WERE IT NOT FOR THE SUITS, sombre faces and plush chairs, the launch of Digital India would have had the aura of a pop concert. It was the first day of July in 2015, and thousands of people had filled the arena of the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Delhi. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi entered, the crowd erupted with cheers. Before the presentations began in earnest, jumbotrons played a digital animation accompanied by heavy electronic music. Light—sometimes blue, sometimes yellow—bathed the stage. Modi himself sat at the centre of the onstage dais, flanked by the finance minister, Arun Jaitley, the electronics and information technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, and a supporting cast of other officials.
Behind and just to the right of Modi, in the middle of a mostly out-of-view back row of businessmen, sat Mukesh Ambani. When it came time for these men to speak, Ambani—the richest man in India and the chairman of Reliance Industries Limited, India’s largest private company—went first. Referring to the event as “a momentous occasion in the history of modern India,” Ambani praised India’s leader. “India is fortunate to have a prime minister who not only paints a compelling and comprehensive vision but has the personal leadership and drive to convert his vision to reality,” he said. Modi, wearing a white button-down jacket, stared forward blankly. “Normally, industry moves faster than government, but with Digital India it is different,” Ambani said. “I have no hesitation in saying that government has moved faster.”