The White House recently invited me to accompany President Barack Obama on a state visit to my home country India, along with CEOs from Disney, Pepsi, MasterCard, Marriott, Honeywell and Westinghouse.
While I have no political affiliations, I immediately accepted – knowing that this could be a game-changing trip. The objective was to help make the U.S-India relationship “non-linear,” expanding trade from $100 billion to $500 billion to further bind the world’s largest democracies.
The delegation and I landed in New Delhi early last Saturday, eager to jump-start several days of meetings, state dinners and dialogue.
The ties that bind our two people are not always obvious, but Northern California is home to a significant and growing portion of the Indian-American community, whose influence and culture have been felt throughout the Sacramento region. From small-business owners to cultural centers, Indian Americans here provide for our robust health as a community and economy. Congressman Ami Bera also joined this trip, further proof of this strong connection.
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I believe there is great opportunity to expand Sacramento’s economic and cultural reach into India and South Asia. The Sacramento community is on the verge of going through an economic renaissance, greatly expanding our region’s business footprint and revitalizing neighborhoods. Every world-class city has a coliseum at its heart, which we will soon have in our new downtown arena. Our agriculture, aerospace, construction and health care industries are global leaders and have already been recognized as such.
India is a huge and growing market for goods built, assembled and created in Sacramento. I stressed that the U.S.-Indian trade and business ties must not be limited to technology, but also handle raw and processed goods – which can be found in our farms, factories and warehouses.
Working with Mayor Kevin Johnson, I’m also committed to transforming Sacramento into a world-class “smart” city that advances innovation and entrepreneurship. Prime Minister Narendra Modi shares that vision with his pledge to build 100 smart cities throughout India. The idea that transit infrastructure, technology, innovation and openness should be the key focal points of cities in the future is shared, and thanks to this trip, the prime minister is now well aware of Sacramento’s bold goals for its own future and how we can benefit one another.
I also strongly encouraged the continuation of existing cultural ties. The impact of the U.S. on India is clear, but there are opportunities to expand. Through the Kings organization and the NBA, we can bring basketball to the fore in Indian sport and create a new market for fans abroad. I want the Kings to be India’s “home team” and create a new link between our region and the country.
During a private dinner with Obama and Modi, I had a chance to express my deep commitment to supporting Sacramento businesses and creating any opportunity to grow in the world’s largest democracy. Their commitment to bolstering ties between our two nations was clear, and by expanding Sacramento’s influence into new countries and continents, we can continue our steady expansion of Sacramento into a world-class, smart city its citizens deserve.
My perspective is informed by my experience. As a teenager, I left my hometown of Mumbai to study electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with only $50 in my pocket. To watch the Republic Day Parade, which is a celebration of India’s heritage, culture and future potential, alongside my president and prime minister was a privilege and honor, a spectacle of glorious proportions and an experience I will never forget.
Vivek Ranadive is chairman and principal owner of the Sacramento Kings.