Desi Back to Desh

Between airports, airplanes and transit lounges

Dear Sergey and Larry…

Dear Sergey and Larry

Greetings from the land of the pure.

I am sure you have heard of our lovely country (official motto: we are in the news again) and the more than 8 million loyal Google customers who are slightly miffed at you. We are the ones who advertise online using Adwords and Admob, showoff our latest Android devices, create and promote channels with fresh desi (ethnic) videos on YouTube, uploads apps on Google play , attend your events in large numbers and search for educational, professional, (and quite often not so innocent) content online. We have dissed Vimeo and the Apple iPhone and had a torrid affair with Chrome on the side; we can’t stand Bing and Microsoft Office and when it comes to mail and docs, you haven’t seen usage and utilization till you see the insides of a Pakistani Gmail account or a Google doc folder. For a penny per capita we give your servers the best run for your money.

Over your last decade of association with this nation we have done a lot of interesting things together. You gave us Badar, who in turn showed us why you were such a sweeter and gentler partner than the living dead on the shores of Redmond. You also gave us the Android platform which freed us from the tyranny of Mr. Jobs and the ’84ish Orwellian iPad. Together we have built many companies and brands that would not exist if it wasn’t for your tools and the speed of your response. From Coke studios to the P@SHA Social Innovation Fund; from our presence at Google IO to yours at the P@SHA ICT Awards. For a change it was so refreshing to deal with a business with more money than God that wasn’t truly evil; represented by geeks and technologists like us who respected our country as a market and took us, our potential and our priorities, seriously.

In ten years you have  built so much goodwill in this country by simply being you. Whether it was sponsoring our events, funding our local competitions, using your influence to help us out with our own folks in Islamabad or opening your heart when it came to flood relief or technology innovation in Pakistan.

Unfortunately it appears that you  have no idea how quickly that goodwill is evaporating these days. Not because you don’t care! Possibly, because you have received bad advice from your senior team members. From everything we have heard and read they are all incredibly smart people but they all suffer from the same flaw. They don’t understand how our land of the pure is actually laid out. Other than our mutual friend Eric, who had a bite with us earlier this year, I am not sure if Pakistan has really been on anyone’s travel itinerary on the other side of the Pacific ocean.

Or maybe it is the numbers. I admit 8 million customers only generate US$ 2 million a year in tangible revenue, but they are still customers; customers of your products that rely on Google to give them a consistent quality experience, come what may.

I started working with your tools at Columbia Business School in the fall of 1999 when a fellow MBA student who had interned with you showed how relevant Google Search results were compared to AltaVista. Today I run a Youtube channel on an exotic financial topic (derivative pricing) with more than 50,000 views that I can’t access or upload new content to. I teach at a business school where students used YouTube to upload their power point pitches, that I can no longer grade. I judge a regional technology competition where we force participants to upload their pitches to YouTube so that we can judge them remotely and online that we can no longer access.

I also run a portfolio of sites that generate 50,000 pageviews a month that have became a pain to analyze through analytics. I used to look forward to my interaction with Google – webmaster every afternoon. But the same daily webmaster appointment has become a source of dread. And we haven’t even spoken about my adwords, adsense, Google books, Google publisher and Google wallet accounts. I agree not all of my fellow 8 million Pakistani Google customers share the same profile. Not everyone is a teacher, a technology event organizer or a judge or a mentor or a MBA from Columbia or even an active technology entrepreneur. Not 8 million; certainly. But there are 250,000 Pakistanis like me who do use and work with technology and Google products every day to earn a living.

Or shall I say used to work with Google products. Not because we hate you or are angry at you. No, because 250,000 active loyal customers can no longer access your products in Pakistan. Analytics, webmaster and Adwords accounts have slowed to a crawl. Gmail can no longer be accessed on our android devices. Docs, Apps and Play are dead in the water.

250,000 active loyal Google customers who feel that they have been ditched and dumped by Google.

This letter is not about religion or belief systems. It is not about hate filled YouTube videos. And it’s not about whether your team really understands or even cares to understand how things work here in the land of the pure. It’s about customers who now need to find alternatives to a set of great products because it is no longer viable for them to trust Google to take care of them and their needs.

I understand your point of view. Why should you care about this place that you have never visited or interacted with? This group of rowdy & abusive protestors who refuse to understand your value system and your right to free speech. I also understand the concept of free enterprise and your right to your will to do what you really want to do come what may; or what we want. I also understand your frustration with big government everywhere including ours. And I also understand your decision to not bend in to any instance of perceived or real arm twisting or coercion. I have lived and worked in the US and I have had night long debates with many friends across geographies on just the same issue. I get it.

There is one thing that I don’t get. Why am I suffering as a Google product user? I have no influence or access in Islamabad. I didn’t vote for this government. The party that I voted for are not in power and have even less of a say than I have in this town. I haven’t seen the video and I don’t plan to see it. I detest what is being done in the name of religion on both sides. I don’t condone violence or hate or politics for personal gains. I am just a single customer whose total revenue contribution to your business or your paycheck is an infinitely small speck. But despite the size of that infinitely small speck, I am still your customer.

You are big, certainly bigger than Government of Pakistan, and more influential. The Government of Pakistan is orders of magnitude larger, bigger, and heavier than  my measly little soul or my sorry excuse of a business. Can’t the two of you just kiss and make up and leave me alone to feeding my children and the families of my employees. And if for some odd reason you find our interior minister just as repugnant and incompetent as I do, don’t kiss him. Just find a different play ground to play the game the two of you have been playing with each other.

Just leave this little sandpit of a market for us kiddies to play in. There is no room for rowdy, misbehaving, elephants here.

I am not sure when or if, ever, you will get to see this. There are all sorts of lame “Open letters to Sergey and Larry…” floating around  the web (I know I did a Google search this morning). I am not sure even when you see it, if you will go ahead and read it. Not even sure if after a long series of improbable ifs, if you can or will do anything about it.

But given my little voice that is all I can do. Speak. Speak as a Google customer. Speak not just for myself but other technology professionals in Pakistan who are being made to pay for deciding to use your products. Speak for 8 million Google product customers across Pakistan who have been ditched by Google to make a point.

An important point, I admit; a worthy and completely defensible position from your perspective. But a disappointing stance from the point of view of a small customer who is still trying to work through TOR to meet his deadlines and his commitments to his customers – small and large. Disappointed because he can’t understand why while he stands by his commitment to his customers across the world, this infinitely large enterprise run by infinitely smart people with infinitely more resources will not stand by theirs.

Maybe because they have never run TOR on a PTCL connection in Pakistan.



, , ,