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Tonight Chef Vithal Shetty is cooking for over 800 people. Seated at the table is the Prime Minister of India, Narender Modi, a man fastidious in everything he does. From the stripes of his business suits to the members of his shuffled bureaucracy Mr. Modi has left his own mark. On the menu is traditional Indian vegetarian food with a Californian touch, using seasonal and farm fresh ingredients. There are dishes like Buratta Cheese Tikki, Sesame Chestnut, as well as Mr.Modi’s home favorites such as Khandvi, and Handvo.
Down the road in Berekely meanwhile the Alliance for Justice and Accountability is crafting a protest. “This Sunday, September 27, Narendra Modi, the controversial right-wing Prime Minister of India, will be feted at SAP Center in San Jose, California, as part of his global PR campaign. Join us at the event on September 27, in safe permitted free speech areas, to tell the other side of the story. Join us to stand with India’s religious minorities, women, LGBTQ people, historically marginalized castes, Dalits and adivasis — as well as everyone who loves a safe and clean environment, free speech, a free Internet, and the right to openly debate and disagree. Wear white,” the email ends with a flourish. The email is mailed aross the bay area.
Cognizant of the prime position India holds in today’s global economy, Silicon Valley’s business leaders have planned a meeting with start-ups, a townhall at Facebook, television coverage, and the lunch Chef Vithal Shetty is cooking for. With China slowing, India’s 7.5% growth rate makes it the fastest growing major economy in the world today, and many of the business leaders have plans to expand there. Fortune magazine hosted a dinner on Thursday night at the Waldorf in New York for the Prime Minister of Indian and several dozen U.S. CEOs, including those of Ford, Cisco, IBM, Lockheed, Marriott, Starwood, MasterCard, Merck, Pepsi, DuPont, Dow, EY and more. The CEOs praised the Prime Minister’s efforts to improve the climate for business. They did not mince their words when it came to highlighting the obstacles – complicated regulations, excessive permitting, confusing bureaucracy, poor infrastructure, overlapping local taxes, etc. they faced in dealing with India as a buisiness destination. They urged him to enhance the pace of change if India really did want a seat at the table. “The world is not going to wait for us. I know that,” he said in response.
“Modi is trying to change the perception of India,” said Venky Ganesan, managing director at venture capital firm Menlo Ventures to San Jose Mercury News. “To not just use it as a source of human talent, but as a place to build businesses and make things.”Opponents of Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, are also hoping he listens to them.
Mr. Modi welcome to Silicon Valley. We are eager for your ear.