What if Steve Jobs were prime minister of India?

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from San Francisco: India was a key detour in the earthly journey of Steve Jobs. He came to Benares in the early 1970s looking for what most hippies did back then: nirvana.

When he asked Kairolie Baba, a sadhu, on how to attain it, apparently all he got in return was a clean shave of his head on a hilltop.

From that experience, we can conjecture that Jobs probably learnt to always keep aiming higher, give people something they never knew they wanted, and to keep it all sufficiently mystical and secretive (and pricey).

Thus suitably enlightened, “Swami Steveananda” returned home to set up Apple Ashram, ushering in what he didn’t get in Benares—nirvana albeit of the digital kind—to millions of cultish disciples by marrying beauty with utility.

In the process, he transmogrified an almost-dead brand into becoming bigger than Google and vying with Exxon Mobil on the stock markets.

Maybe that was the easy part for someone who “lived at the intersection of technology and liberal arts“.

But what if Steve Jobs were in the position of Manmohan Singh?

After all, the Congress is in the shit-hole as Apple found itself in, when Jobs returned for his second stint. A once-good brand fallen in bad times with the younger opponents snapping at its heels, accompanied by diminishing public acceptance and street cred.

So, yes, what would Steve Jobs have done had he been in prime minister Manmohan Singh’s shoes?

1. Show who’s the boss: Steve Jobs was neither a hardware engineer nor a software programmer, nor certainly a manager, yet as its CEO and “technology leader” he was the face and voice of Apple, in good times and bad, and proudly so.

As Manmohan Singh, Jobs would have stood up and be counted, instead of blaming the demands of coalition politics or hinting at a plot to destabilise the polity for his plight. Or running for cover from colleagues (like Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, Digvijay Singh or Mani Shankar Aiyar) constantly shooting him in the foot.

In doing so, Jobs would have cleared the negative perception among the people and within his party over who really runs the government: he, she or he.

2. Launch a killer product: Like a bad Indian restaurant which churns out everything from South Indian to North Indian food, with Chinese, Chaat, Continental and Mughlai thrown in, the Congress tries to do please all, in the process pleasing few or none.

As Manmohan Singh, Jobs would have come up with one killer idea or concept, kept it neat, simple and minimalistic so that the voters would understand, and kept making it better till he perfected it in time for the elections.

And that killer concept can’t be foreign policy. It’s got to be something like iPod and iPhone and iPad: something which the people can see, touch, feel and connect with. A bit like NREGA from UPA-I.

He could even call it “i” something, “i” for Indira that is.

3. Make peace with the enemy: Here’s what they don’t teach you at Oxford and Cambridge (or at World Bank). If you are prime minister of India, there’s no point fighting with the people of India about how to deal with corruption when gigantic godzillas of scams are running amok.

Which is what Singh’s buffoons like Kapil Sibal, P. Chidambaram, Manish Tiwari, Renuka Chowdhury et al are doing vis-a-vis the Lok Pal bill nightly on television.

As Manmohan Singh, Jobs who didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge would have clearly identified the enemy—which is corruption—and made peace with those who would like it vanquished—which is the people—and laid out a road map for Parliament to pass it, without sending the signal that the Congress somehow has a vested interest in protecting the crooked and the corrupt.

4. Talk to us: Whether he had good news to convey or bad, whether he was in great shape or not, Steve Jobs stood up on stage in his trademark black turtle neck pullover and blue jeans to deliver the message.

As Manmohan Singh, Jobs would have capitalised on his honesty and integrity to come clean, to clarify, to tell it like it is, instead of allowing those the people distrust and dislike (see shortlists above) to further tie his government in knots.

As Singh, Jobs would have shown plenty of passion, and made one stunning speech or given a great interview instead of hiding behind the anodyne speeches of his media advisors, delivered deadpan like a post-lunch lecture at Delhi school of economics.

Also read: 3 lessons from the life and times of Steve Jobs

:Amazon kindles a fire in a small Apple harem

It isn’t so easy to woo an iPhone4 user, sister

Adolf Hitler and the rise and fall of iPad

An Apple a day keeps Steve Jobs away from us

What if Microsoft, not Apple, had made iPod

11 similarities betwen Apple and Rajnikant

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23 Responses to “What if Steve Jobs were prime minister of India?”

  1. Rastrakoota Says:

    “Steve jobs-Stay Hungry,Stay foolish” reads the churumuri slogan. Thats a super tribute to a great man.Thanks Churumuri.

  2. dhyan Says:

    Will he get a Nobel? Any awards from our dreaded country.

  3. Objectivist Mantra Says:

    If India could have a Prime Minister like Steve Jobs, India would be heaven. At least a man like Steve Jobs, would not sell his soul, and country as well, in the name of so-called “coalition dharma.”

    The present govt. in India expects Indians to live on Rs. 32 per day.

    In name of promoting technology, are govt. is now trying to sell us a junk plastic tablet of $35 to Indian students. Why don’t they just reduce the taxes on IT products, the price will automatically come down. Why don’t they just reform the economy, the incomes will rise and Indian students will be able to afford the best iPad.

    The ridiculous idea of offering a $35 tablet to Indian students would not seem as bizarre if we take into account the fact that this is a govt. that expects the hapless “aam admi” to subsist at mere Rs. 32 per day. The top leaders of this govt. expect Indians to lead a substandard life in every possible way. They expect us to live on Rs 32 a day and use a lousy so-called tablet, which is less powerful than the mobile devices we are currently using. How little understanding these leaders have of the needs and aspirations of the people.

    If we had someone like Steve Jobs in power, at least we won’t have this kind of substandard tablet of $35 foisted on us with so much fanfare. Steve Jobs would have died a million times before launching such a stupid tablet.

  4. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Ugly tribute and extremely unfunny!

  5. kannadiga Says:

    Probably the most childish article I’ve seen in a while.

  6. Mysooruboyz Says:

    No change..he would still have to rely on goons like Karuna and the commies to form a government….

  7. dhyan Says:

    Indian market was so untouchable to Steve Jobs that even with hefty contributions from software engineers from India Apple does not think of opening a shop in India and we call this economic liberalization.
    Please don’t compare him with Manmohan. Shameful comparison. Comparing Chethan Bhagat with our Jnanpeeth awardees

  8. M Says:

    The above listed demerits were actually the qualifications that lead to selection of Manmohan Singh the G family. If Singh had even an iota of Jobs’ qualities then he was disappeared in an unexplainable helicopter crash.

  9. India RIPs Steve Jobs | BG Mahesh | Mahesh | mahesh.com Says:

    […] What if Steve Jobs were prime minister of India? […]

  10. Goldstar Says:

    >> And that killer concept can’t be foreign policy. It’s got to be something like iPod and iPhone and iPad: something which the people can see, touch, feel and connect with. A bit like NREGA from UPA-I.

    May I suggest such a killer concept ? Please take this forward to any Congress leader who matters.

    The concept is – 5 KM of new railway lines per day . The idea is simple, measurable, and achievable. And it will affect the lives of so many positively that it can fetch Congress atleast 400 seats. It will lead to a resurgence in Indian economy. Please do it, MMS.

  11. sanjeeva Says:

    Churning out all kinds of eatables is not pleasing all. It is a good marketing, cater to the needs of all and make money. People do not go and eat something just because it is available. Finally, quality merits.

  12. Ramesh Raghuvanshi Says:

    If Stave Jobs were prime minister of India within week he abandoned the post and runaways from India It is impossible for him to rule the India.

  13. 'mudi'malnad Says:

    we would have known by ‘i Ndia’

  14. Faldo Says:

    @Kannadiga, Doddi Buddhi – i-Agree! We need to appreciate and respect Jobs for who he is rather than paying insincere tributes.

    Now sample this- Steve Jobs co-founded Apple in the 1970s, designed, developed and managed a successful line of computers, headed the company, then headed the company till he resigned following a power struggle, founded Next which got bought back into Apple and Jobs went on to head the company again with great success. Jobs was known for his aggressive and temperamental management style to pursue his ideas.

    If we expected the same of a politician – he would have to be somebody who founded a political party, led that party to success, then headed it for some time and left the party following a power struggle, went on to form new parties, merged back into the parent party and again went on to lead it till his last breath. Such a person would need to follow a very aggressive and demanding style in the pursuit of his vision.
    What would you call such a politician?

    What works in one case may not be applicable everywhere!

  15. Doddi Buddi Says:


    I agree and I think that politician is Narendra Modi. He meets most of the criteria you have listed.

  16. Gaby Says:

    DB,other than ‘ aggressive’ and a limited success ( in that it was not replicated outside Gujarat) I wonder which other criteria you would Modi meets from Faldo’s list. Let’s face it both the Yuvraaj and Modi are psychologically challenged characters.

  17. Nemo Says:

    Doddi Buddi,

    NaMo meets most of the criteria? Which ones mate? Did you really read Faldo’s penultimate para?

    What’s he? Superman? Spiderman? Godzilla? Hercules? Steve Jobs? All awesome things?

    Much as I dislike blind opposition to that man from the secular fundamentalists, I find the unvarnished adulation and ecstatic ejaculation by his fan boys equally nauseating.

  18. poli huduga Says:

    yen othla saar, idu? Time waste article.

  19. Nitin K S Says:


    >Let’s face it both the Yuvraaj and Modi are psychologically challenged characters

    I’m glad to find atleast one more person who seems to think the way I do:)

    Yuvraaj comes across as an IQ challenged cross between a parrot and a monkey. Great saffron hope Modi comes across a psychopath. Both are severely incomplete and one-dimensional characters and I hope none of them capture Delhi.

  20. twistleton Says:


    You have discovered the panacea for all evils besetting our beloved country- the i-phone.

    Sucks to you, Hunger and Malnitrition, we’ve got Steve Jobs, who’ll program you to history :P. Oh wait, no Steve? Too bad, that’s a great plan scuppered.

    Saddening as that thought is, Stevie boy didn’t like India, and couldn’t understand why we’re poor, so i seriously doubt if he would have made a good Prime Minister. Maybe Minister for Coming-up-with-faster-ways-of-making-technology-redundant-so-that-more-money-goes-down-the-drain, or Minister for Who-cares-how-much-it-costs-this-world-needs-more-beautiful-and-useless-things….

  21. Nastika Says:

    Steve Jobs headed a corporation & all he needed was to convince 7 member board that he is good.

    PM of India is a democratically elected. Mostly likely he/she would have paid money to voter, bought them liquor, woo the local goonda and done these atleast one every 5 years.

    This article is a futile exercise.


  22. Kitapati Says:

    Steve Jobs was a highly focussed person who had his eyes set on design elements in technology and marketing of this products. As a result of taking LSD he had a mind expansion which helped him wax eloquent on life and philosophy, the kind of which we saw in his famous stanford lecture. His inclination to Zen buddhism made him detached from several social and existential problems. Considering all these qualities Steve would be a horribly bad prime minister for a complex countey with a complex polity like India. He could not even handle the coco cola guy in apple who ousted him out of the company even though being the founder. How can he handle coalition politics. He will become so stressed and he would probably run to the himalayas to find another new Neem Karoli Baba. If hindooism bugs him too much, he will go to Sikkim/Ladakh or come to kushalnagara in coorg or sit in vipassana meditation in Igatpuri.

    We should understand that Steve Jobs was an explorer and not a know all genius like our Narayan Murthy. NRN is an arrived soul who has all the answers to humanity’s problem in general and Indian problems in specific. Steve till the very end was an inventor and a student who at the most would have redesigned the seating arrangement and interior decor of the indian parliament if the prime ministers job was thrust on him.

  23. anamika Says:

    If SteveJobs was prime Minister he would have sued you!!!

    Steve jobs is great marketeer but don’t make him more then he is.

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