banks. The reaction to him would be at best of indifference or labeling him a cynic, pessimist, communist etc..

For some reason, We prefer a change that is forced on us (to repair the damage) instead of the change that prevents damage. I would argue that is not a bad thing 🙂 We need to suffer the damage to grasp it better.

Celebrating Life…

@ Prashant, Kakoli: I hope you didnt mis understand me. Change does happen – all the time. It just doesnt happen as a revolution, or as how chak de or any other movie might show of it as happening – all in day types.

But that’s exactly what Gandhi meant. Or so I thought. He asks us to start small. Change ourselves instead of trying to bring a revolutions. The first step is to change our mental setup, then behaviour and then the big changes will follow.

Change has occured if we had fallen asleep last night and woke up this morning. Very perceptible, yet not acknowledged.

That said, we often mean `growth’ while we say `change’ and that’s why the disillusionment. Recognize the play on semantics. All change is not growth just as all movement is not forward.

As for entrepreneurs, if you wish attain to what you are not yet, be always displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.

And then it’s not necessary to change as well, if survival is not mandatory 🙂

Vijay is right, change does happen but it takes decades to happen, people change when the situation around them changes, when the situation around them effect their lives.

It is great for speakers to say change has to happen and suggest we can control the destiny associated with the thought that drives change.

An present economic crisis will make us all change in some fashion, but is that change or is that human race adapting itself to a situation beyond their control?

As Humans have we changed since Adam was created (Darwinsite will say out of monkeys- monkeys do not kill themselves)- ask your self this question

NO is the right answer, we may have technology which enables us to work and communicate differently; we may live in better houses (homes, I dare say); we make use better mode of transport; we clothe ourselves (unclothe ourselves, I dare say) with better rags etc, etc

Have we changed much as humans, the answer is a resounding: NO

After 6,000 years (archaeologist, scientist may say million years) humans have not changed, we have found better politically correct way to insult people; segregate people racially; demean other, kill, plunder and steal etc, etc

Do not agree, I am not surprised

Hey Vijay,

I came across your blog accidently when I was searching my name in google. Glad I did.

A very nice blog you got here!! Also I got to know about your Great accomplishments!! Kudos!!

Let me come back to your post about CHANGE. Everybody thoughts, views, reactions are different about each and every thing in this universe. We express it differently too. Thats what makes us unique individuals. You showcased your points very vividly about Change, only 2 types of change according to you and how change can be experienced. This media has given great setup to share our own thoughts about it.

This in itself is a change in a small way we are trying to make within us to think differently about each of us views. So CHANGE does happen in a small or big way and it all depends on our own measuring tape. According to you its only 2 types but for other person coming from village, everything is a change. Change is the only CONSTANT in this world as somebody said. It is constantly changing!!

Just my 2 cents!!


Hey Vijay,

Good post. There is a quote…don’t remember from where…that came to mind while reading your post. I’m paraphrasing – Change the way you think, and the things that you look at change.

Will we ever change? Today’s Hindu supplement has a nice example of change

Change is always happening and positive change (I believe) far outstrip the negative – cause negative change can never sustain itself in the long run.

If negative change were sustainable, the housing bubble would not have burst, ramalinga raju wouldn’t be in a jail cell, the ltte wouldn’t be running for cover, vsnl would still be charging 5000 bucks a month for a 100 hr dailup line, and quite possibly IIT madras would never have had a startup incubator – I still remember being told in 2000 sorry no project work being done here:)

Sure we have a whole bunch of problems ahead of us, but that’s a good thing, what would startups do with out them 😉

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