Updated: October 29, 2015 1:01:59 pm
Dressed in his trademark round neck T-shirt and jeans, Mark Zuckerberg could have passed off as an exchange student at IIT-Delhi, but then he is one of the most recognised people in the world. However, these boyish looks and demeanor of one of the most powerful business leaders in the world is also what helps him connect with a crowd of students at one of India’s premier institutes.
So despite the hundreds of youngsters lined up outside, it did not take long for IIT-Delhi’s iconic Dogra Hall to fill up with a crowd consisting predominantly of those associated to the institute. Inside the Amphitheatre-shaped hall, everyone was peering into their phones, busy posting selfies and updates on the social network. No wonder Zuckerberg loves India.
India is all set to become Facebook’s largest demography sometime next year, it already accounts for close to a tenth of its 1.49 billion monthly active users. So it was no surprise that the first question was about why “he is so interested in India”. The answer was as simple as the question. “We cannot connect everyone in the world without connecting everyone in India,” he said, adding that “ideas that entrepreneurs and students have here are those that the rest of the world does not have access to.” That is why he is so keen on connecting India’s next billion.
The students had milled into the hall an hour before Mark Zuckerberg made his appearance on the stage. There was clearly a gleam of excitement on those faces, a bit of curiosity and of course respect when the 31-year-old was ushered on stage by Facebook’s India policy head Ankhi Das. The hall knows that Zuckerberg wouldn’t have been much older than when he set up the first version of his social network. That thought holds a lot of promise for those for the audience and, of course, respect for the man on stage.
And there was no doubt that the questions were being asked at a school of science and there were queries on artificial intelligence, virtual reality and developer kits. Zuckerberg said he saw existing products becoming more intelligent instead of completely new products come into the picture. “It would be really cool if computers could see the world people do… That is the kind of thing I am excited about.”
Another student, who introduced himself as Phani, and Zuckerberg heard as funny, much to the crowds glee, asked what he would have done if he had super natural powers. After a pause came the answer: “One of the good things about technology is how you can create super powers for the common man.”
Setting the rules of the chat, Facebook had said they would not talk about financials. But the man who set up a company that now has a valuation of over $250 billion did give some sound advise on how to set up a company and how not to fear about making mistakes. Zuckerberg said IIT-Delhi was one of the top technology institutes in the world and said students here should be confident that what they were learning here was exactly what was needed to create things for the world.
Some in the crowd like former student Surabhi Yadav found the responses inspiring, though she wanted him to deep dive into Internet.org and net neutrality. As the one-hour session ended there were quite a few who could not ask questions. Chetan loved the interaction, but wanted to ask where Zuckerberg saw Facebook two decades on. Zuckerberg might not have been able to answer Chetan, but he sure said he had realised from responses to his Town Hall post how important it was to fix unwanted Candy Crush requests on Facebook and was working on a fix. “This is the kind of feedback I expected.”
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