Our Senior Director of Citizenship Akhtar Badshah, who leads Microsoft’s global corporate philanthropy and community initiatives, recently traveled to India to accept an award for Global CSR Excellence and Leadership at the World CSR Congress, where he spoke about Microsoft YouthSpark as an example of a global CSR program.
Akhtar travels a lot, so we snagged him before his next trip – to Jakarta next week to speak in front of 80,000 young people about YouthSpark – for an “Ask Me Anything” session about his India trip.
What’s the most striking difference you see in your international trips now, versus when you joined MSFT eight years ago?
The issue of access to technology is much less. When first travelling into the more remote locations access was a major issue. Now you can get wireless connections just about anywhere. There is someone with a mobile phone even in a remote village. The issue now is what services we are bringing to these communities so that they can benefit from them. Yet poverty still persists and many folks are still living in these same environments for decades – so change for them is still slow.
What is one thing you learned during your visit to India?
People are very resilient – they are always trying to overcome adversity and they do so with a smile. Also people are always investing in the future and in their kids’ education as they believe that is their path out of poverty.
Tell us about the most inspiring young person you met on this trip to India.
I met two girls in Chennai at a training center who come from the Muslim community. They were fully veiled and their parents were very concerned about sending them out of the house yet they were attending classes at this center and want to go on to become doctors. All young people have aspirations and it is our role through our partners to provide them with the opportunity and pathway to do so.
What is your favorite food while traveling in India, what makes it special?
Idli and Dosa – this is South Indian food – Idli is made from rice dough and if white and puffy very light and can be eating with some chutney’s. Dosa is a crepe also made from rice dough. I like eating both mostly for breakfast as they can get a bit heavy, but in South India this is a staple food.
Have you ever danced in the moonlight on the beach in India?
Have done this many decades ago as a young person on my trip to Goa in the early 70’s. Not done that since. Did though dance on the beach in Phuket Thailand on New Year’s eve a year or so ago with the family. Always great to feel the sand under your feet and toes.
If you could have one super power – activated only when you travel -- what would it be and why?
I want a travel transporter – beam me up Scotty -- so I can just get where I need to be without the hassle of travel. I also want a body double so I can be in two places at the same time 🙂
When does the Ganges look most romantic – sunset or sunrise?
Sunrise especially at the Ghats in Varanasi when you have all of these folks out there praying at the banks of the river. It just looks mythical and magical.
Akhtar lights the traditional oil camp to inaugurate the Aide et Action class graduation from the Perambur Training Center in Chennai, India. The students completed the YouthSpark course through the center and are learning to become auto mechanics.