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Mehnaz Ansari, Country Representative, India Office
Mehnaz Ansari, Country Representative, India Office

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) strengthened its partnership with India this year by committing to support Prime Minister Modi’s initiative to develop smart cities. In January 2015, India welcomed President Obama to celebrate its ‘Republic Day’ and it was on this visit that USTDA Director Zak signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to support smart city development in Visakhapatnam (Vizag), Ajmer and Allahabad. The MOU-signings strengthened collaboration between the U.S. and India in terms of bilateral commercial and trade engagement on Smart Cities.

While the development of smart cities includes many layers of sectoral engagements, public-private partnership stands at the helm of its success. These types of partnerships serve as a common denominator of USTDA programs as the Agency seeks to form connections that lead to sustainable development overseas and business opportunities for U.S. companies.

These partnerships have led to a number of successes across India, one of which being with the utility, Tata Power New Delhi Distribution Ltd. (Tata Power). Our technical collaboration has supported Tata Power’s ability to automate 34 grids and reduce losses from 53% to 11%.  These upgrades have significantly improved energy access for a population of 4.5 million people in North Delhi. Our partnership enabled the utility to make significant progress on its smart grid programs, so much so that Tata Power has become a household success story across the country. In fact, USTDA featured the progress of Tata Power in its recent Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report.  

One exciting capstone of the Agency’s work this past year was an invitation from the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, to join the celebration of Tata Power providing solar power to the Estate's School complex. The following week, President Mukherjee extended an invitation to USTDA to join a Roundtable on Global Innovation.

Partnering with Tata Power is not the only work that USTDA has done in India—USTDA works across key infrastructure sectors such as energy, transport and telecom.  For example, there is also the Aviation Cooperation Program, which aims to support India’s civil aviation modernization priorities such as safety and emissions reduction targets. This partnership helped India to restore its Category One rating and to become a regional leader in Civil Aviation.

When one of the of U.S. Government’s smallest agencies is recognized twice by the leader of the world's largest democracy in one calendar year, it reflects the solid partnership and collaboration between USTDA and India.  It is clear that a lean team with expertise and commitment can bring more effective transformation than simple pots of money.  Making connections, sharing best practices and moving forward – this strategy has produced some solid results in improving the quality of life for people across the region. Contributing to this mission and achieving these results certainly makes USTDA an incredible place to work!