For some time now, Facebook has faced pressure to dramatically increase the size of its user base. As it stands today, Facebook has about 1.5 billion members across the globe, a figure which represents about 21% of the entire world’s population. Consequently, Facebook has long looked toward India as a surefire way to rapidly expand its global reach. With a population of over 1.5 billion people, India is the second most populous country in the world and clearly an important cog in Facebook’s continued expansion efforts.
The only problem is that the majority of people in India (an estimated 800 million) still don’t have Internet access. Facebook’s solution? Provide free Internet access to the masses.
So as part of Facebook’s ongoing effort to develop a working and amicable relationship with India, Mark Zuckerberg earlier this week hosted Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi. If this at all sounds familiar, it’s because Modi over the past week has been on something of a Silicon Valley rockstar tour, sitting down for meetings with Tim Cook, newly minted Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and even Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
During the course of his two-day visit at Facebook, Modi joined Mark Zuckerberg on stage to participate in a town hall style Q& A session. Before the Q&A began, Zuckerberg tried to kick things off on a positive note by relaying a story about why India was an important part of Facebook’s early development. And interestingly enough, the story involves Steve Jobs.
Zuckerberg’s opening remarks read as follows:
You know, India is very personally important to the history of our company here. This is a story I haven’t told publicly, and very few people know. But early on in our history, before things were really going well, and we had hit a tough patch, and a lot of people wanted to buy Facebook and thought we should sell the company, I went and I saw one of my mentors, Steve Jobs. And he told me that in order to reconnect with what I believed was the mission of the company, I should visit this temple that he had gone to in India early on in his evolution of thinking about what he wanted Apple and his vision of the future to be. And so I went, and I travelled for almost a month, and seeing the people, seeing how people connected, and having the opportunity to feel how much better the world could be if everyone had a stronger ability to connect, reinforced for me the importance of what we were doing. And that is something that I’ve always remembered over the last 10 years as we built Facebook.
Jobs, of course, in the years leading up to the creation of Apple, had spent about seven months traveling throughout India.
In light of this newly told story, it’s worth mentioning that Jobs was something of a fan of Zuckerberg. Once, Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson asked Jobs who he admired in Silicon Valley.
“Mark’s was the first name on his lips,” Isaacson recounted. “He felt an odd kinship to Mark.”
In a separate interview, Jobs once expressed admiration for Zuckerberg’s determination to build a long-lasting company instead of selling out to the highest bidder at the first possible opportunity.