I often wonder who reads my books. I’m very lucky to receive contacts from all over the world. One morning I discovered an email message headed ‘A Letter from a 14 Year Old Boy’. It was from Mumbai, and he was asking if I would mind sending him a copy of one of my books, specifically the one on analytics and insurance. (On the basis of his age and privacy, I won’t share his name or his photograph, which he kindly sent me.)
I was curious about who he was and why he was interested so we shared some emails. He explained about his curiosity about analytics and financial services. I in turn shared with him how my own personal interest in both topics had occurred and developed, from my early days as an engineer working in Chennai 40 years ago, through to ultimately becoming a worldwide executive for an international technology company.
But I also wondered about three things.
Why India? In all the 50 or more countries that my books are selling in, what is it about India specifically as a place that would make a 14 year old boy write to me on such a relatively complex topic? After all, I hadn’t received any other messages from 14 year olds – and possibly none from anyone under the age of 25 or 30 (although I don’t usually ask correspondents for their age!)
What was it about this particular boy? Was he super clever through being well-read? Were his family directing him towards the technology industry in some way? Perhaps was his school was sufficiently forward thinking and made him aware of the importance of data and analytics in the future of work?
What would he do with the knowledge he might gain? Maybe everything he sees around him increasingly is infused with data and technology, but it’s a big step from being aware to being able to apply that insight.
The first question seemed perhaps easiest to answer. India is on a definite upwards trajectory in terms of technology innovation, with growth in Fintech in 2021 for example expected grow by up to 20% year on year. A combination of Government initiatives, collaboration between banks and start-ups, and the availability of funds is increasingly making India one of the global technology ‘Engine Rooms’. Beyond that, Indian tech is also seen as being innovative especially as state-backed cryptocurrency combines with an extended, blockchain-infused internet. And beyond all this, India also has scale which allows pilots to be effectively tested.
The second question was harder. Why would this boy be interested? Of course it must be partly a function of his family and what he is seeing around him, but I suspected that his school has a major part to play. I took time to look at the school’s website which explained how they nurtured their students not only to learn but to have other key attributes such as confidence. Without confidence, how could a young man like him dare to reach out and ask for a copy of my book. It’s the same confidence that he will need as he copes with the world of business and commerce when he is older.
It also reminded me of the importance of having well-informed teachers who can give correct and timely advice to their students. With so many students studying technology at university and going into that line of work, it is essential that there are effective interfaces between education and business to ensure that the curriculum is adequately aligned with the needs of the workplace in the future. How can we prepare our kids for 2050 if they are being taught in a way which is more like 1950?
The third question was a little trickier, and we shared emails. Would he become something in finance, or maybe a technologist? Like many Indian boys, he had an interest in cricket and we discussed the use of data and analytics in sport including the cross-over between sport, finance and insurance. My comments seemed to create a spark of thought – perhaps one days he might become one of the world’s leading ‘sports financial technologists’, whatever that is.
I sent him a copy of my book, by the way. Perhaps it will teach him that if he is prepared to ‘ask’, then perhaps he might ‘get’. He had nothing to lose. In fact, he gave me a vital reminder in that we can never sit and wait for things to come to us, but sometimes need to actively seek them.
In this case, the boy mentored the man.