Privatisation, in particular the franchise model, is seen by many as key to solving the crisis.
But as Torrent's experience in Agra shows, it is hugely risky and a hard way to make money.
To succeed means upending a deep-rooted culture of non-payment and getting the support of populist-leaning state governments, according to dozens of government officials, company owners, politicians and industry analysts who were interviewed for this piece.
Private power companies that dare to venture in face a complex web of political patronage and deep-rooted corruption involving shady middlemen who organise illegal hookups to power-lines, pay government officials to settle bills for smaller amounts and, for a fee, will keep creaky transformers running.
"To bring about privatisation requires enormous political will," said Torrent Director Murli Ranganathan during a visit to the company's office complex in Agra. "Without political will, without administrative support you will not be able to convert this model into success."