Modi takes a big byte of Silicon Valley, the biggest yet

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washingotn
  • Updated: Sep 24, 2015 00:03 IST

Tesla’s rockstar CEO Elon Musk receives Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg hosts him at a town-hall the next day, and Sundar Pichai gives him a tour of Google hours later.

No world leader has managed to pack that kind of Silicon Valley firepower in such a short time -- just a weekend. And Modi is not nearly done yet, he is meeting scores of others.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella makes a presentation for the PM along with three others, including Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm and Pichai on Saturday evening.

PM Modi is perhaps only the third world leader hosted by Zuckerberg at a town-hall — the other two were both US Presidents, George W Bush and Barack Obama.

Zuckerberg’s announcement of the town-hall with Modi, in a Facebook post on September 12, has received 707,000 likes so far, 36,000 comments and 45,000 shares.

“This is an unprecedented reception the PM is getting,” said long-time Silicon Valley watcher Vivek Wadhwa, who is invited to a dinner the PM is hosting for IT bosses.

And chiefly because, Wadhwa argued, India is poised to emerge in three-to-four years as the world’s largest growth market for Internet access — “India is IT now”.

It helped that Indians now are everywhere in Silicon Valley — at all level. Modi’s own tech savvy helped too — “Manmohan Singh would not have received a similar reception”.

Singh, the former prime minister, never even tried. Modi is the first Indian PM to visit Silicon Valley since Morarji Desai, who travelled to San Francisco in 1978.

Modi’s visit, the second leg of his second US tour as PM that starts in New York on September 23, is closely tied to India’s aspirations and development needs, officials have said.

It’s basically tied to three broad requirements, as reported by HT earlier -- spirit of enterprise, entrepreneurship, technology and renewable energy sources.

The visit to Musk’s Tesla facility at Fremont, for instance, is about battery packs he unveiled last year that can electrify an entire household, an alluring idea for energy-short India.

That is followed the next day by a roundtable exclusively on renewable sources of energy hosted by a unit of Stanford University and the US department of commerce.

A tour of the Google complex in Mountain View with Pichai and executive chairman Eric Schmidt is likely to address technology issues the Prime Minister may have in his mind.

Modi returns to New York on September 28, for a meeting with US President Barack Obama, their third in a year, but it’s the Silicon Valley leg that is likely to dominate this visit.

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