Less than 45 days after prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley, the return visits have started. First Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg attended a town hall at IIT Delhi last month. On Thursday, the first edition of Microsoft’s Future Unveiled was launched by CEO Satya Nadella in Mumbai. That’s also because Maharashtra houses two of Microsoft’s three data centres in India. Both visits are closely interlinked to the NDA government’s Digital India and Smart Cities plan. As far as Maharashtra is concerned, the Centre plans to build 50 smart villages by the end of 2016, starting with Arinsal, which will be done with support from Microsoft.
To plug into India, Microsoft is starting a programme for start-ups that will create a single platform to bring data together to solve urban problems. Getting 50 start-ups as partners, Microsoft is aiming to cover 50 of India’s proposed 100 smart cities by next year. That should give a boost to the programme. The Smart City programme has also got support from the French government that has committed 2 billion euros for the Smart City projects in Puducherry, Chandigarh and Nagpur. Meanwhile, Nadella finds the Indian e-commerce and start-up space one of the “most exciting” globally. As a first step, it is partnering with JustDial, PayTM and Snapdeal to help them innovate with cloud and analytics. So, government plans and small entrepreneurs have got a booster shot.