Bay Area Council Leads Delegation to India to Expand, Deepen Economic Ties

California and the Bay Area-Silicon Valley are poised to reap significant benefits from deepening economic ties with India as the South Asian country works vigorously to develop strong regional partnerships that can help accelerate its transformation into a global economic powerhouse.

That is the message the Bay Area Council will be taking with it as it leads a high-level delegation, including California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, to India from Jan. 14-18 for a series of meetings with business, government and academic officials. The purpose will be to explore new strategic opportunities for greater cooperation that can lead to increased bilateral trade and investment, particularly as India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a bold and ambitious agenda to digitize the economy, expand the use of renewable energy and enact reforms that making doing business easier.

“As California’s representative for International Affairs and Trade Development, I am pleased to help lay the foundation to build robust, ongoing engagement with our international partners,” Kounalakis said. “California and India share much in common. Together, we will build on our partnership to create inclusive and sustainable economic growth.”

“India is poised for economic greatness and the Bay Area-Silicon Valley is poised to be a leading partner in that transformation,” said Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman, who will help lead the delegation. “A major focus of this trip will be to build on the important relationships and institutional connections that are critical to facilitating future business-to-business opportunities. It’s a model that we’ve had great success with over 10 years in China and we’re extremely excited to bring it to India. And it’s only heightened by the terrific energy and enthusiasm we’re seeing in India for building global connections.”

The visit builds on a report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released last June—The Bay Area-Silicon Valley and India: Convergence and Alignment in the Innovation Age—that examined the already-incredible relationship between India and the Bay Area, the long history of Indian contributions to the region’s innovation economy and fast-emerging investments that Bay Area companies are making in India. It also comes on the heels of meetings the Bay Area Council convened last year with Indian Ambassador to the United States Harsh Shringla and Indian Consul General in San Francisco Sanjay Panda to advance greater cooperation.

“The stewardship of Governor Gavin Newsom of the “Golden State” of California, a leader in the United States in industries such as agriculture, pharmaceutical, finance, information technology, aerospace, film and entertainment and tourism, can help realize the untapped potential of bilateral cooperation,” Shringla said in a letter introducing the report. “California is known world-wide for its innovative and important technology firms such as Apple, Facebook, Oracle and Google. Many of these firms have research centers in India and find a huge market and user base there as well. India’s skilled engineers power these Silicon Valley giants and also contribute to the start-up ecosystem of the Valley.

“We are now on the threshold of a qualitative transformation in our bilateral engagement, and California has that special X-factor to fast track this process,” said Sanjay Panda, Consul General of India in San Francisco.

The growing connections between the Bay Area-Silicon Valley and India were highlighted recently when United Airlines launched new nonstop service from San Francisco to New Delhi, the largest commercial center in northern India and one of the most economically productive regions in all of India. The Bay Area Council delegation will travel to Delhi on United Airlines, whose California President Janet Lamkin serves on the Council’s Executive Committee and is joining the trip.

“United is excited to partner with the Bay Area Council and Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis in forging even stronger connections between California and India, a country we have proudly served for more than a decade,” said Janet Lamkin, the company’s president of California. “As the only U.S. airline with nonstop flights to Delhi from the West Coast, United provides convenient access to these key markets and, more importantly, a foundation for new trade, investment and economic prosperity.”

The delegation is scheduled to hold briefings and meetings with various business, government and academic leaders on a wide range of topics, including technology, energy, manufacturing, media and entertainment and tourism. Among the delegates joining the trip are Gary Meltzer, Managing Partner of PwC, Winsome Bowen of Facebook, Anurag Varma of Infosys, SynBioBeta CEO John Cumbers, Joydeep Ganguly of Gilead Sciences, Bijal Patel of the California Hotel and Lodging Association, Harshul Asnani of Tech Mahindra and Kausik Rajgopal of McKinsey & Co.

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