India Replaces China as Next Big Frontier for US Tech Companies

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Indian Prime Minister Touts Power Of Social Media In Visit To Facebook In Menlo Park.

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, left, and Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., embrace at the conclusion of a town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters (David Paul Morris via Getty Images) MENLO PARK (CBS/AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi touted the power of social media and his own goals for developing India’s tech economy on Sunday, speaking to a global audience from a “town hall” meeting at the headquarters of the world’s largest social network. Sunday’s hour-long session came during a whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley that included two days of meetings with the CEOs of Apple, Google and other leading tech companies, along with local political leaders and an estimated 18,000 people who were expected to attend an “Indian community reception” at a San Jose sports arena. “We are software engineers. Modi’s trip to Silicon Valley was very significant for several reasons, including the fact that “this is the first time in independent India that a government has recognised that start-ups are the way to generate employment and jobs.” The government cannot keep handing out jobs, he said, and big companies tend to grow too slowly to generate enough jobs, so the recognition of the role of start-up firms, and “raising this into the national consciousness as a national priority” was important. We have the opportunity to shape its path now (and) the talent, enterprise and skills to succeed.” Modi met the India-born chief executives of Google, Microsoft and Adobe Systems — Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella and Shantanu Narayen. Like many young Indian tech workers in the audience, Jain said she liked Modi’s goals for increasing Internet connectivity and building a tech economy because she hopes to return home to work in India one day.

The PM talked of India’s plan to provide broadband services to all villages and mentioned that Google was helping to set up Wi-Fi internet access shortly in 500 railway stations in India. Further, he said, all start-ups wanted the same thing, including an ecosystem where it is easy to raise money, to hire and attract employees, to not be burdened with high taxes, and in the case of a successful exit from the business the firm should be able to take the money out. But he also scored a human note, becoming emotional while describing his impoverished childhood and his mother’s efforts to support his family by doing menial work. “In India, there are hundreds of thousands of mothers like that,” he added.

Microsoft said it planned to replicate a technology it was piloting in Varanasi to offer broadband using the white space in television spectrum to Indian villages. Qualcomm, which builds chipsets to power mobile phones, will create a $150 million fund for Indian start-ups. “We believe low-cost broadband connectivity, coupled with the scale of cloud computing and the intelligence that can be harnessed from data, can help drive creativity, efficiency and productivity across governments and businesses of all size,” said Nadella at the Digital India Dinner at San Jose. Modi’s fans say they admire his ambitions for “Digital India,” a broad program of technological and economic development, and his promise to end government corruption and inefficiency. John Chambers, chairman of Cisco Systems and chairman of the US India Business council, said digital manufacturing was set to create millions of jobs every month in India.

But he has critics: Some activists organized protests on Sunday to press the prime minister over creation of a Sikh homeland, along with alleged mistreatment of Muslims and Christians by groups linked to his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Google’s Pichai announced the search giant would allow users from next month to type in 10 Indian languages on its Android platform. “He (Modi) understands the technology is the enabler to drive change in massive scale and India needs that change,” said Pichai, while lauding Indian start-ups such as Flipkart, Zomato, Hike and Snapdeal for generating thousands of jobs and being “global success stories”. Calling India the fasting growing “start-up nation” in the world, Chennai-born Pichai recalled interacting with entrepreneurs in India last year, whom he termed “hungry entrepreneurs, the same type I meet in the Valley”. “With so many Indians coming online in unprecedented scale, it is very clear to me that this is once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Pichai. “If there was ever a gathering under one roof that could claim to be shaping the world, it is this,” said Modi, while asserting that social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were the new “neighbourhoods of our new world”.

CEO Tim Cook, Tesla Motors Inc. chief Elon Musk and two Indian-Americans who have recently become CEOs of major tech companies: Satya Nadella of Microsoft Corp. and Sundar Pichai of Google. They had plenty to discuss: Silicon Valley companies see India as a huge potential market for their own expansion, while Modi wants their help in developing his country’s tech industry. Facebook has already launched an effort to connect with lower-income Indians through Zuckerberg’s project, which promotes Internet use in developing countries by offering free access to a package of web apps on mobile phones. Critics in India said the project favors Facebook and a limited number of partners, while making it more difficult for homegrown entrepreneurs to draw traffic to their own websites.

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