Tasos Calantzis of Readymade, South Africa is one of my close collaborators on the work we want to do focusing on the emerging markets and the bottom of the pyramid. On a Skype call with him this morning I was moved to share an aspect of my personal story that I rarely talk or refer to, and may have only once written about.
Today I believe that it is more than just another facet of my personal shame but an integral part of who I am and why I am motivated to do what I do in both my personal and professional life.
On the 17th of November, 2000, at 7am, outside of an apartment block in Monroeville, PA I stood shivering with both the cold and panic with a small suitcase. I was waiting for a friend of mine who attended our 8am Strategy class together at the University of Pittsburgh’s Bschool to come pick me up. I was also very very afraid throughout this period of waiting that my then husband would wake up and discover that I had left.
You see, he became violent the previous night. Up until then, it had been manageable. I had come here as an Indian bride, a week after the wedding, [have you seen Monsoon Wedding?] of an H1B software engineer in the spring of 1998. I left my friends, my family and my business behind in New Delhi.
At that time, I had no advanced degree, no visa status other than as a "dependent spouse", no credit card, no credit rating, no job, no income other than my scholarship and some stafford loans. My only blessing were all the friends I’d made at school. After that I completed my final semester of the MBA with high security [my classmates ensured I was always escorted home after class and looked out for me during school, he showed up once on Valentine’s Day] with just a 3.6 🙂 I was so dissapointed to get B’s for a couple of classes during this time. But I was also managing with ptsd at that time.
Six years later, we’re focusing on observing those at the bottom of the pyramid, those who have no education, no jobs, no skills, all of whom have innovatively integrated the cellphone into their lives in order to find more ways and means to earn a living. Possibly even improve their quality of life. This is my dream.
You see, when you have nothing, and you must struggle to build a life, everything little thing that you can do with the least amount of outlay helps. When one small, albeit very expensive device, can be your office, your receptionist, your appointment diary and hopefully, eventually, your desktop, your eyes are opened to all the possibilities available out there in the world.
The internet did for me, can we not provide a similar opportunity on the mobile platform for millions of others who have nothing?
Ps. Oh the irony of ironies, he proposed to me today, the 30th of October in 1997.