BEING WOOED

From Tim Cook to Jack Ma, global tech leaders are rushing to India to charm Modi

Quartz india
Quartz india

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook will make his first official trip to India this week.

During the trip, Cook is likely to pay a visit to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Reuters reported citing unnamed sources.

Apple is trying to increase its presence in the world’s second-largest smartphone market, where it recently announced a massive 58% jump in quarterly sales. However, the company’s share in India’s smartphone market is still small, and there are several factors deterring the tech giant from making it big in the country.

India has reportedly denied Apple the permission to sell refurbished iPhones. The decision could hit Apple’s plans in cost-sensitive India. “It was not immediately clear whether he (Cook) would discuss importing refurbished iPhones with officials in New Delhi,” Reuters said.

While this is a crucial trip for Cook, he isn’t the only technology leader to woo India. In the last two years, some of the biggest names in the global tech industry have paid a visit to Modi, the most tech-savvy prime minister that India has ever had. Asia’s third-largest economy is of importance for technology companies across the world as the country has the world’s fastest-growing internet user base. Additionally, for companies like Apple, sales have declined in China, and India is seen as the next big meaty market.

As Modi completes two years as prime minister, here’s a look at all the technology leaders—from the Silicon Valley to China—he has met with as India’s premier.

Jeff Bezos

The 52-years-old CEO of Amazon visited India a few months after Modi became the prime minister in May 2014. “I am completely at his (Modi’s) disposal; he has a fantastic international reputation. I am super excited to meet him,” Bezos had said ahead of his meeting with Modi.

During his meeting with Modi at his official resident, Bezos discussed Amazon’s future plans for India. Bezos also announced an investment of $2 billion in the company’s Indian arm, Amazon.in, during this trip.

Satya Nadella

The India-born CEO of Microsoft visited India in December 2014. During the trip, he met Modi in New Delhi and expressed his wish to partner with the Indian government in its “Digital India” and “Make in India” initiatives.

In September 2015, the 48-years-old tech leader met Modi again in California. At the “Digital India” dinner hosted by Modi in the Silicon Valley, Nadella reportedly shared a “haunting image” of his childhood in Andhra Pradesh. “I saw two lean people who lay in overturned charpoys with two transistor radios. They were schoolteachers who decided to give up teaching. I think about those people and what they could have achieved today,” Nadella said.

Elon Musk

During his visit to the Silicon Valley in September 2015—the first by an Indian prime minister in over three decades—Modi visited Tesla’s factory in California.

The Indian premier was given a tour of the factory—where Tesla makes electric cars and its iconic battery packs—by top Tesla executives including CEO Elon Musk and CTO JB Straubel.

Mark Zuckerberg

The 32-years-old co-founder of Facebook has made two trips to India since Modi became the prime minister.

In October 2015, Zuckerberg met Modi in New Delhi and expressed his interest in working with the Indian government in areas like healthcare and education. He also offered to help in developing the Clean India mobile app. Modi and Zuckerberg had also discussed the possibilities of using social media to check terrorist activities.

At the time, Facebook was trying to push its free, limited internet service, Free Basics, in India. The topic also came up during Modi’s visit to the Silicon Valley where he was hosted at Facebook’s headquarters.

However, in February 2015, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ruled in favour of net neutrality and effectively killed Facebook’s Free Basics in the country.

Sundar Pichai

The Chennai-born CEO of Google met Modi in Silicon Valley in September 2015. Pichai had extended a welcome to the Indian prime minister in a two-minute video message ahead of Modi’s visit. In the video, Pichai said that India and the Valley shared a strong bond.

“There is tremendous excitement for your visit amongst all Googlers,” and the broader Indian community, he said.

Later that year, Pichai made his first official trip to India as the CEO of Google and visited Modi in Delhi.

India is of great interest to companies like Google because the country still has only 20% internet penetration and has more open internet policy as compared to China.

Jack Ma

Tech leaders from the US are not the only ones to have wooed Modi.

In May 2015, Jack Ma, the chairman of China’s Alibaba, had met with Modi in New Delhi.

Three months after Ma’s visit, Indian e-commerce major Snapdeal raised $500 million from investors including Alibaba Group Holding, Foxconn and SoftBank Corp. Alibaba has been looking to participate in India’s booming e-commerce space, and reports have said that the company is interested in having a direct presence in the country.

Masayoshi Son

In October 2014, Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank, visited Modi in India.

Softbank has aggressively ramped up its presence in India over the recent years and has ploughed in over $2 billion in the country so far. The group holds stakes in some of the leading Indian technology startups like Snapdeal, Ola, and OYO Rooms.

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