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India's affair with the Silicon Valley
Neelam Deo
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Over the last 20 years, trade between India and the U.S. has crossed $100 billion-and the technology sector, clustered around San Francisco, has been the fasted-growing segment of this trade.

California's tech industry contributes 10% or around $230 billion to the state's GDP. And if California were a country, it would be the eighth largest economy in the world at $2.3 trillion; India's is at just under $2 trillion.

Indian Americans constitute barely half a million of California's population of 39 million, but they are a significant part of the state's tech sector. Reports of the, School of Information at the University of Berkeley in California suggest that Indian-Americans have contributed to 15% of tech start-ups on the West Coast, and are associated with 8% of all tech and engineering start-ups across the U.S.

While the tech-profile of California is well-known, other lesser-known threads also bind India to the state-for example, Indian immigrants to California in the early 20th century formed the Ghadar Party there to fight British colonialism back home. California also gave the U.S. Congress its first Indian-origin member, Dalip Singh Saund; he was elected from the state's 29th district in 1957.

But it was the connection with Silicon Valley that gave India an image in the U.S. and globally of a growing technology power.

Modi's visit to California this September has certainly drawn attention of the Indians in the U.S. One of his agendas is an embrace of the Indian diaspora-and the highly-accomplished Silicon-Valley Indians certainly deserves to be wooed.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs must now forge a new equation with their counterparts in India to nurture and build the vibrant tech-start up scene, which has already produced companies like Flipkart. Indian investors like Ratan Tata and former chief financial officer of Infosys, Mohandas Pai, as well as global Institutions such as Softbank and Sequoia Capital, are investing in multilple Indian tech-startups. It should be a signal for Silicon Valley to also come in with money and ideas.

A new Gateway House paper by Nish Archarya, Visiting Fellow, India-U.S. Studies, and former technology advisor to the Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration, outlines how India-U.S. trade can be taken to $1 trillion by 2030 by focusing on technology. Archarya recommends that to create an "innovation-driven high-growth partnership," capacity must expand in sectors such as telecommunications. Doing that will require "moving India's IT workforce upscale and into areas like defence and big data. It means innovating in certain sectors. It also means investing in new technologies like 3D printing, synthetic biology, and next-generation farming."
The PM's visit may be impactful for both nations. But it is also true that the synergy between the two nations dates years back and when it comes to technology, it is time for the tech communities, both in India and the U.S., to move forward together.

The author has been the Indian Ambassador to Denmark and Ivory Coast with concurrent accreditation to several West African countries. She has also served in Indian embassies in Washington D.C., Bangkok and Rome. Currently on the board of Breakthrough (a human rights organization), Oxfam India, Mahindra CIE Automotive Limited, Defence Land Systems India, and Mahindra Logistics; Neelam has been a regular contributor for several mainstream publications, and is an occasional commentator for mainstream television news channels.

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