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Trip photos

I found inspiration in India

Here are a few pictures from my latest visit to this amazing country.

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Around this time last year, I wrote a Gates Notes post that began: “I just returned from my visit to India, and I can’t wait to go back again.”

Last week, I got my wish and returned to India—and now that I’m home, I can’t wait to go back for another visit.

My goal was to get an update on some of the world-changing ideas and inventions that are coming out of India, and that’s exactly what I got. I spent four days there, meeting with political leaders, government officials, scientists, philanthropists, women who are lifting their communities out of poverty, and many others. The Gates Foundation funds more work in India than in any other country (other than the United States), and it’s always uplifting and educational to be there in person and see the impact of the efforts we’re supporting. Here are a few photos from my visit.

PM time: Late in my trip, I had the privilege of spending an hour with Prime Minister Modi and some of his cabinet ministers. We had a great conversation about how the Gates Foundation can continue to support India’s goals on digital technology, women-led development, and innovation in agriculture, health, and climate change.

A cup of chai: My trip got off to a great start on Tuesday in Hyderabad, where social media star Dolly Chaiwala made me a delicious cup of chai. It was the perfect cure for jet lag! With me in the photo, in addition to Dolly, are Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, hosts of the podcast Armchair Expert. They joined me for parts of the trip.

Digital advances: In Hyderabad I also met with Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, whom I’ve known for years, and other experts who got me up to speed on the latest in digital public infrastructure, or DPI. That’s the system that is making it possible to use digital technology to provide all kinds of services, including digital payments, advice for farmers, education, and much more. India’s progress on DPI is a model that other countries are learning from.

An amazing transformation: On Wednesday I was in Bhubaneswar, where I learned about a government program that’s providing things like electricity, paved roads, and playgrounds in Odisha state’s low-income communities. I got to hear from several local women who—after being trained in engineering and other skills—are leading construction projects to bring these services to their community. I loved hearing their inspiring stories about the challenges they’ve overcome—it’s a stunning before-and-after story.

Smart farming: I got to see India’s DPI in action when I toured an agricultural monitoring center in Bhubaneswar. At this facility, government agriculture experts send advice and real-time updates to 6.5 million farmers via phone. Since this center opened, local farmers are losing 90 percent less of their crops to pests than they used to.

Out for a stroll: I heard from Karthikeya Pandian (pictured walking with me) about the two government initiatives he runs in Odisha. One is designed to improve governance and public services, and the other provides villages with internet facilities, sports fields, training for self-help groups, banking services, and digital connectivity.

State of growth: During his 24 years as Odisha’s Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik (pictured sitting at the table with me) has led a remarkable turnaround in the state. Its economy is growing and poverty is plummeting. He and I discussed Odisha’s accomplishments in agriculture, sanitation, and other areas.

Taking stock of livestock: The Gates Foundation supports a lot of work on agriculture in India, so I was excited to attend a learning session in New Delhi on Thursday with experts on livestock and crops. I learned about the latest innovations in artificial insemination, buffalo breeding, climate-smart seeds, and much more.

Talking nutrition: I joined India’s Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani, at an event to highlight the problem of malnutrition. The Minister invited me to a Poshan Ustav—“nutrition festival”—to release a new book on India’s nutritional practices. We also had a great discussion about how the Gates Foundation can support her office’s efforts to improve life for women and children throughout the country.

The IIT factor: I love talking with college students, and my visit to the New Delhi campus of the Indian Institutes of Technology was no exception. The students and faculty were brimming with ideas and optimism about the innovations that will help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

The tallest statue anywhere: On Friday, at Prime Minister Modi’s suggestion, I visited the Statue of Unity in Gujarat. It’s a tribute to Sardar Patel, one of the key figures in India’s independence movement. It’s an impressive site—at more than 597 feet, it’s the tallest statue in the world—but I was just as impressed by the government’s efforts to build a tourism-driven economy around it that benefits the local population. In the peak season, more than 60,000 tourists visit the statue every day.

A joyous occasion: My trip was scheduled around the pre-wedding celebration of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant. Here I am with Paula Hurd and Nandan and Rohini Nilekani.

I came home with a deeper understanding of India’s vibrant innovation ecosystem and how it’s generating major advances in health, urban poverty, digital services, and much more. The world has a lot to learn from the ideas coming out of this country.