Prosperity Post: Utah and India's Incredible (and Inevitable) Partnerships

March 25, 2024

In late February and early March, the World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) orchestrated the India Trade Mission 2024. Led by former Utah Governor Gary Herbert, alongside the leadership team of WTC Utah, the delegation included representatives from EDCUtah, the Salt Lake Chamber, the 47G aerospace industry association, Vineyard City Mayor Julie Fullmer, and several business leaders. Greg Hill, chief administrative officer of the University of Utah Asia campus, and Jagath Kaluarachchi, dean of engineering at Utah State University, rounded out the delegation.

Erin Farr, vice president of business development, represented EDCUtah on the trade mission. We caught up with her to find out more.

What was the overall goal of the trip – in general, and for EDCUtah?

At a high level, the goal of the trade mission was to enhance bilateral relations between Utah and India and identify opportunities to collaborate across several industry and government sectors. We were there to build relationships with Indian counterparts.

For EDCUtah, the main goals of the trip were to explore foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities, and to connect with companies that are looking to expand into the United States via a “soft landing zone” in Utah.

The United States is India’s largest and most trusted trading partner, and India is among our top ten. India’s exports to the U.S. reached $85.5 billion in 2022, up 16.7 percent from 2021, and up 111 percent from 2012.  As of 2022-23, India ranks as the world’s fifth-largest economy by GDP, totaling $3.75 trillion USD. It was evident that developments in China and Russia position India to assume an even larger role in U.S. trade. Most of the people we met with said the Utah delegation was visiting at the right time to position Utah to take advantage of those trends. Our counterparts were excited that Utah is so interested in advancing India trade relations.

With whom did you meet?

The delegation spent time in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru. In general, we met with representatives of think tanks, innovation hubs, chambers of commerce, venture funds, as well as government ministers of education and technology and the U.S. Commercial Service and the U.S. Consulate.

We also met with aerospace & defense companies and former military leaders at the Defense Aerospace and Technology Conclave in Bengaluru.  

What was the tenor of the conversations you had?

A lot of the companies we met with had not considered locations off the coastal markets of the U.S. – the big cities they knew of like New York or Los Angeles. We shared the message that Utah is the Crossroads of the West and we’re a fast-growing economy. We stressed that Utah and India share some similarities. Specifically, we both have young, educated, multi-lingual populations.  

The big takeaway is that both government and business leaders in India are excited to build strong ties with Utah. Their stated goal is to become a developed country by 2047 and create 70 million new jobs by 2034. They are investing aggressively in infrastructure, education, and innovation.  

A lot of the meetings were heavily focused on aerospace & defense, since there is an agreement in place between our countries to foster collaboration in this industry. We talked about how Indian and Utah companies can work together in this sector. In addition, India would welcome Utah setting up an education campus, like the University of Utah has done in South Korea.

How did this trip differ from past international Global Strategy & Outreach (GS&O) trips you’ve taken?

When EDCUtah conducts independent GS&O trips to international markets, we meet with a few dozen targeted companies that are interested in expansion to a market like Utah. The meetings we held in India were all about making connections so we can start building relationships that will mature to that next stage of corporate investment and expansion.

Members of the delegation and I shared Utah’s story in every meeting and encouraged participants to explore investing and expanding in Utah. Many meetings had between 20 to 100 people there. By the end of the trip, I received probably 200 business cards of people to follow up with, and I had 15 or 20 emails awaiting my response. Those communications will allow us to start exploring how we can work together.  

I have to say that the Indians I met with are hungry for connection. There was a real energy about partnering together. There’s a tagline: “Incredible India.” The people I met said they are going from “Incredible India” to “Inevitable India,” meaning that India is increasingly top of mind for U.S. policymakers and a top priority for ensuring our own economic growth. India has the expertise in different industries and the sheer scale to be a major partner for decades to come.

You participated in GS&O trips with Governor Herbert during his tenure in office. What was it like having him back in the saddle?

Really good!  India’s culture appreciates dignitaries and having Governor Herbert lead the trade mission helped open doors. Even though he’s not an active governor, they were honored to have him there. It was a sign of respect on our part, that we didn’t regard it as merely a transactional trip, but as a relationship we are building and investing in for years to come.

Governor Herbert also added gravitas to the signing of several memorandums of understanding (MOUs). Indians treat the ceremonial aspect of these MOU events with importance, and they appreciated his presence.

Governor Cox was unable to attend the trip due to the demands of Utah’s legislative session. However, he plans to travel to India on a future trade mission, and that’s a message WTC Utah wanted to make clear. We are sincere in investing in relationships for the long term.

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Erin Farr

Vice President of Business Development