Modi's Digital India push wins $94 billion in investment pledges

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the launch of Digital India Week as Anil Ambani (L), chairman of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, stands behind him in New Delhi, India, July 1, 2015. India is reinvigorating an US$18 billion camp
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the launch of Digital India Week as Anil Ambani (L), chairman of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, stands behind him in New Delhi, India, July 1, 2015. India is reinvigorating an US$18 billion campaign to provide fast internet connections for all, with a "digital week" aimed at popularising Mr Modi's campaign promise to connect 250,000 villages in India by 2019. PHOTO : REUTERS

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) India's industrial captains led investment pledges of more than US$70 billion (S$94.2 billion) as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan to improve Internet access and jump start electronics manufacturing in Asia's third-largest economy.

Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, promised 2.5 trillion rupees (S$52 billion) on Wednesday at a government event in New Delhi. Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises, promised to spend 1 trillion rupees over the next five years. And Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla vowed to spend US$2 billion on Digital India projects.

The pledged spending will bolster the government's plan to commit US$18 billion on its Digital India program to expand Internet access to rural areas and offer government services online.

Mr Modi has crisscrossed the globe to convince companies to manufacture in India in a bid to create 100 million new factory jobs by 2022.

"Our prime minister's vision of digital India has the potential to fundamentally transform the lives of 1.2 billion Indians," Mr Ambani said. His younger brother, billionaire Anil Ambani, pledged to invest more than 100 billion rupees in his group's cloud data center and telecommunications operations.

Nidec Corp. will spend US$1 billion to build five factories in India, Chief Technology Officer Mikio Katayama said.

The mining conglomerate Vedanta Group pledged 400 billion rupees to make LCD panels in India. As part of its Digital India campaign, the government has set goals including broadband Internet for 250,000 clusters of villages by 2016, Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in October.

Almost 1.1 billion Indians remain offline mostly in rural areas, the largest non-Internet user population in the world, McKinsey & Co. estimated in a report last year.