Last week, the news out of Silicon Valley was all about Chinese premiere Xi Jinping’s visit. Yet the hottest international market for technology companies right now, according to the New York Times, is India:
“They are looking at India, and they are thinking, ‘Five years ago, it was China, and I probably missed the boat there. Now I have a chance to actually do this,’” said Punit Soni, a former Google executive who was lured back to India recently to become the chief product officer of Flipkart, a Bangalore e-commerce start-up similar to Amazon.
The increasing appeal of India, now the world’s fastest growing major economy, was underscored in recent days.
During a meeting in Seattle on Wednesday with American technology executives, China’s president, Xi Jinping, was unwavering on his government’s tough Internet policies.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, on the other hand, was on a charm offensive during his own American tour.
India has always been an attractive market for companies like Facebook and Google. Many Indians speak English, they have political and civic traditions which encourage the free flow of information, and the middle class is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. There are now 168 million smartphone users in India—a lot of people, but not even fifteen percent of the whole population. Indians are already the second-largest demographic using Facebook and Google. It isn’t at all outlandish to think they will soon overtake Americans on many websites.
As we have said, India needs more than a high-tech boom to ensure enough jobs for its young, growing population. Modi is right to seize this opportunity in Silicon Valley, but he should also build relationships with manufacturers. Facebook may be an important social tool for young Indians, but Mark Zuckerberg will not hire all that many people in the subcontinent.