Modi out to woo US tech giants to India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint press conference with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe following their meeting in New Delhi on Sept 15, 2015.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint press conference with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe following their meeting in New Delhi on Sept 15, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Indian PM to meet head honchos of Google, Facebook, Apple and Adobe in Silicon Valley

Tech-savvy Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has launched a drive to bring the Internet to every village in his country, will, during a stop at Silicon Valley on his six-day US visit that starts tomorrow, woo top American technology companies such as Facebook, Apple and Google to invest and innovate in India.

"It would be after a gap of almost 33 years that an Indian PM would be visiting the (US) West Coast - the home of start-ups, innovation and technology... India is emerging as a hub of start-ups in a wide range of areas and we aspire to take this further," Mr Modi said on Facebook. He also described this visit as a way to "build on the substantial ground covered" on his last US trip.

During the visit, Mr Modi - known as a social media superstar - will meet US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.

Before that, he is scheduled to meet top technology leaders in Silicon Valley this weekend. The head honchos that Mr Modi will meet include Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a town-hall- style event, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Adobe's Mr Shantanu Narayen.

Ahead of the visit, senior officials from both countries launched a high-level "strategic and commercial dialogue" on Monday, reported Agence France-Presse.

Trade in goods and services between the two nations amounted to more than US$100 billion (S$141 billion) last year, but Mr Modi's administration hopes to multiply this rapidly by five times while attracting US inward investment.

Since coming to power last year, the Indian prime minister has launched a series of big-ticket programmes to attract investment and push manufacturing. A key plan is to lay out 700,000km of broadband cable connecting 250,000 villages at a cost of about US$18 billion.

"Our development plans for India in the next few years will be technology-driven. So there is enormous scope, and connecting with technology leaders is one of the important aspects of the (US) visit," BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, a key person involved in doing the ground work for Mr Modi's overseas visits, told The Straits Times.

A meeting with Fortune 500 CEOs in New York is also on the agenda as Mr Modi makes an aggressive push for investment to fuel growth in Asia's third fastest growing economy.

Expectations are high that his visit to the US West Coast will benefit India's start-up sectors, which have already seen American investments.

Mr Modi is also addressing an event for start-ups called India-US Start-Up Konnect.

The government also hopes the visit will send across a strong message that India is open for business.

In a sign of warming defence ties between the countries, India's Cabinet yesterday cleared the purchase of 22 Apache attack and 15 heavy- lift Chinook helicopters from Boeing in a deal worth around US$2.5 billion. The deal includes an option for 11 more Apaches and seven more Chinooks, reported Reuters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2015, with the headline 'Modi out to woo US tech giants to India'. Print Edition | Subscribe