Mark Zuckerberg once spent nearly a month traveling around India because Steve Jobs suggested it would help him reconnect with Facebook’s mission.
Zuckerberg shared the story for the first time publicly on Sunday during a town hall with Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India. The Facebook founder and CEO described a “tough patch” in the early days of Facebook, when some people thought he should sell the company to one of the interested buyers. So Zuckerberg went to see Jobs, who he described as one of his mentors. Jobs, he said, told him to visit a temple in India that he had visited.
“…he told me that in order to reconnect with what I believed as the mission of the company I should visit this temple that he had gone to in India early on in his evolution of thinking about what he wanted Apple and his vision of the future to be,” Zuckerberg said during the town hall, according to a video of the event.
“So I went and I traveled for almost a month, and seeing the people, seeing how people connected, and having the opportunity to feel how much better the world could be if everyone had a stronger ability to connect reinforced for me the importance of what we were doing and that is something I’ve always remembered over the last 10 years as we’ve built Facebook.” Zuckerberg, of course, didn’t end up selling Facebook, and instead opted to take the company public. Now, nearly 1.5 billion people use Facebook each month, and the company currently has a market capitalization of over $254 billion.
Neeb Karori Baba: The man who changed Mark’s life
Facebook was yet to become a daily habit of about a billion and half people. Zuckerberg flew down to Pantnagar, about 65 km from Nainital, and then drove to the ashram of Neeb Karori (often called Neem Karoli) Baba, who died in 1973 but continues to enchant several high-profile Americans. Zuckerberg landed up with just a book in his hand without even a change of clothes. “He was wearing a trouser which was torn at one knee,” Vinod Joshi, the secretary of the trust that manages the temple and ashram told the Economic Times.
Zuckerberg was supposed to spend only one day, but stayed for two because Pantnagar was hit by a storm and flights could not take off. The ashram, located beside a bubbling brook and surrounded by tall pine-forested mountains, itself is small for a saint who has an elite following that includes Hollywood star Julia Roberts. It has five shrines, including one for his favourite Hanuman. Many of the Baba’s devotees believe he himself was the monkey God incarnate. Opposite the shrines is a white building with square columns where the sage used to live. “We call it the White House,” Joshi says.
“You went to a temple with a lot of hope, and look how much you’ve achieved since then,” the Indian prime minister replied, according to a translation from NPR.