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Rupert Murdoch lauds Modi; US CEOs call for speedy TV digitisation

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MUMBAI: There are some leaders who leave a good impression and then there are those who leave a lasting impression on others’ mind, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi definitely belongs to the latter type. 

In his recent meeting with the Fortune 500 CEOs at the iconic Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, Modi not only successfully brought up the burning issues of Indian media and digitisation to the world platform, but also instilled a sense of camaraderie amongst the executives, whose net worth, as per the media buzz, was $4.5 trillion!

The proof of the pudding lay in the superlative address that 21st Century Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch gave Modi through his tweet after the event.

“Great hour with Indian PM Modi. Best leader with best policies since independence, but massive task to achieve in most complex nation,” said Murdoch.

Apart from the senior Murdoch, the CEOs present at the roundtable meeting chaired by Modi included 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch, News Corp  CEO Robert Thompson, Star India CEO Uday Shankar, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell, Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, Interpublic Group of Companies CEO Michael Roth, Vice Media CEO Shane Smith, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, A&E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc, Visy Industries chairman Anthony Pratt, Route One Investment Company’s William Duhamel and ValueAct Capital CEO Jeff Ubben.

While the CEOs were enthusiastic about the digital transformation that is taking place in India through the Digital India initiative, they called for speeding up of television digitisation, and strengthening of the cellular (mobile) infrastructure.

According to the head honchos, the current strong trajectory of the Indian economy made it at a unique moment to accelerate growth in this sector.

Post the meeting, Modi tweeted his pleasure in seeing the executives enthusiastic about being part of Digital India and the role of media in it. “Met top American CEOs from media & entertainment sector. They were enthusiastic about the change @_DigitalIndia initiative in driving,” he said before craftily leading in the major issues that were discussed among the executives in the congregation earlier.

“My interaction with Fortune 500 CEOs was on investment opportunities in India & why they must come & @makeinindia! Digital technology has a vital role in making democracy stronger & in overall human resource development,” he tweeted.

Modi painted the government's vision to connect the 600,000-odd villages in India with broadband and emphasised that digital technology will increasingly play a major role in further strengthening democracy and India's development narrative. He also highlighted how Digital India posed as a great opportunity for the international media companies.

As evident from the PM’s tweets, foreign direct investment (FDI) formed a large chunk of the round table and the 90 minute soiree. “Foreign direct investment all over the world has fallen. But in India, it increased by 40 per cent. This reflects confidence in the Indian economy,” Modi was heard pointing out the executives right before they sat down for dinner. “Reform in governance is my number one priority. We are for simplified procedures, speedy decision-making, transparency and accountability,” he assured the prospective investors.

The topic that dominated most of the evening was the role that the media and entertainment industry can play in development and generation of employment opportunities in India.

Modi also touched upon the importance of a smoother Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime in the digital era.

Pegging his argument on India’s value for intellectual property he said, “We are committed to protecting IPR, that's essential to fostering creativity.”

He also upheld the importance of regional languages in India and suggested to the CEOs that India represents both the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge for them. He also urged them to keep regional languages in mind, as they firm up investment plans for India. “Explained to media CEOs why India is a great opportunity for them & how many regional languages makes India even more special to invest in,” Modi tweeted.

“The government has already undertaken a massive amount of reforms. Key message from the US companies was keep doing what you are doing. I had a great meeting, there was a constructive dialogue in the spirit of collaboration. We are looking at India trying to get foreign direct investment,” said J P Morgan CEO James Dimon.

As per  India's foreign office spokesperson Vikas Swarup, Modi took keen interest to personally interact with every CEO, and understand the executives’ areas of concern that his government could address and resolve.

The Prime Minister emphasised that he saw a key role for digital technology in further strengthening democracy, and in India’s development narrative.

“By and large the mood was upbeat. There was a general consensus that the Prime Minister was effecting change in India. The only thing which these chief executives said was: Please make these changes faster,” Swarup briefed the media.

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