From 'digital dinner' to FB townhall: Why PM Modi's Silicon Valley visit is creating a buzz

Prime minister Narendra Modi has managed to get an impressive line-up of CEO meetings during his visit to the Silicon Valley later this month. With over 40,000 people already registered to attend Modi's speech, the event has now become a keenly awaited one in India.

For the uninitiated, the prime minister is visiting Ireland and the US from 23-29 September, during which he will address the UN General Assembly. He will also visit Google headquarters in the Silicon Valley, California and address a community reception by Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley on 27 September.

PTI image

PTI image

A PTI report said the registrations for the event, which hit 40,000 last month-end, is likely to be around 50,000. To put the number in perspective, the much-discussed Madison Square Garden reception in New York in 2014 had seen 30,000 registrations.

Here's why the visit is creating a lot of buzz:

1) Digital India: The visit comes at a time the Prime Minister has digital strategy to push his development agenda for India. The initiative called Digital India seeks to connect various government departments, services and the country's people through high speed internet. Technology is the backbone of this strategy. Modi's visit to Silicon Valley, the world's technology hub, is likely to seek support from global majors.

However, not everybody is very enthused about the visit. A group of academicians has raised "concerns about the uncritical fanfare being generated" over the visit. Criticising the Digital India project they highlighted the project's lack of safeguards about privacy of information, and its potential for abuse.

"We urge those who lead Silicon Valley technology enterprises to be mindful of not violating their own codes of corporate responsibility when conducting business with a government which has, on several occasions already, demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions," the group of 124 academicians said in a statement last month.

An Indian group has issued a statement of support for Modi's visit on Thursday.

2) The amazing line-up of CEOs: The second reason why the visit is creating the buzz the amazing line-up of CEOs who will be meeting with the PM. They include the chiefs of Facebook, Tesla, Google, Microsoft and Cisco.

According to a report in The Economic Times on Wednesday, Sundar Pichai of Google and Satya Nadella of Microsoft are likely to make presentations at a digital-themed dinner. In a Facebook post CEO Marck Zuckerberg said Modi will participate in a townhall Q&A at the company's headquarters.

"Prime Minister Modi and I will discuss how communities can work together to address social and economic challenges," he said. The event is slated for 27 September.

Apart from the CEOs mentioned above, Nobel laureate Michael Levitt has also expressed his keenness to attend the Silicon Valley community reception.

“Extending my own experiences in discovering something significant through research, I would say that problem solving starts with inquisitive mind, selection of problem, intuition, and hard work. I am sure Modi is up to this challenge,” Levitt was quoted as saying in a PTI report.

3) Boost for entrepreneurship: The visit assumes significance also because it is taking place at a time the country is witnessing a big boom in entrepreneurship. According a 2104 estimate, India houses about 3,100 startups. This is expected to grow to 11,500 by 2020.

Data from VCCEdge, the financial research platform of, show that fund flow into startups based in six cities increased 693.53 percent during 2011-2015 (until August) to Rs 665 crore.

Entreprenurship is key to job creation, which has been one of the poll promises of Modi. Modi's visit to Silicon Valley should boost the startup ecosystem in India.

According to US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, the visit will provide an opportunity to explore new technology that would help India in development of Smart Cities and other infrastructure facility.

"There is quite a buzz about PM's visit to San Francisco and Silicon Valley in the US, and not just from the vibrant Indian-American community there, which over the last two decades has helped transform the high technology sector and bring our nations culture of innovation and entrepreneurship even closer," he was quoted as saying in a PTI report.

Updated Date: Sep 16, 2015 18:12 PM

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