The Glaring Gap: A Tale of Two Countries

A quick case study:

2010, USA
I was looking for my masters transcripts. For some reason I wasnt able to locate them. It was urgent and I needed them in 4 days. Getting paranoid about having lost my originals, I tried to contact my University. Logged onto the internet and then the university website. There was a link under Academics/Office/Transcripts & Verifications that said “Request Original Records”.
Clicked on the link.
It took me to another website that had a repository of all student records.
This website allows any past student (of any year) of any of the (almost all) universities registered with website to request for transcripts. I provided my credentials.
Opted for expedited shipping.
Entered my credit card details ($25 for expedited shipping. $5 for standard shipping).
Submitted my order. 2 days later, UPS had delivered my transcript to my address.

2008, INDIA
I was in urgent need of my college to provide me a verification letter. I called up the university from my phone because I lived in another city. The college website didnt have any relevant information except the college address and the office phone number. I didnt have a choice. I decided to travel to the place that Friday. The plan was to go to the college on Saturday and get my work done. I went to the administration office at 10 am.
I went to a desk. Asked for a verification about my originals as I needed another copy of the same.
I was asked why I wanted it. I explained.
Then the gentleman pointed to another desk that was empty. And said I had to wait for another person to help me.
I waited. Took a stroll around the campus of my alma mater. Trip down memory lane (not very recent though) of all the college days.
Came back to the office.
The person who had to help me was now stepping out for his 11 am tea.
I requested for help as I had the afternoon bus to catch to get back to my city.
He then shocked me and said “Give me something for tea”
I didnt understand. Then made sense of his words.
I was angry,but I didnt have the time to waste. I shelled out a Rs 100 note.
He asked for a 100 more.
I shelled out another Rs 100 note.
He went in. Verified my documents. Provided me the letter.
And as I left he said “Dont tell anyone ok?”
I nodded. And rushed out of the campus gates of my alma mater.
I made it to the bus with just 10 minutes to go

I wouldnt blame the university or the college because this is a moral question thats about a few immoral people. As always..its only the odd apple that is rotten. But if there were efficient systems in place, perhaps I wouldnt have to go through this agony.

The above case study is enough for us to appreciate the glaring differences between an advanced economic super power and an overstated economic ‘always developing’ country of enormous potential.
With corruption in every domain making news in our country, its time for efficient systems in place that can cut out red-tape. There are lots of things that we can write about and suggest. I will pick just 3. Please feel free to add more in the comments

1. Unique Id
This project being spear-headed by Nandan Nilekani can be the game-changer in India’s quest to become a more organized and efficient economy. When every citizen is uniquely repositoried in databases and when that data is shared and re-used across different systems and government departments, a lot of red-tape will be elminated.

2. Internet Access
An enormous percentage of our populace still does not have access to high-speed internet. Considering that smart phones are on the rise, 3G is kicking up in the country, and almost everyone today has a a mobile phone, its important to ensure that internet access is easy and affordable to as many people in as many locations in the country.
Also related here is the mental shift in the minds of the consumers/citizens: My dad still thinks twice about using the internet to shop for something. That has got to change. We need to believe in the power of the internet, and trust our resources with it. Yes there are pros and cons, the viruses, the hacks and the privacy – but there is still a value in using the internet for efficiency and productivity

3. Internet Apps
A lot of talk has been about social media like Facebook, Twitter and the like. Yes. These are important marketing channels. But beyond that, companies need to provide avenues for customers to transact online. A lot of companies are not yet doing this. They use social media to get customers on their websites and read about their product, but the call-to-action is again to go through a series of steps either offline or online to buy their product.
Merchants, vendors, business houses, corporates: message for all of these is pretty much on the wall – get your business on the internet. Allow customers to buy your services on via the internet. Create a web-store. Allow customers to pay via the internet. Create online systems that link your inventory with shipping houses such as UPS, FedEx, BlueDart, DHL. There is more…but we need to start thinking.

Keep your comments folks!

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5 thoughts on “The Glaring Gap: A Tale of Two Countries

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  2. Anand Kumar says:

    Good observation. Sadly all that you have mentioned is correct. But as you also mention about the solutions, these things are going to weed out over a period of time. We are just about 60 year old democracy and with such huge population, there are problems bound to come our ways. USA, the country, that you have mentioned has a big positive in terms of population. Lesser the population, easier to manage. Imagine any of the city in US, with 1/6th of the current area and about 2-3 times the exisiting population. That will itself cause chaos in the most efficient system. Do not forget to add, the education level of the citizens etc.

    So despite all the ho halla about a developing india and all, it will take a while. Probably a few generations.

    However on the brighter side if you see, more recently, many corruption scams are coming to the fore and people are being chased. This won’t have happened, say 20 years ago. So we can believe positively that changes are happening and will happen. India will never become USA, never should be strive to become USA because of the basic differences in terms of area, population etc etc. However we can definitely become better than what we are. At least more organized in the sense you are wishing.

    One more thing that I would request, we as a citizen need to do our own bit as well. If nothing, at least we can make people aware, those who need to be aware whenever we have a chance. That will go a long way. Every drop is important.

    Let us remain positive.

  3. niti says:

    actually it goes without saying that technology can just be a “backbone” to making life easier.. and its not that immorality is less in the US.
    just as we need new ideas and technology in India … well the few immoral people exist just the same way in the US as in India… in fact the percentage and effect may be much more there than in India actually! For eg.. just how Madoff created mayhem on Wall Street eating up the savings of so many ppl in his ponzi..

    and its “we” who need to bring the change…

  4. After reading this all i wanted is just to remind here
    ” if you mess it gets messier”

    pay and finish else you will rot there fighting for it,nothing much may happen.

  5. Samrat Patil says:

    We have PAN numbers in place.
    Eliminate cash money of denominations greater than Rs. 50.
    Every thing should be done using cards or\with biometrics .
    Will eliminate a lot of black money and effectively arrest corruption, except the one odd demand for chai pani like in you’re case.
    But who are we kidding.

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