Nandan Nilekani & Tanuj Bhojwani - How to Reduce Distractions, Find Focus & Do What Matters

Nandan Nilekani, co-founder and chairman of Infosys, and Tanuj Bhojwani, fellow at iSpirit in conversation with Sanjay Swamy Managing Partner Prime Venture Partners.

Listen to the podcast to learn about

01:20 - Finding the The Art of Bitfulness in a Distracted World

10:00 - How to Avoid Clutter & Find Focus

17:00 - Define Yourself & Find Time for What Matters

23:00 - FOMO, Exposure Therapy & Time Blocking

28:10 - Rails by Government; Innovation by Entrepreneurs

To learn more about Nandan & Tanuj’s frameworks and insights check out The Art of Bitfulness: Keeping Calm in the Digital World

Read the complete transcript below

Sanjay Swamy 00:45

Hello, everybody. Welcome again, to the next edition of the Prime Venture Partners podcast, we have two very special guests here today. I’m here with Mr. Nandan Nilekani, co-founder, chairman of Infosys, founding chairman of UIDAI, someone who really needs no introduction. Nandan has been, of course, one of the key inspirations behind literally all things, digital India, of course, starting with Aadhaar, and then India Stack.

Along with Nandan, I also have Tanuj Bhojwani, fellow at the iSpirit Foundation, where he works on several policy issues relating to digital identity, payments, data protection, drones, et cetera, Nandan, and Tanuj recently co authored the book, The Art of Bitfulness, which is something that all of us in this frenzied world of the digital ecosystem, need to read with a lot of attention. And that’s a great privilege here to have the two of you on our show here today, Nandan and Tanuj, welcome.

Nandan Nilekani 01:42

Thank you Sanjay, great to be on your show.

Sanjay Swamy 01:45

Thanks Nandan.

Tanuj Bhojwani 01:47

Thank you Sanjay.

Sanjay Swamy 01:49

Thanks, Tanuj, welcome. So I’ve had the privilege of working with both of you over the past decade in various phases and on various initiatives, we have a lot of things that you’ve written in the book, that we have also noticed, and Nandan certainly in our meetings with you, in terms of how you stay so totally focused in the moment. But I’ll start with, what prompted you both to write this book? Especially given that both of you are such strong proponents of all things digital.

Nandan Nilekani 02:13

No, in fact, Sanjay, this book came out of the fact, both of us, as you know, are great believers in technology, technology transformation, technology for public purpose, and the work I do, whether it’s for businesses, or for governments, or societies, has been how to use tech for transformation.

But I think what has happened in the consumer world of today’s technology is, people are spending a lot of time on doing all kinds of things, which are not necessarily transformational in nature. And during the pandemic, we actually, our digital interactions went up, we were doing even more meetings and everything was doing digital. And then I started to break the monotony, once the pandemic slowed on a bit, I started this walks in the park business, and Tanuj I used to do… I did it with many people, but I did a walk with Tanuj also, a couple of walks, and we said he was also facing the same thing.

And we said that we are all big fans of technology, we are all big users of technology, but is there a way to also look at how do we have digital hygiene? Just like you tell people how they should live their lives, how they should exercise, eat and how they should deal with climate or wear masks. There’s also a need to have digital hygiene, especially, as you know, millions of new users are coming, and all they’re doing is watching some short form video. It’s not clear to me, that’s the best use of their time, so that’s how this was a pandemic-born book. And then we also found that though we were many decades apart in age and philosophy of how we use technology, the underlying conceptual framework we both use is the same, which allows us to be on top of what we do. And that’s what has been captured in the book, Sanjay.

Tanuj Bhojwani 04:04

If I may add Sanjay, I think your question begs the answer, is that, how come the two of you are saying this? Is really why we need to say this. If people think that if your pro-technology means you pro-every use of technology and et cetera, I think that nuances then that is needed.

Sanjay Swamy 04:21

Terrific. So maybe, Tanuj, you can break down the book in three sections of the book, and at a high level, and then we can dive into some of the specific areas as a preview for readers.

Tanuj Bhojwani 04:32

Yes, so the three sections of the book, essentially, we start by saying the problem, and we talk about this. I think everybody knows that we are all spending a lot of time on our screens, but the section about the problem tries to get a little more specific on what really is the problem. The problem isn’t that, if you work in social media, and your job is social media and you spend eight hours on social media, you’re spending the bare minimum, on social media.

So for you, it’s a very different problem from somebody who’s job doesn’t involve that at all. And so, the problem isn’t that all of us should only be spending a prescriptive amount of time online, or on a certain amount of things. The problem is that if you or I intend to do something, are our devices and our technology really helping us achieve our goals and what we desire, or are they taking us away from those and becoming an impediment in doing what we need to do.

And this problem happens at two levels, of course, on an individual level, we all feel we’re starved for time, get lost, lose time. But at the collective level, we’re all talking about these problems, like disinformation, electoral meddling through social media and a lot more divisive conversations online, et cetera, misinformation, vaccine hesitancy, because of social media. So all of these very related problems, I would say, and that’s the collective problem that all of us are facing this new thing.

So the remaining two parts of the book essentially try to address these two different sides of this problem, the individual, as in, what can I do? And the collective, which is, what can we do? Which, as you know, Nandan has been working on for the past 10 years. So I think that’s also the unique proposition in this book, is that we actually show that these two are related, these two problems are related and stem from a similar mindset and ecosystem around these problems, that we should be taking a hard look at.

Sanjay Swamy 06:30

Great. So we’ll come back to the problem itself, and Nandan, you and I are of a generation, where we lived in the pre-smart device era, and these things gradually came up to us, maybe even going from, I would say, 600k or 1200k connections over the internet, just to download email and… It was still broadly a digital experience, but it was an offline experience for the most part, and then, slowly we went online and then into this always connected mode of smartphones and things like that, whereas, Tanuj, you probably grew up in a generation where you were always connected all the time, right?

So, Nandan, your thoughts on how this problem really, in some cases crept up on us. I don’t think any of us consciously have tried to get into this circuit. It would be good to hear your thoughts.

Nandan Nilekani 07:22

Yeah, I first started with a desktop, maybe 30 years back, whenever desktops came out, and my main instrument of choice was using Office and email and those kind of things. And then, from the desktop, you went to the laptop. So I would say till about the early 2000s, it was really just, the main device you had was a laptop with email and spreadsheets and so on. And then we got the, what is now called the feature phone, the phone, which is not, unquote, smart. And so it became a method of communication, both voice and SMS and so on. And then, I think, the smartphones arrived and then Android. And I was actually a late adopter to this. I only got my smartphone in 2010, or thereabouts, and I was already 55 years old when I had my first smartphone, and I also got an iPad and so on.

So, my view was that, what are the… And the book talks about the different things we do, and I have chosen a very physical approach to that. I do my work activities on my laptop, I keep it in the same place, I make sure that it’s well lit, I have a sense of work that I do when I go to my laptop, I do all my curated activities of reading and watching movies on my iPad, and I use the phone only for communication, only for sending and receiving messages or making phone calls. I don’t use any social media tools, I do use Twitter, but only as a broadcast mechanism where I send out things, but I don’t engage in polarizing arguments on Twitter, and I’ve a zero inbox strategy, Sanjay, where I try to clear my inbox every day, to the extent I can, so that everything is clear.

And of all this is that, my life is that way, uncluttered. It’s of course I am in a position where I can unclutter it, but whatever would be the thing, my life is uncluttered, and I have plenty of time for other things, I have plenty of time for walks at the park. And when I have a meeting, I try to keep my devices away, so that I can totally focus, I shut off all notifications. It’s very simple, because in some sense, the ease of use of these devices itself has created this issue, like in the physical world, when you go to a library, you know that you’re going there, you want to work or read, and it’s a very quiet place.

When you go to a bar, you’re going to socialize, meet people, have a drink and maybe more uproarious. And when you go to the park or the gym, you know you’re going to work out and get some fresh air and so on. So in the physical world, when we go into different contexts, we know what that context is. The challenge we have here is that, at the same place, you can switch in one click to party mode, play mode, work mode. So we have created our own way of carving out these things. And that’s what the book is about, and Tanuj, being much younger and being much more of a smartphone native, doesn’t want to have different physical devices like I do. He does it on the same device, but he has a way of creating a system for each of them, so I guess that’s the difference.

Sanjay Swamy 10:25

Got it. And Tanuj, before I come into that part, I just want to double click one small point here with Nandan. Have you always been this disciplined about these different physical spaces in your mind, or did you find yourself actually getting pulled into some of these overlapping spaces and then actually had to extract yourself out? And if so, what advice would you have for our audience who’d like to try to be in a single context?

Nandan Nilekani 10:50

No, no, I think the thing started when I got my first smartphone and then I loaded WhatsApp and Viber or something, I don’t know, it’s still an app or something on Viber. And initially, it was quite exciting to have these things, but then I realized that my life was being overburdened with notifications and interruptions. And also, I think there’s been a lot- … these technologies have polarized people and I find now in every group, every family, every alumni group, there’s a clear polarization, and then people’s- … point of view and keep arguing, and for me that had no value.

So over time I got rid of all this and said, finally, if I want to communicate with somebody, they have my phone number, they can send me a text message, I will reply to them, or they can send me an email. So that worked beautifully. I did try. I had a short ill-fated attempt at elections in 2014 when I actually created a big social presence, but as soon as the election was over and I decided I didn’t have a career in politics, I just shut down all my social media type accounts and came back to basics.

Sanjay Swamy 12:00

Got it, thanks. Tanuj, how do you run your life and try to manage things there. Of course, any examples you can cite from the book as well would be helpful.

Tanuj Bhojwani 12:10

So this thing, I think we have to acknowledge that, we’re not writing this as gurus. If you’re expecting that I am somehow very… unstruggled. The idea is that this system comes from evolving, so I have struggled in the past. Essentially, you get dragged in, you think you don’t want… Like you said, it creeps up on you. It starts with something very simple, you might actually have a very nice use case for why you’re online for something, but eventually, like you said, it starts creeping over your life, etc. I think my system, really, it’s changed and evolved, but I used to be a classic productivity nerd, reading all your… Getting things done, et cetera. Have all these systems where it’s the hustle, you want to be doing more and more and more, and I think a lot of us were in that space.

What I have observed in my own life, is that the more information you’re exposed to, the more things you see, the more you start thinking is the bare minimum you need to do to be ahead in life. so everybody feels like they have to both have a great Instagram, where their social life is like… Usually a problem with my age group and people around this millennial thing is that, one, you need to have an Instagram where your travels are documented, your great meals and whatever documented, while on Twitter, you’re a thought leader, while at the same time, on Facebook, you’re keeping in touch with everybody and you’re DMing them, and on WhatsApp, you’re forwarding every meme you see. That’s your social base on top of you actually doing your work and killing it and winning awards and then making it to the 30 under 30 list, or whatever you need to do.

And all of us seem to be taking that as the bare minimum, maybe, for us to do. So, I really think that how I manage now, is essentially, in understanding that quality wins over quantity any given day, and you want to be able to take time out, to focus on the things that matter to you, and this might not necessarily be a professional achievement, it might just even be, personally, something like you just want to make sure that you exercise every day, or to meditate for every morning, or hit that habit that you have for personal growth. So right now my system is essentially, that my computer has these different identities, one of them is essentially for creating, and this is the system we talk about in the book. We have a create mode, a communicate mode and a curate mode. Nandan manages through physical systems.

And what I have, is that I have one laptop, I have one phone, and I really don’t want to expand beyond this. I don’t see myself getting an iPad, and charging it, and maintaining it and doing that. I do have a Kindle, I will say this, because I love reading and at night, it’s by my bedside, that’s when I really do the leisure reading that I do. But other than that, it’s on my phone and my laptop, and it’s very simple. I try to, essentially, only do emails, and WhatsApp and whatever on my phone, and on the phone, I’m basically geared for quick reply. I’m just like, “Okay, reply, get it done with.” Because it’s a mobile form factor and you’re bent over, you’re hunched over, you don’t want to do it too long.

On my computer. I essentially have a create mode, where I’m doing deep focused things, like writing is one obvious one. Even if I were to create a presentation or something for work, or plan my week, or plan what I’m going to do this week, or what to delegate to my team, I’m doing all those stuff in create mode. And in that mode, essentially, we write about the book in the system, about how to create enough boundaries for yourselves so that you’re focused, you don’t get distracted, you don’t have these things coming out.

And the other mode on my computer is essentially when I’m at play. There, I’m not caring, I’m not caring about what I’m doing, what et cetera, like sometimes, I’ll watch something. So for me, play is really reading about new topics and getting into them, so right now, I have this project, which I really want to do, which is I want to build a candle out of LED boards, it’s a weird thing I saw, I want to recreate it. So just putting that together, I spend whatever many hours on it, and when I’m doing that, the best part is, I am no longer worried about what’s happening at work or email, that period is genuinely-

Sanjay Swamy 16:11

The key is really the com compartmentalization regardless of what the device is.

Tanuj Bhojwani 16:17

And then choosing what I’m doing right now becomes a choice. When you open the laptop and you have to log into one of these accounts, and you make a conscious decision to be like, “Okay, I’m about to work right now, or I’m about to go play right now.” And once you make that conscious decision and everything else has been set up for you by past you, I think that really, really helps. People underestimate how much setting boundaries permanently on digital can really help them, because people think, “Oh, I just need to become a more focused person.” No, it’s not really you as a person, it’s your environment.

Nandan Nilekani 16:45

In fact, I think, Sanjay, the book is very non-judgmental, because it’s not about saying that people are weak and that’s why they do it. I think the situation is such, the very fact that we can move around so easily, the fact that a lot of this is an attention economy thing, so it’s not our fault or we don’t have to feel weak about it. So we are not trying to be judgmental and say, “You are a bad person, or you should have little willpower.” We just say, “Look, this is the reality we are with, these are the systems you can implement, these are some tips we are giving how to do that.” And I think our view is that if people even follow a few of the tips, and they follow everything, I think they can bring a lot more calmness into their lives, get more time on their hands and feel better. That’s really where it’s coming from.

Sanjay Swamy 17:35

Yeah. Actually, I was just going to bring up the topic of calmness that you stressed on a lot in the book, all the things that lead to not having a calm thinking, and looking at some of the techniques you talk about, like mirrors versus windows, and things like that. Would be great if you could share some insights on those for people as a sneak preview into the book.

Tanuj Bhojwani 17:58

Yeah, so when you ask about the personal system, I went straight into how I’m looking at my computer but the abstract back, like Nandan was saying, we are decades apart in our ages and in our nativity to the smartphone digital world. But what principles remain common is, this we outline in a chapter called how to be bitfull, and for your podcast listeners, we’ll basically give it away.

There Are three things that we think are important. Number one is, mirrors, not windows, which is that you look at your phone, you know the word portal, web portal or whatever, it was supposed to be this place you go to be taken or transported to somewhere else. We think the better use of your technology is as a way to reflect, it’s an extension of your mind, you should use it to think. So instead of a portal, that makes you look outwards. Can your phone, can your laptop be your device that makes you look inwards, understand what’s happening and clarify, because that again, the larger objective is calmness. So that is the first thing to get, become calm, is mirrors, not windows, like you reflect on what is there, think.

Nandan uses a physical journal, I use note taking software, but both of us, I think what we do is that before we do a task, we think about the task by writing about the task. It’s an added step, from an efficiency point of view, you’ll think it’s, what is the point? But that little planning, that little thinking helps you become calm and do what’s important and stuff, baring your hands and doing whatever, that’s principle number one.

Principle number two is, don’t swim upstream, which is all the conversations we were having about how your environment really nudges you and pushes you towards a thing. So instead of trying to fight your environment, try to stay focused while your notifications are pinging you. How about you design your digital systems, once and for all, to create these compartmentalized environments, each of which helps you towards a particular task. Now, a lot of people split routine, say, home, office, this, that, but we believe that’s not the real distinction, the real distinction-

Sanjay Swamy 20:00

And nowadays, most of us working from home…

Tanuj Bhojwani 20:07

It is completely meaningless. And even if you say work, I don’t know, I think for all of us, this must be true, that email is a very big distractor, because if you were to just sit and reply to email, it’s busy work, but it’s not necessarily progress, right?

Sanjay Swamy 20:22

And actually, in that context, WhatsApp has become even harder, right? Because we have a lot of personal and work related stuff, and I’ve personally struggled with that a lot, because once I tried, where it’s going on vacation, which is delete WhatsApp for two weeks, but then you miss out on all the personal stuff also. So it started to get too intertwined, actually.

Tanuj Bhojwani 20:45

It’s really hard, which is why we’re saying that don’t, and this is a great example, so swimming upstream. If you just step back and look at the problem once, Sanjay, the fact that the people whose messages you don’t want to miss are also messaging you on the same channel on the people whose messages you’d be very happy to miss.

You’re swimming upstream, you’re creating a problem that will demand your attention and energy continuously, rather than thinking about how to fix this as I don’t have to do this anymore. Nandan’s idea is, of course, to delete WhatsApp entirely. I know you can manage that, but for a bunch of us, that’s not necessarily feasible. But you can still have a thoughtful approach to who gets what identity of yours, so that when you want to switch off work, you have a button to switch off. Today, because they’re all intertwined, you know that switching off decision is very hard for you, or costly for you.

Nandan Nilekani 21:33

In fact, just like we compartmentalize between create, curate and communicate, we can also compartmentalize between close friends and relatives, which is one group, the broader acquaintances could be another group, business could be a third group and receiving junk mail could be a fourth group. Then you don’t have to switch off the app, you can just turn it on, for example, on the vacation, we just turn on your family, whatever app, or work, whatever. So I think that, again, it’s a different way of compartmentalizing, which is very important.

Tanuj Bhojwani 22:10

So Nandan just outlined the third principle, which is to define ourselves. So what he’s saying is that each of these is a self that, in real life, we would’ve done, and when I say real life, I mean physical world, we’d have done this effortlessly. Like you go, in the morning, to your office ,Sanjay, and let’s say you take an Uber, or you have a driver, or whatever, and the interaction you have with this person, and you get into the office and you change modes entirely, you’re a different person. Then you get out, and maybe with your office colleague also, you roll up your sleeves and you go for an office party and you’re a different person. You come back, you meet a few friends, you’re a different person, and when you come back home, you’re a different person. And you know how to do this seamlessly.

It’s an effortless thing for humans to do. In the digital context, we have the context collapse. You’re online and same to everybody, on WhatsApp, the same to everybody. So that distinction of ourselves and having that privacy in that context, in that sense that some people get to see this side of me, some people don’t, all of that is mashed together. And I think it’s not very hard to do, it just takes a little bit of a thoughtful approach to define this once, and keep these little boundaries, and the effects are multifold, the returns are multifold on this.

Sanjay Swamy 23:20

So switching gears a little bit to our audience, which is also entrepreneurs, or other investors, and the people who are constantly, I guess, in sell mode. You never know in that next… Nowadays I find that I pick up all the calls when it’s an unrecognized number, rather than when it’s a recognized number, because I don’t know who that person is. That might be that next unicorn entrepreneur that I’ve been wanting to get to know, and that’s true in all aspects. So how does one, especially in the startup ecosystem, which is moving at such breakneck speed, what are some tips you might have that, where people don’t, or believe that they don’t have the luxury of missing out on an instantaneous response?

Nandan Nilekani 24:05

Well, it is seductive to believe that if we pick up every phone, maybe we’ll get the next unicorn on that third call, and I think that’s… I can understand that, but I would think of it in a far more strategic manner. I think, more, let me talk from the entrepreneur point of view, as well as the VC point of view. From the VC point of view, I think it’s about creating that destination brand, which entrepreneurs see as a place to go to get smart capital, where you not only get money, you get mentorship, you get connections, you get strategic thinking, and so on. If you’re able to do that, then they will find a way to get to you. If you have put off your phone, they will send you an email, or they will send you a text message saying, “This is me.” So I don’t think we should have this FOMO problem there. We have created that destination brand among entrepreneurs.

And similarly for entrepreneurs, if I’m an entrepreneur and I have identified that these three are the VCs I would like on my cap table, believe me, they will find a way to get to you, including dropping in on your house in the night. So my view is that we should not assume that FOMO is the way to go. It’s both for entrepreneurs and for VCs, creating that focused approach, and particularly for VCs creating a brand, which is a destination brand for entrepreneurs, is more strategic than picking up every random call.

Tanuj Bhojwani 25:30

Just to add to this one, a perfect answer, in the sense that, any fear, the right therapy is the exposure therapy, which is that, if you have a fear of missing out, try missing out, and I promise you the world doesn’t end. So first of all, get used to that, by that method. The second is, of course, Sanjay, I think what we, what Nandan and I know, and acknowledge, that lives are very varied and very complicated, so you are right to say that, “Okay, I have a very sell job, I have a very people job, therefore, being disconnected is a very hard thing for me.

I think that nowhere in the book are we trying to be prescriptive on how much time we spend. The emphasis of our advice is that, do you have a switch to turn off, so that when you don’t want to be in sell mode, when wanted to go on that vacation for two weeks, is it something that you can do and still be calm, or is half your mind going to be occupied by, “What am I missing?”

Because if it’s going to be occupied by what I’m missing, your vacation is not rich. Let me put it to you differently, your family members are going to be very annoyed with you. We have a CEO friend, this whole create, curate, communicate mode, I think people naturally gravitate to thinking, “Oh, create mode, I’ll do more work, I’ll be more productive.” One of the best feedback I got from people who tried this, even before the book was published, and a few set of people we tried this with, one of them was, my phone always had Slack, or whatever, my me and my wife used to watch Netflix in the evening, but my phone always has Slack, WhatsApp, all these ways from my team to reach me, so every time I had to pause the movie, or do something, or whatever, I would look at my phone and I would definitely get right into something, and I’m not watching the movie, I’m not interacting with her, and our relationship was suffering.

But by creating these two modes on his phone, like a curate mode and a communicate mode thing, he says that when I was finally watching that movie, I was only watching that movie, and that really helped the relationship. So it’s this, I think, I don’t think Nandan and I are prescriptive on how much time you spend and what, but being able to create that boundary, is our message.

Nandan Nilekani 27:26

Also, I think, both for VCs and entrepreneurs, Sanjay, we need a lot of think time, because your job is to anticipate the future, your job is to connect the dots, your job is to make the judgment as to which entrepreneur and which business segment is worth backing. These are all things that require you to actually create spare time, where the mind can wander. And you mind can’t wonder if there’s a Slack message, or a TikTok video, or a WhatsApp message every second, you can’t.

Sanjay Swamy 28:00

Yeah, actually a couple of things that have worked for me recently, I actually have started blocking off a couple of days of the week, but I actually take no meetings. Right now, of course, one of our portfolio companies has an emergency, of course I’ll meet with them, but broadly, by default, the calendar is off, and those days are intended for, actually, complete thinking, research and so on. Because we are not here to make a decision about something we are seeing today, we are trying to make the prediction for what the world is going to look like 3, 5, 7, 15 years from now. And we really need to have that ability to think, for some, in the long periods of time. We might still be connected and doing research, but it’s not about meeting and understanding through third party data, we need to do primary research ourselves.

So for sure, I have two more questions. Certainly, I’m sure might have some comments as well at the end, but as you wrote this book, what did you learn about yourselves as you were trying to put down these thoughts, and are areas that, perhaps, you felt you could even do better, perhaps, where you were not already doing it. So just curious as to how that process was for the two of you. And the second, related question is, what surprised you the most about when you were writing this book, something either in terms of yourselves, and you talked to other people? It would be helpful to share that.

Nandan Nilekani 29:30

Sure, let me talk about two things, Sanjay, that I learned. One was that, define ourselves. I think I had a vague idea, but I think working with Tanuj and saying the need to have multiple identities for different activities was a learning, and that’s something which I benefited from. The other is, I think I improved my journaling or writing. I did have a practice of writing, but again, working with Tanuj on this book and the importance of that, I think I became better at it. So these are the two things I learned, and some of the practices I had, got validated, my zero inbox strategy or my filing system, which goes back 20 years. So I’ve a folder, I can pull out something. I have 20 folders on the UIDAI project, and I can pull back an email from 2009, so all those, I realized, were really very powerful things, and people have told me that they have adopted some of this and they benefited greatly.

Tanuj Bhojwani 30:25

For me, I think, actually, very similar. I think all of us think that people who are younger will have it more put together, so I also think that about 21, 22 year olds, and what I was surprised to see is that it’s actually like life is tougher for them, it’s really harder for them. And I’m also like… Some of the stuff that Nandan is saying, this define ourselves, the split identities, is a lot of things that I take from them. Because one thing that I notice, is that young people, even after, sometimes with building up a little bit of followers or whatever on social media, all of us people think that, “Okay, you invest time, you do this, or whatever.” I’ve seen young people who willy-nilly delete their account, especially after it becomes big and after it becomes whatever, they’re just willing to let go and start over.

They have fake accounts, which are now focused on their friends, and they very strictly curtail who’s there for whatever reasons, like one of my friends she’s doing her PhD, I say friend, she’s younger, she’s about five, six years younger. So she’s doing her PhD, so once her thesis advisor followed her, she created a whole new group with is 20 people on it, or 30 people on it, and now, because of that audience, what you share, and what parts of you, you share, and how much you’re actually willing to share and use social media in a much more positive way, because it’s a fake identity, close group, only some people can see. It’s very different from how you behave on social media when you have your entire social circle, mixed, looking at you.

So some of that is the same as that define ourselves etc, and I think what surprised me is that the other insight that I shared earlier, is that more people are looking for ways to switch off in a controlled manner, than they’re looking for productivity. I think this is a statement that I can now, especially after the book, also is getting reinforced, right after the book comes out, that the trouble really is that people feel like they’re always on, this is the word that I keep hearing. And I think it says something about our times and it says something about where we are.

Sanjay Swamy 32:25

Terrific. No, I personally also struggle to deal with it, that I’m also always on, and the good side is people see me as the very responsive, prompt person, but at the same time, there is almost no separation of work, home entertainment, fun, especially with a lot of the consumption also now moving to internet based, even television is like, we’ve all cut the cord, and it’s so easy to have everything in multiple tabs that are open, constantly doing everything.

And yeah, I think we’re constantly multitasking, which up to a certain point, is a strength. So one last piece, in the book you talk about the various India Stacks and a lot of the exciting things that are coming up there, while the related topic is a big topic in itself, but maybe, Nandan, you could give a short overview of that part of the book. And how you see some of these things evolving, and it’s been such a fabulous decade for India over the last 10 years, and the best is yet to come, though, yeah.

Nandan Nilekani 33:22

Yeah, Sanjay, I think this is a great topic and I’m personally very excited, because we have come a long way in the last 10 years, we built Aadhaar platform for 1.3 billion people that does 50 million authentications a day. UPI by NPCI has gone from hundred thousand transactions in October, 2016, to 4.5 billion transactions. And to me, the most exciting thing is when I go down to a walk, I see a vegetable vendor taking UPI payment. And that means that’s really transformational, that we have reached the 10 rupee vegetable buyer, to be able to sell with UPI. But I think lots of exciting things for the coming years, we have the whole account aggregator framework coming out, and for India, with the only country in the world where individuals and companies will be able to use their own data moving forward.

So an individual can use data to get a loan or better service, a company can get a business loan, or an individual can get a wealth management solution using data. So account aggregate is a big one. I think ONDC, the open commerce is going to be big, and we’ll, for the first time, have an interoperable protocol where any retailer, a small retailer, every supplier, any delivery company,can plug into these open protocols.

Because what we are learning is that, as our lives really become digital, it’s very important that everybody be able to participate, and that’s what ONDC does, and the many, many other things happening, I think the health stack that Ayushman Bharat is doing, the skill stuff we just got announced in the budget, the education stuff. So now, India is in a fascinating place where a large number of digital public goods are getting created, and they are created in a way that the government facilitates the rails, but the innovation is done by entrepreneurs. And we have seen big companies emerge out of UPI and so on. So clearly there is a role for entrepreneurs to study the emerging rails that are coming and figure out how they can create exciting companies, and realize that this is not the same as China or the US. We have a different, vast digital stack, which they have to adapt to, and they can do very well in that.

Sanjay Swamy 35:35

Wonderful. So Nandan, Tanuj, thank you so much for being on our show. I know these are all topics where we can deep dive into, and probably do our long podcasts and more in themselves, but really appreciate your spending the time, and I’m sure our audience would be quite thrilled to hear about this. And I’m sure many will pick up the book and read it. I’ve enjoyed reading it myself, thank you.

Nandan Nilekani 35:58

Thanks Sanjay, take care, all the best. Bye-bye

Sanjay Swamy 36:00

Thanks, Nandan. Thanks, Tanuj.

Tanuj Bhojwani 36:02

Thank you, Sanjay.

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