Join the India growth story, Nirmala Sitharaman urges Silicon Valley

iNDICA News Bureau-

India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has invited Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs to be part of the country’s “growth story” and pitched for collaboration with the U.S. in financial services and emerging technologies.

Speaking at a roundtable conference Monday hosted jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), she said fintech (financial technology) represents a unique opportunity for sustainable and inclusive growth.

The minister pointed out that even as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had lowered its global growth forecast for the year, India, even with a lower forecast of 8 percent growth, is poised to remain the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

She said this growth is driven by continued expansion of the country’s technology and start-up ecosystems. “The U.S.-India collaboration in financial services and emerging technologies will support increased investment and innovation, and fintech represents a unique opportunity for sustainable and inclusive growth,” she told a group of corporate executives from the Valley.

The roundtable, moderated by USIBC president Atul Keshap, was attended by executives from Blackstone, Brevet Capital, Citi, Nova Credit, Western Digital, Palo Alto Networks, The Regents of the University of California, Lightspeed House Ventures, Insight Partners, Morgan Stanley, Powerhouse Ventures, Blume Ventures, Bow Capital and Nasdaq.

India’s finance ministry tweeted that senior executives, private-sector business leaders, venture capitalists, institutional investors, and representatives of pension and endowment funds representing combined assets under management of over $1 trillion attended the event.

The government team included V Ananth Nageswaran, chief economic advisor to the government of India, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s ambassador in Washington, and Rajat Mishra, additional secretary in the department of economic affairs. Nilesh Shah, chairman of the CII National Committee on Financial Markets, also attended.

“There is a fintech revolution happening in India,” said Sandhu. “As a country that runs the largest financial inclusion program in the world to the country with the highest fintech adoption rate globally and the highest number of real-time online transactions, India has a lot to offer the world.”

The ambassador said the financial sector had seen several reforms guided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “We hope US venture capitalists, endowment funds and asset management companies look at India to start their new journey or scale-up existing operations and partner and grow,” he said.

Keshap said the discussion reinforced the belief that fintech innovation would be crucial to reach U.S. $500 billion in annual trade between the U.S. and India. “Global leaders in these fields from the USIBC and the CII member companies share an ambitious vision for how fintech can power a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific. I stand in strong support of what business leaders, VCs and institutional investors are doing to make that vision possible,” he said.

Nilesh Shah said India has many opportunities for investors, given that the country is a ‘hotbed’ of innovation with a ‘vibrant start-up ecosystem’. “India is home to one of the fastest-growing fintech markets in the world, with transaction values estimated to grow at a (compounded annual growth rate) of 20 percent to reach U.S. $138 billion by 2023,” he said.

The finance minister also spoke of the government’s desire to be a reliable player in the semiconductor value chain with dedicated incentives for the sector in mission mode through the Indian Semiconductor Mission.

Last year, the government approved a Rs76,000 crore (about U.S. $10 billion) scheme to boost semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country, position India as a global hub for hi-tech production, and attract large chip makers.

Incentives have been lined up for companies engaged in silicon semiconductor fabs, display fabs, compound semiconductors, silicon photonics, sensor fabs, semiconductor packaging and semiconductor design.

The participants told the minister that they had substantially scaled up capabilities in India in the past few years and are collaborating with academia for R&D.

“The participants also mentioned that in view of global supply-chain disruptions, they need to review the over-reliance of supply chains on certain jurisdictions and with the right policies and talent in place, the next decade could belong to India,” the finance ministry tweeted.

Devinder Kumar, chief financial officer and treasurer of AMD, spoke of the company’s growth in India and how India is poised to grow strongly with the Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-sufficient India) vision.

Western Digital’s senior vice-president, corporate business development, Dan Steere said the company is excited to explore opportunities to expand manufacturing in the Indian market.

Manish Bhatia, executive vice-president of global operations at Micron Tech, said the U.S. $10 billion scheme by the government would encourage semiconductor manufacturing in India.

The finance minister also met Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who gave a snapshot of the company’s investment in India and expansion plan, expressed optimism about its growth in the country across segments, and spoke of looking to quadruple the number of drivers on its platform to two million.

The minister responded that technology plays an important role in strengthening transportation and mobility sectors as well as last mile connectivity, another tweet from the ministry said.

She also met Mark Widmar, CEO, First Solar, and discussed India’s renewable energy landscape and First Solar’s $700 million investment in India, the ministry added.

Widmar told Sitharaman that the company’s plant will be operational shortly and this is their lowest-cost factory across jurisdictions with very low carbon footprint and recycles 90 percent of material.

He said India has been at the forefront of reforms in the renewable energy sector and the government’s new policy helps companies to operate on a level playing field. Opportunities around green hydrogen and sustainable energy were also discussed at length.