Anand Desai, Cofounder of Dictate, A Microsoft Garage Project

Who are you?

I am Anand; I am an engineer. I developed Dictate and shipped it under the Microsoft Garage platform with our fantastic team.

I firmly believe in the work philosophy of desire-less action, aligning to a concept in the Bhagavad Gita – “Renunciation of fruit leads to infinite gain.” If you follow your passion and work without the goal of personal gain or fear of failure, rewards will be in infinite measure.

Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?

I developed the passion for software at an early age when my dad brought home a personal computer and put it on my desk. I grew up in a part of the world where multiple languages are part of everyday life. I observed language was one of the major barriers for people to access technology. After I joined Microsoft, my friends and family members often discuss the different Microsoft technologies they use. In one of such discussion, I learned that a large organization using Microsoft Office relied upon a manual process for voice transcription, translation of circulars and orders into native languages. The manual nature of transcription and translation was crippling the productivity of the unit. This discussion motivated me to develop Dictate, with the aim to help people break the language barrier to using technology and empower them to do more.

I shared the idea with my co-developer Prabhav, and we demo’ed the proof of concept at the 2016 Hackathon at the Microsoft Silicon Valley campus. We received great feedback from our peers, so we decided to make it epic by launching it through Microsoft Garage. The Microsoft Garage is a global community of employees challenging convention and bringing their ideas to life. It is also a platform to build experiments to share with customers for feedback. We formed a team from different groups, like Bing, Cortana, and Microsoft Office to bring diverse expertise and resources required for the big launch.

We first released Dictate internally within Microsoft. We got huge response from employees across the company in more than 40 countries. We released Dictate through the Microsoft Garage to the public in June 2017. At present Dictate is being used by tens of thousands of users worldwide. We have received highly encouraging feedback from users and organizations.

What has been your biggest failure or struggle?

Dictate is an add-in for Microsoft Office apps, and it has a diverse user base from all over the world. Moreover, they use it from a wide variety of machine and OS configurations. Given this, it was a challenge for us to design our app that would meet expectations of all and deliver seamless experience end to end.

And what has been your biggest achievement or success?

The original vision behind Dictate has resonated with its users. Beyond our expectations, we got tens of thousands of users globally. Many users have written to us how they use Dictate to increase productivity, including visually impaired users and users with hand dexterity issues.
I developed the passion for software development because of Microsoft technology reached to the parts of the world I grew up. Now I am contributing to building software that delivers the similar experience to others, that for me is the biggest achievement. There is no better feeling for an engineer, to see that his craft is appreciated and making the difference in people’s everyday life.

What’s your must-read business book?

Mindset by Carl S. Dweck, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Looking forward to reading “Hit Refresh” by Satya Nadella.

Also, I find following biopics deeply influential: Queen of Katwe, The Imitation Game.

Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?

Satya Nadella: He has cultivated a culture of the growth mindset at Microsoft. He encourages to battle our own fixed mindset every day and acquire “learn it all” attitude rather than “know it all.”

“We all work at Microsoft, why don’t we invert the equation. Let us think of Microsoft platform working for me (instead of I am working for Microsoft) to achieve my personal passion, my personal philosophy. If we get this equation right even few times, the amount of satisfaction you will draw and impact you will have will be exponential”. These words inspire me to take new initiatives like Dictate to use Microsoft as a global platform to follow my passion. As Satya has accurately mentioned, impact and amount of satisfaction that I drew have been infinitely rewarding.

Bill Gates: I sincerely admire him for his contribution in democratizing personal computers which profoundly empowered and fundamentally changed lives of many people in all parts of the world, including mine. Moreover, I think his message on empathy is critical in today’s world. Innovations should not be driven by the market; it should be driven by empathy. If empathy does not drive innovation, then it doesn’t matter how much we master the secret of science, we are not solving real-world problems, we are just working on puzzles.

And can you tell us something weird or interesting about yourself?

While working, I like to listen to superhero theme music; it gives me feeling that “Gotham needs me !!” and I am on an epic mission to save the world.