Facebook to gain much-needed support for its expansive ambitions in India
The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi seemed at home at Facebook headquarters , in a town hall event seen by many as an attempt by Facebook to gain much-needed support for its expansive ambitions in India.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was certainly in a welcoming mood, changing his profile picture to include an Indian flag and writing: “I changed my profile picture to support Digital India, the Indian government’s effort to connect rural communities to the internet and give people access to more services online.”
At the 50-minute event, both men became emotional. Modi told the audience women were vital to the future of his country, and came close to crying when he discussed his mother’s role in his life. She had struggled when he was younger, he said, in order to “make ends meet”.
“A mother will never want you to become something; she will think about how you will achieve that,” he said. “I am from a very ordinary family, a very poor family. I sold tea in railway stations.”
For his part, Zuckerberg told Modi about a little-known incident several years ago when, he said, Facebook “wasn’t doing so well”. The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, he said, urged him to take a spiritual trip to India and visit a temple there.
The journey, Zuckerberg said, cleared his head and helped reaffirm Facebook’s mission to connect billions of people around the world.
Narendra Modi arrives for Silicon Valley tour as India's influence grows
Modi and Zuckerberg’s conversation turned, inevitably, toward economics and the role of the internet and technology in India. That was why many of the Facebook workers present showed up.
“We have been hearing from a lot of people here at work that India is a top priority, like China, and to have the prime minister here speaking it shows that there is a lot of excitement for us,” Paresh, a 37-year-old Facebook employee who declined to give his surname, told the Guardian.
“I think we all, and especially us Indians, are looking forward to the opportunity to get moving in India.”
Speaking to an audience of around 1,000, Modi said: “India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. My dream is to become a $20tn economy.