NP: Fascinating! At AIF, we focus a lot on STEM education for girls. They will relate a lot to Indra’s experience. Here’s an interesting next question for Indra. “Your book calls for government and businesses to prioritize the care ecosystem, including paid leave and work flexibility. What would these benefits have meant to you throughout your journey?“
IN: I was lucky to have them. Had I not had them, I would have been in crisis. When my father was ill, I was given paid leave by Boston Consulting Group. When I had my children, I had maternity leave. When I was in a car accident, I was given paid leave. Most of the time I lived in a multi-generational home, so I had a support structure from my in-laws and my mother. That helped. Not all people have that benefit.
The only good thing about COVID is that it’s now taught businesses and families how to work flexibly and work hybrid. I wish I had had that flexibility when I was working, because I’d have gone home at 3, taken my kids off the bus, spent some time with them, and then gone back to work around 5 or 6 or maybe after dinner. I didn’t have that luxury at all. And I had to travel a lot.
AB: Also Nishant, we need to remember that half of America’s working population doesn’t have the choice to work remotely, even now. They are the people who kept us going. From Amazon employees, to the police, firefighters, hospital attendants.
We’re going to need different solutions for different kinds of folks. But the end goal has got to be the same. Give people the chance to get adequate access to childcare. Whatever be that model of work we go back to, we’ve got to help them.
NP: We can take one more. This is for both of you. Is there anything you would tell your younger self?
IN: What would you tell your younger self, Ajay?
AB: I would say I’m still young, Indra. [Laughter]
IN: You know, I wish I’d been born today with all this technology around. If I was gone for 10 days, for every one of the 10 days I would write letters beforehand for each of the kids. “Today I’m in Beijing. Beijing is this way.” I made it up. So that if I’m in Beijing, they will be given the Beijing letter. If I’m in Bangkok, they’ll be given the Bangkok letter. Today, I can just FaceTime them from Beijing and say, “Look at the Great Wall, look at this and look at that.”
But there’s no point regretting it. Somebody else is going to benefit from the technology. So I guess that’s what I would tell my younger self. Just be happy you did what you did and live the rest of your time in a constructive way.
NP: Thank you, Indra and Ajay, for your time and for sharing your wisdom and experience with us in an open and honest conversation.