With all the pomp and excitement over Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Seattle visit with technology firms, it’s easy to miss that India’s prime minister is meeting the US tech sector this week.
Since he was already coming to speak at the United Nations on Friday, Narendra Modi decided to stretch his US trip to six days and pay a visit to Silicon Valley this weekend. It’s been three decades since the last Indian head of state visited California. Currently, he’s scheduled to meet Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and visit Google’s campus.
China is the big kahuna in terms of markets that the tech sector wants to break into, but as they often describe relationships on Facebook: “It’s complicated.”
The Chinese people love American technology. This year China bought $136 billion worth of technology, four times more than India, said research firm Forrester.
But the Chinese government keeps imposing regulations and censorship. And then there’s the little matter of companies, organizations and even the US government accusing Beijing of conducting, or at least endorsing, cyber attacks against them and stealing intellectual property.
While his country may be smaller in size, Modi comes with outstretched arms to invite the tech sector and other foreign companies to open shop in India.
Una Galani of BreakingViews said, “the Indian prime minster can offer American companies a welcome they won’t get from Xi. … India offers lots of potential and its doors are wide open.”
Goldman Sachs says by 2017 more Indians will use their phones to log onto Facebook than Americans.
That’s not to say there aren’t negatives.
India has its share of red tape, taxes and corruption. And on the World Bank’s ranking of easiest countries to do business in, out of 189, China places 90 to India’s 142. Yet, Modi has said within three years he wants India in the top 50.
“Modi also needs Silicon Valley in a way that Xi does not.” said Galani. “The Indian premier is relying on investment and technological know-how to realize ambitious development programes like “Digital India” and “Make In India”. Without foreign capital, India will not be able to achieve the growth required to absorb new entrants into the workforce.”