Expecting big announcements from Modi: Anita Manwani, president, TiE SV

Ritu Jha-

Hoping to witness some big announcements and collaborations, Anita Manwani, president of TiE Silicon Valley, is headed to Washington DC to attend a few events for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US. Modi will be on his first official state visit to the US from June 21 through 24.

The prime minister is expected to meet business leaders of 20 top American companies here and is also expected to address a gathering of more than 1,500 diaspora and business leaders at the John F Kennedy Centre in Washington.

“I will be there to primarily witness and support the collaboration, ties, and announcements that we are expecting at the White House Lawns. We hope that this is going to be much more than a collaborative intent for the future. We hope that we will be all pleasantly surprised with some very concrete things that will happen,” Manwani told indica about what she expects from her visit to Washington DC.

Speaking about some of the issues that Indian-origin industrialists and entrepreneurs face in the US Manwani said, “Today it is very difficult for companies that are in the United States that have wholly owned subsidiaries in India to even bring their employees. We just recently hosted TiEcon and we had many government agencies, delegates and some Indian startups that wanted to come and attend our boot camps and VC Connect and Mentor Connect programs. They were not able to get visas. I think that is the single biggest barrier that we have in allowing for the free flow of people, data, and technology between the two countries.”

“I have talked to our congressmen about that. Many people in the valley have talked to Congressman, Ro Khanna. We believe that every person in the United States who has an entrepreneurial interest, and a business interest is making sure that this easy flow of human capital between the two countries should exist. We have already expressed our concerns about the delays that we are facing,” Manwani added.

On whether she aims to meet Modi, Manwani said: “We’re certainly going to be meeting with the  Ambassador and his team but not officially or personally with PM Modi g. I believe that it’s going to be a very structured event We will all have an opportunity to listen to the PM’s perspective. Perhaps there might be some Q&A, and if there is, then I look forward to participating.”

About partnerships or collaborations with the Indian government, she added: “Lots of conversations have been going on for the last 18 months, and these are primarily with state agencies that have been charged with the mandate of entrepreneurship and increasing the number of entrepreneurs and creating ecosystems in each of the states in India. The agencies from many states have been reaching out to TiE Silicon Valley to make sure that their entrepreneurs get the taste of Silicon Valley and they get experienced mentoring, and networking. So, we have been hosting  cohorts

Should India have some free trade relationship with the US government? “I think there need to be more open trade relations, and most important from a technology perspective. From the US perspective all companies that are in technology, there should be a free flow of data and human capital. And that brings us back to the issue of visas.”

On India’s supply strategy and investments: “We’ve been investing for the last 25-30 years. I served as the founding chairman of Agilent Technologies in India in 2001. And I proposed to the Agilent board that we should have an investment in India as the two growing sectors of manufacturing, life sciences, and telecommunications were growing leaps and bounds in India.  Agilent Technologies at that time was providing test and measurement equipment for these sectors.  That investment proposal got approved very quickly and within four months, we actually had a facility and a wholly-owned subsidiary outside New Delhi in Gurgaon. And that subsidiary grew from zero to 2,000 plus. It has continued to grow even after my departure.”   My own lab information software company (reLIMS) has a wholly-owned subsidiary in India.

Manwani sees potential in India, especially in its youth, and changing work culture in government offices. “The infrastructure built out in India is just amazing. Earlier, in small and large cities, you had people tapping into electricity and having wires crossed all over.  Today India is more cashless across the pyramid.  Even a decade ago, you didn’t have any amenities and facilities for the public when you were traveling by road. That has changed. What’s most heartening is that public transportation has become air-conditioned and logistics more sophisticated.  The comfort has been taken to the common man, and that’s the sign of an economy that is on the rise. The velocity of teledensity surpassed all analyst predictions, everyone is connected and everyone has smart phones. So, I just think that the next two decades are India’s decades.”

Any bureaucratic issues or hindrances that need to be changed? “I think one of India’s jewels is actually the rising new generation of bureaucrats that are actually very committed. They are changing India’s government offices in getting things to move a lot faster. Now, the question is, is it as fast as required? I don’t know, because if I look at what’s happening in the United States, things have actually slowed down a bit, you know, in the post-pandemic world. These are just anecdotal conversations. I don’t think that I have enough data to say what percentage it has moved faster, but I am very encouraged by the anecdotes that I hear from people.”

When asked about what TiE expects from the Indian and the US governments in a collaborative way, she said: “I think what they can do most is to open up the flow of human capital, the flow of data, and make sure that there are enough incentives for US companies to expand  R&D  and manufacturing in India. These were the moves that countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia made when they tried to attract the companies and look at their success. Over the last three decades, these countries have flourished.”

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