Modi’s Silicon Valley swing: Who is wooing who?
New York: It is being called
Narendra Modi’s Silicon Valley swing, a two-day visit to California where most
of the global tech giants have their base, away from his more political agenda
in New York. But what is still not clear is whether it is Modi wooing the tech
companies or the other way round?
For Modi, getting a
stamp of approval for his Digital India efforts, from the CEOs of the largest
tech firms in the world, will be much more than just brownie points. Their
support in technology and resources could end up being the big push that his
pet project needs. And there are already signs that this is happening on the
Facebook’s efforts to
bring more people online with affordable Internet, using everything from
terrestrial signals to solar powered aircraft, is getting its first play in
many remote India villages in the form of community managed Express Wi-Fi hubs.
Other companies like
Intel have already committed themselves to the cause with parallel campaigns
like Innovate for Digital India. It is also necessary for Modi to get some of
these companies to think seriously about manufacturing in India, as that will
be one of the big drivers for his ambitious growth plans.
For the tech giants,
India is a large market, one where growth is assured for at least a few more
years to come. India’s smart phone boom have benefitted a lot of companies in
the Silicon Valley, right from large social media players like Twitter to small
app companies, some of which are founded or run by Indians. For both, Google
and Facebook, India is already the second largest market, but of primary
importance since growth in the US market has plateaued and China is still a
Also, it is hard to
overlook India’s contribution to the success of Silicon Valley companies. Two
of the giants here, Google and Microsoft, have Indians at the helm. All others
have Indian-born executives in top positions.
According to Associated
Press, “Asians now hold 25 per cent to 43 per cent of the US technology jobs at
Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, according to the companies’ most recent
disclosures”. The chances are a significant number of these jobs are held by Indian
and all you need is a walk through San Francisco’s business district to figure
Modi will be at a
dinner with top tech company CEOs on Saturday, followed by the town hall at the
Facebook headquarters and visits to the Tesla and Google headquarters. His
Tesla visit, where he is expected to take a test drive of one of the company’s
pathbreaking electric cars with founder Elon Musk, is particularly interesting.
The Tesla car is
expensive even by the standards of wealthy South Californian cities and a
rarity on the roads. It will be a coup of sorts if Modi can get Musk to even
think of a version of his iconic cars that would make sense in the developing
world. While the cars might seems a bit out of place, India could be the
perfect market for Tesla’s Powerwall solar batteries.
The Silicon Valley
swing, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in over three decades, could
actually end up being fruitful for both sides. We should have a better picture