Train18: A success or a failure? Some perspective

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So India’s Train18 (Vande Bharat Express) made its maiden journey – and like any new product, it did face teething issues.

The train broke down 200 kms from Delhi and though the issue was fixed fast, there are questions being raised on India’s capability to build world class technology products.

Fair question, esp when the country is not really known (anymore) for building indigenous products (leaving what ISRO does).

There are 2 ways to look at this:

  • Call it a failure – which is a fav game among Indians (that is to bring down anything which is different and looks courageous).
  • Call it a great proof of concept. After all, trying out ambitious projects like this requires certain vision and like any great product, there will always be challenges and learning along the way.

The reality is somewhere in the middle. And here is what is happening.

Indian engineers have done a phenomenal job building Train18 in a record time (18 months) and while the launch issues will be ironed out (I hope really soon), the govt is already claiming it to be a success (this goes as a bullet point in the upcoming election).

  1. The citizens would expect a certain level of product predictability, largely because of the hype surrounding it (and the fact that Modi govt will claim it a success , irrespective of what happens with the project).
  2. Give it time and space, creators are screaming.
    Ideally, one would expect citizens to respect home-made innovation and give some time/space for the product to settle down (in terms of predictable performance), but it’s not gonna happen with Train18.

This is akin to a startup which has a huge pre-launch promotion and a long waiting queue, only to unveil a product which doesn’t work as expected; and now the creators are asking for a fair trial (+ expect you to respect them for what they did).

It won’t happen and if you are part of the engg team of this project, kudos to you. But please do understand that this is also a political product (just like any corporate).

If you are trying to be on either side of the evaluation (i.e. term the product a failure vs a great PoC), my sincere advise would be to neither over-celebrate nor turn a cynic (don’t be judging all the time).

This is, unfortunately a political battle – but do cheer for the engineering talent and effort which has gone behind all of this.

India is changing and these are harbingers of a new era.

Bat for the makers. Always !
(and to hell with politicians and their dirty games).

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