Nothing draws one more than one’s own homeland. Whether it was a lucrative career in the IT industry with Tata Infotech or in Infosys, Goa has its own charm and magnetic fervour which drags back Goans. VIKANT SAHAY met with Vincent Toscano the Managing Partner of Uzoorba and understood from him how nostalgia bit him and made him come back to his village not only to pursue his business from Chorao Island but also create and provide jobs for the Goans
orn in 1973 with schooling in his village Chorao Vincent Toscano was a village topper in SSC Board examinations in 1988. Ironically, as a student of Dhempe HSSE (Science), Miramar he failed twice in 12th standard. However, an accidental six-month computer programming course brought a turnaround in his life. He topped all Goa with distinction in Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Government Polytechnic, Altinho, Panjim.
The success continued when he got First Class Honours with distinction in B.E. (Mechanical) from Goa College of Engineering, Farmagudi. From 1997-2002, Vincent worked a systems engineer at Tata Infotech Ltd.,Pune. From 2003 he started working as Associate Consultant for Infosys Limited and left as Industry Principal in 2015.However, he found solace with his beloved homeland, Goa, becoming a global centre of innovation, creativity and enlightenment over a strong foundation of a locally sustainable technology industry, it became too irresistible for Vincent Toscano to come back home.
“My father’s demise from old age at my Pune residence and the frequent visits to Goa during those times, requiring me to drive up to Choraoisland hills for receiving broadband connectivity to manage my large multi-location offshore teams at Infosys which were working on a 100+ country project at that time brought home the realization of the feasibility of doing IT work from our villages instead of dragging people to metros for work,” said Vincent Toscano, Managing Partner of Uzoorba.
This coupled with Dr CK Prahlad’s “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” book led to Vincent’s concept note on “Rural IT” which was sent to the then newly re-elected CM, Manohar Parrikar on May 8, 2012. Subsequently, he wrote about it in the September 2012 edition of the GCCI Bulletin and in internal publications at Infosys.
Vincent along with his partner Anil Bernard DSouza, founded Uzoorba, which is ‘uzo’ and ‘urba’ (i.e. fire and energy in Konkani) fused together. It was the manifestation of the founders’ long cherished dream while traversing the globe in their careers. Uzoorba began operations providing professional IT and affiliated services to local and global clients creating technology-enabled livelihoods in Goan villages. Services provided include Websites, SEO, Web applications, Mobile apps, Computer Aided Design (CAD), Creative Studio and Raspberry Pi (RPi) forschools (i.e. low cost solution for revival of Computer Education in schools). Additionally, they also promote works of art by local artists in their website.Uzoorba is one of the first sixstartups to be certified by Goa government. “We are also registered with Startup India, DIPP, DGFT and GST; a virtual incubatee with CIBA (Verna), and registered member of Goa Technology Association (GTA),” added Toscano.
Despite its natural potential to be a cultural gateway into India for the West as well as to be a worthy counterpart to the original Silicon Valley, Goa has barely progressed since the 1961 liberation from colonial rule. This thanks to regressive politics and mismanaged mainstay mining and tourism industries resulting in scarce modern livelihood options for young educated Goans. “We witnessed a chronic brain drain bordering on an exodus from one of the smallest state of the Indian union. Behind the warm and generous smiles of our people are hidden countless broken families, aged parents fending for themselves with children working outside Goa, ancestral homes turned into ghost houses and ruins, politically cultivated divisions and deprivations, widespread fraud of land ownership, and, unemployed and disempowered local youth. It led me to come back,” added Toscano.
He felt that first-hand experiences of many such heartaches and the many obvious solutions – made viable by the growing democratization of knowledge and livelihoods through Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) – has been making them increasingly restless for more than a decade. Initial efforts were centred around pursuing the Indian IT major, where Vincent worked, to consider setting up their Development Centre in Goa.
Also, the Goa state government was pursued to consider trying out a locally-sustainable village adaptation of the Indian IT model given Goa’s unique combination of relevant advantages and challenges. But nothing moved till a young rock musician’s soulful live rendition of his original Assamese song named Tejimola – the one you hear playing now – at an event in Pune (Maharashtra, India) on November 29, 2014 late afternoon sparked Uzoorba to life in the form of a potential Konkani rock music project. Many travels, new connects, friends, experiences, challenges, upheavals, ideas and solutions followed including meetings with Goa state government with greater enablement and push for action on the IT front. Many such visibly unrelated events brought about Vincent quitting his job in October 2015 to pursue his road back home to Goa.