Prime Minister Modi in Silicon Valley

modi 1in

Media volunteers at SAP Center after PM Modi’s speech,Tulsi Gabbard in the center.

By Rakhi Israni and Vijay Pallod

HOUSTON: Recently, we were very fortunate to be involved in the Community Reception for Prime Minister Modi in Silicon Valley.   As the media-in-charge for the event, we were afforded a unique look into the differences between the inside perspective from the mainstream Media living in India and the outside perspective from the American mainstream media.   It is this interesting difference in perspectives that we wish to share.

In his speech on September 27, at the SAP Arena in San Jose, CA, Prime Minister Modi used the analogy of a cricket match to note the differences between those who are present at a cricket match and those who are able to watch it from home.  While the former must carefully look for the elements that make up the overall progression of the game, it is those who watch from afar who are more accurately able to judge the sequence of events.  It is those who, sitting at home and watching the game on TV, are able to see exactly where the ball came from, what it hit, where the fielders are, etc.

As we read the articles following the Community Reception for PM Modi in various papers, Indian and American, it was hard not to continuously refer to that analogy.   For example, in a recent article in Hindustan Times, the reporter writes that “Modi visit barely got notice in the US Media”.   It’s hard to tell whether this is a matter of skewed perspective or just bad journalism.   However, rarely can we remember a time in the United States when the head of any country has received so much attention – so much positive attention – for an extension of an official visit.   In fact, it was a Wall Street Journal reporter present at the community reception who commented about the look and feel of being in the presence of a rock star.

In the days following the community reception, most of the California papers and many of the important national papers in the United States, carried extensive headlines – all positive headlines.  In two major California papers, The San Jose Mercury News and The Oakland Tribune, news of Prime Minister Modi’s trip to Silicon Valley were splashed across Monday morning’s front page.   With a picture of Prime Minister Modi hugging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, San Jose Mercury’s headlines read “You have forced the world to change the way they look at India.”   Also included were pictures of some of the eminent people who met with Prime Minister Modi during this trip to Silicon Valley, under the headlines “On Modi’s Dance Card.”

The San Francisco Chronicle, a major US paper, carried the story in Monday morning’s paper.  “Premier of India gets warm welcome in San Jose”, it said.   It added that “Thousands cheer pledge to boost development of nation’s tech economy.”

Prime Minister Modi’s trip to the Silicon Valley was not only noticed by the California papers – it was noticed across the country.   In a segment by National Public Radio (NPR) on Monday, in a discussion about how little coverage the Chinese premier received, the anchor specifically mentioned how the visit of all these other heads of states was “overshadowed by the visit of the Pope and of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.  In fact, the extremely popular NPR had a one-hour dedicated coverage with three guests — Vinod Dham, executive managing director of IndoUS Venture Partners, Geetha Vallabhaneni, founder of Luminix and Deepak Aatresh, founder of Aditazz — on  its Monday morning show.   In all, NPR had four different stories covering the Prime Minister Modi’s trip.

In the Tuesday following the event, the country’s top most business newspaper The Wall Street Journal not only reported about Prime Minister Modi’s support for President Obama’s international climate change agreement, but also extensively reported about the Prime Minister’s meetings with the top CEOs as well as his speech to the Indian diaspora in Silicon Valley.

The Los Angeles Times ran an article with some humor: “Silicon Valley welcomes Modi with Song, Dance – and a Shazam joke.”  It specifically cited the emcee Rajiv Satyal’s joke that with 17,000 Indians here, we have some tech support.

The popular national newspaper USA Today gave substantial coverage to the Prime Minister’s Silicon Valley trip under the headline “India’s Modi gets a like at Facebook HQ.”

Many, many other newspapers across the United States carried Associated Press news stories on the Prime Minister’s trip. Popular magazines like Fortune, Forbes, and Newsweek also reported about the visit.   Time magazine had extensive coverage under the title, ”Modi Breaks Down in Tears Discussing Mother at Facebook Event”

“How Silicon Valley can turn India’s economy around,” said the commentary in Fortune, while Newsweek reported about Modi’s trip to Facebook and Google headquarters.

The Washington Post prominently reported about Prime Minister Modi’s emotional moment at the Facebook town hall meeting under the title, “His (Modi’s) most memorable moment? Crying at Facebook,” the daily reported.

The most prestigious US newspaper The New York Times reported twice on the Prime Minister’s trip, one of which made front page headlines.  The front page story declared India to be the next unknown frontier for the US technology giants to conquer.  The second NYT story, appearing on its business page, headlined with “Indian Premier Courts Silicon Valley in Effort to Ease Nation’s Poverty.”

Last year, after Madison Square Garden, it was evident that the US Government had taken notice of Prime Minister Modi and India.  Now, as evidenced by the amount of US media coverage in the past two weeks, it is clear that the rest of the United States has finally taken notice as well.   The recent extensive media coverage proves one thing:  finally India has a leader that is widely recognized and respected as one of the top leaders in the world.

Rakhi Israni was the media chair for the Indo American Community of West Coast, the organization tasked with organizing Prime Minister Modi’s recent community reception in Silicon Valley.  She is a second generation Indian-American attorney and entrepreneur based in California.

Vijay Pallod was a key member of the media team for PM Modi’s Community Reception in Silicon Valley.   He works and lives in Texas.