New Delhi - Nearly 80 years ago, Mohandas Gandhi addressed FICCI members at one of the organization's annual meetings.
Established in 1927, FICCI was a young organization then, with nowhere near the massive reach or scale that the organization now enjoys.
But one thing that has stayed the same throughout FICCI's history is its unifying belief. It is a belief that has FICCI such a powerful force for good in the world; a belief that strengthens India's reputation as a rising power.
And it is that belief that Gandhi expressed that day, that now sits above the entrance to FICCI's building: "Industry should regard themselves as trustees and servants of the poor."
The role the private sector plays in fighting poverty and improving livelihoods is more critical and profound than ever.
Today I want to talk about why that role is so important, why innovation lies at its heart and how USAID and FICCI can help drive greater progress not just for India, but for the world.
Dr. Rajiv Kumar in his book "The Long View in Delhi" highlighted that economics and innovation will determine India's future.
Sixty years ago, persistent food shortages threatened India's young democracy. In response, six American universities sent their first agricultural researchers and scientists to work in India to help establish a network of Indian agricultural universities.
Those first eight universities helped sow the seeds of a new agricultural era, ushering in the Green Revolution that saved millions of lives around the world.
Since that first partnership over half a century ago, the relationship between our two nations has transformed dramatically, delivering meaningful results for both our people.
Throughout our histories, America's partnership with India has gradually evolved as the subcontinent has. Gone are the days of donors and recipients.
Today India and the US are true partners—strategically, economically and developmentally.
India is now a pioneer of game-changing innovations that are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in development.
We want to work with India's own knowledge base to raise incomes and improve livelihoods.
That's why we are moving forward in India with a new sense of possibility, unleashing a new spirit of innovation and results-based development.
A cornerstone of this effort is forming new, high impact public-private partnerships—working and investing together to build new markets, unlock opportunity and deliver meaningful results.
We must work more collaboratively with a much wider range of partners—particularly private firms, be they foreign or domestic, established or entrepreneurial.
And we must support the work of markets that can deliver profits, create jobs and deliver economic opportunity for women, minorities and the poor.
By fostering new ideas and forming high-impact public-private partnerships to bring those ideas to scale, we can work with Indian organizations to drive meaningful solutions to global development challenges.
For instance, to strengthen food security across India, we are working with ITC Limited and Hariyali Kisaan Bazaar—the agricultural supermarket chain—to set up Rural Business Hubs that have provided agricultural extension services for more than 190,000 farmers.
As a result, nearly two-thirds of these farmers have increased their productivity by 25 percent.
And by teaching simple improved practices and better livestock management, more than 135,000 farmers—mostly women—saw a 25 percent increase in milk production and household income.
We are also working together to expand access to critical health services among rural populations in India. We're working with ITC to leverage its rural agricultural distribution and communication network, e-Choupal, to build demand for health products and services. For a small commission, Village Health Champions supply rural communities with health products, like water purification devices and menstrual hygiene products. Today I'm happy to announce an exciting new partnership between FICCI and USAID, designed to leverage India's tremendous creativity, expertise and resources to source and scale innovation.
USAID and FICCI will collaborate with Indian private sector sponsors and other stakeholders, to establish an innovation platform called "The Millennium Alliance: An Indian-US Innovation Partnership for Global Development".
The Millennium Alliance will be a platform to identify and invest in innovations from civil society, academia, social entrepreneurs, and other private sector players; and bring them to scale in India.
USAID, with our 80 missions around the world, can help take those innovations and introduce them globally.
The Millennium Alliance will welcome academics, entrepreneurs, NGOs and private sector players to discover scalable answers to some the subcontinent's greatest challenges.
USAID and FICCI both will contribute $7.5 Million each to the platform and work to raise up to $50 Million within the next 12 months.
We invite other donors, private sector players, and foundations in India, the US and around the world to join us in this effort.
We already have evidence of the innovation that commitments like these can help generate.
With a grant from USAID's Development Innovation Ventures Fund, the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia in Chennai is designing a simple way to address absenteeism among health workers.
After conducting surveys that revealed that doctors don't show up for work more than 60 percent of the time, J-PAL South Asia is using mobile phones to capture thumb impressions and track health work attendance.
That's the kind of innovation that change the way education and healthcare is provided, not just in Bihar or Rajasthan but in countries throughout the world.
As India continues its own development, we hope to work with the Government to channel its experience to less developed nations.
India's dramatic growth has lifted millions out of poverty.
Within that experience lie lessons that could lift millions more from a life of hardship.
In his address to the Indian parliament, President Obama said, "It is no exaggeration to say that our information age is rooted in Indian innovations."
As a dynamic and democratic global power, India is now one of America's most significant trading partners and a growing source of investment back into the United States.
The progress both our nations have made in the last two decades is a testament to our strong partnership.
But we hope to add a new chapter to that partnership, as we work together to confront some of the greatest development challenges of our time.
Last updated: May 31, 2012