ny businesses spend time trying to understand the “millennial" generation and especially their interaction with technology. As a father of two children who can be classified among this generation, or at least in the generation that succeeded it—“Generation Y"—this topic is of personal interest to me. I have written before of how forward-thinking organizations, such as Commonsense.org, attempt to explain these new generations and their online behaviours. My sister, a Harvard PhD in psychology, used to work for this organization and has shared many tips with me on how to react to, and sometimes regulate, my children’s online behaviour. They are now adults, but I still often wonder whether I did the right things by them.

Almost all the research being done on these generations and their interaction with technology is based out of the West, where the penetration of technology and the internet has been high. India, however, is another situation altogether. That said, it is true that like most parents worldwide of millennials and Generation Y we were introduced to technology and immediate access to the internet at the same time as our children were. We were as lost as any parent in the US or UK in shepherding our children’s use of technology.

But India has its own characteristics that affected “Generation X", viz. my generation, very differently than our contemporaries in the Western world. We grew up during India’s licence raj and our access to technology—even television—was limited. Our childhood was not much different from our parents’; our extracurricular activities were the same gully cricket and hopscotch. I grew up without TV, which wasn’t introduced in Bengaluru until I had finished school. And even then, all we had was a few hours of programming, on one channel. My father believed that TV was an “idiot box" and did not procure a TV for the home until I had left the country for postgraduate studies. Judging by the squawking on Indian TV today, he was right.

So, the neat definitions of Generation X, millennials and Generation Y that researchers in the US make are less applicable to Indians. We are finding new patterns in Indian behaviour online that don’t bear resemblance to patterns observed in the West. The Western press has found it entertaining enough to pen condescending articles on how Indians are “choking" the internet by sending each other “good morning" messages. Meanwhile, an entire set of startups as well as established firms are trying to find ways to appeal to the waking giant represented by “Bharat"—the newly online Indians who don’t speak English.

Many investors back the Bharat phenomenon mindlessly by betting that its “network" effects will explode. The last time firms took a similar bet, with basic wireless and cellular technology, all they had in return was the “missed call" effect. Smart Indian users figured out that they could call someone quickly and hang up, secure in the knowledge that the recipient knew they were trying to reach them. Smart firms used this uniquely Indian behaviour to interact with potential customers. This frugal behaviour caused mobile operators’ revenue projections to plummet. We now have one of the lowest revenues per user wireless markets in the world.

Nonetheless, there are many opportunities in the workplace for connecting Indian millennials and Generation Y to not just the older ones among us but also to the waking giant of Bharat. But with Bharat, the gap is more like how our parents would relate to technology when introduced to it by their grandchildren. Even in the US, which dubs this generation “The silent generation", the uptake in online use is quite low; only 30% of them use smartphones according to the Pew Research Center.

So how can our youth help? First off, by helping to evangelize the use of technology. Previous generations often seek help from millennials for training on untapped shortcuts and features, on both personal as well as commercial applications. Training first-time users in Bharat on such processes will come easier for the younger generations who were born with a smartphone in their hands.

The reverse is also true. Preceding generations can teach millennials personal behaviour characteristics which have been jeopardized by technology. The one personal characteristic I keep harping on with youngsters is developing the ability to focus all of one’s attention on a single task. Clichés like “women can multi-task, unlike men" and “youngsters can look at a half-dozen screens at the same time" are bogus. My experience is that humans can only be productive when they focus on a single task at a time. Developing such focus comes with learning how to still the mind.

Several charlatans peddle their wares in this department by calling it spiritual “enlightenment", which it is not. One can learn to concentrate through several methods—of which the practice of meditation is just one. Man has forever looked to find ways to still his own mind. Learning music and exercise forms such as yoga, martial arts and complex dance forms work just as well as meditation in order to develop our “concentration" muscles. Yet, the continued practice of meditation and prayer, which many of our elders and those in Bharat developed, can be used to learn to take life as it comes, and on its own terms. Then there is the art of managing interpersonal interactions that they had to develop to thrive in an era of scarcity, which the younger generations will benefit from.

The easy relationship between millennials and Generation Y with technology is here to stay. Despite the negative connotations associated with technology and these generations, technology can harness new positives for both young and old. And, importantly, Bharat.

Siddharth Pai is founder of Siana Capital, a venture fund management company focused on deep science and tech in India