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'Digital Mindfulness'

Monday, February 18, 2019

Vinayak Garg, Creator of Night Shift and CEO & Founder ZestMD

Vinayak Garg, a Delhi based entrepreneur, Tedx speaker and a young visionary fellow has been chosen by H.H Dalai lama foundation to spread digital mindfulness in the current tech savvy world. Garg is a writer, Entrepreneur, a TEDX speaker. Vinayak has been awarded the Young Visionary Award under Indiaafrica, an initiative of Govt. of India. He was among the 12 fellows chosen under the Gurukul program run by H.H Dalai Lama Foundation. Vinayak holds a degree in Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, where he graduated with 1st rank in his class. He also spent a year at Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon, France.

In  conversation with Dominic Rebello, Vinayak shares his vision  and  says, “I envision that the tech industry would take more responsibility and down the line, we are able to make the mindfulness and well-being focus built default into any tech product.”

What is the idea behind Digital Mindfulness?
Initially, the technology in the form of social media and smartphones mimicked our natural daily life and helped add more value and ease to our ‘real’ world life. Our social media profiles portrayed what we were doing during the day. The tables have turned.

Today we are living our lives based on what we would like our online profiles to look like.

We should begin by understanding our current state of living. You get into an uber, and you open your phone for no reason at all. We are hoping that there is something on one of the social media or in a Whatsapp group. On the facebook you scroll through endless feed, jumping from one post to another. When watching Youtube, we spend hours because of the videos that are recommended to us. Even though we might be out on dinner, we are still distracted by our phones. An average person spends about four hours a day on the mobile phone and checks their phone every four minutes. Despite spending so much time on the phone and social media and watching videos, at the end of the day or the week there is no recall of what was the time spent on. We are doing all this involuntarily as if we are a pre-programmed robot on auto-pilot. This is mindless behavior.

Digital mindfulness is the opposite of this. Making conscious decisions and choices in the digital world, being aware of the action and its consequences.

Technology is neutral. In today’s world, we are fed a sense of constant urgency and a need to be always available. This is affecting our health, sleep, mental balance and relationships. It is necessary that we bring in mindfulness into how we interact with technology.

How do you want to propagate digital mindfulness? (ideas)
I already developed an app known as ‘NightShift’ that is aimed to improve sleep for users, and have created a chrome extension, ‘Refuel Soul’ that aims to bring in positivity for users. More than 200,000 users in 86 countries are using these products. By learning experiences on digital mindfulness and working on different technologies I am all set to launch my next book which will talk about the world and digital mindfulness combining spirituality. Digital mindfulness, or any mindfulness, begins from awareness. The first step would be to be aware of the extent of your usage. One good point is to observe your own mobile phone usage and see whether it was necessary, and did you gain anything from using your phone at that point. I am also working with technology startups to help configure their environment conducive for mindfulness of their employees. It is ironical that young generation, young entrepreneurs would engage in a digital behavior which allows constant interruptions in their daily work.

Any expansion plans?
I have already expanded to start Zest.MD, which is a technology platform providing eClinic software to nutritionists and dieticians. The focus of the company is on using technology to improve wellness for patients. The products are currently used by 3000+ dietitians in 12 countries across the globe, serving over a million patients.The flagship eClinic software enables any individual dietitian to set up an online extension of the physical clinic. Patients are able to register there, complete their health profile and update vitals on an ongoing basis. The dietician is able to send them diet chart, and monitor the progress of the clients over months. We will along with products for digital mindfulness would expand laterally.

Your vision for Digital Mindfulness?
I envision that the tech industry would take more responsibility and down the line, we are able to make the mindfulness and well-being focus built default into any tech product. We have seen in the fast-food industry and in the tobacco industry, over the years changes have happened. The consumer today is more aware than the times when these were first introduced about five decades ago. Fast-food companies have also been compelled to move away from trans-fat, disclose calories and overall reduce certain chemicals. This all happens when the society rallies and forces the way the business is done.

I see the same for Digital Mindfulness & Digital Well-being. I envision that both phone manufacturers and the technology companies, both accept this as a must have and it changes the way the business is done.

Where do you see yourself five years down the line?
Down the line, I feel that I will able to carry the message of Digital Mindfulness and awareness about the harmful effects of the technology use to a large number of people. With technology and technology interface changing all the time. It would be difficult to even pinpoint what we would ‘Digital’ mean five years down the line, and hence the role of Digital Mindfulness would also be ever evolving.

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