This study examines processes fundamental to the development of South Asian monsoon depressions using an array of integrations of an idealized convection-permitting numerical model. In each integration, a wave of initially small amplitude is subjected to a different amount of vertical and meridional wind shear, with temperature and moisture fields constructed according to realistic constraints. Based on the evolution of this disturbance into monsoon depression-like vortices, two features of the background environment emerge as important: the low-level gradient of moist static energy (MSE) and the low-level meridional shear. As the low-level MSE gradient steepens, the disturbance becomes stronger and produces more rain. This strengthening results from the interaction of the vortex with latent heat release by convection that is in turn organized by positive MSE advection in the northerly flow west of the vortex. In this region of advection, moister air from the north ascends along upward sloping isentropes, driving moist convection. The disturbance also becomes stronger with increasing meridional shear, which makes the environment more barotropically unstable. The absence of either of these two features of the background environment prevents substantial growth of the disturbance. Our results suggest that monsoon depression growth in South Asia is fostered by the coexistence of a strong low-level MSE gradient with strong meridional wind shear associated with the monsoon trough.