From Peru to India

Hi, my name is Leah! I am a rising junior in Wharton with intended concentrations in management and finance. Beginning on May 28, I will be interning with IFMR IRCS (Rural Channels and Services Limited), working in financial modeling and also in areas such as debt raising, risk analysis, and customer profiling. Around a month ago, we spoke with Zach, who works with Arjun, the CFO of IRCS. We learned that IRCS is a for-profit non-banking financial institution with $100 million in assets that offers a range of financial products and services to clients in rural areas. In addition to living near the head office in Chennai, Nikhil and I will be spending part of our time in a branch in the north of India, which will be a great opportunity to experience another culture.

When I first applied to Penn IIP and CASI Student Programs, I knew very little about India. I knew that it was predicted to become the next major economy in the coming decades, but I never comprehended the challenges associated with governing and serving the needs of a 1.2 billion population. I never realized that nearly 500,000 students sit for the JEE, a common entrance exam for the top engineering colleges, for 10,000 seats (and we complain about the acceptance rates of US colleges!), or that 148 million people live below the international poverty level of US $1.25 per day. I realize that I may never again be exposed to poverty so raw or so much diversity of cultures, languages, and ethnicities within one nation. I want India to challenge and change me. From arranged marriages to vegetarian diets and a 74% literacy rate, India and the United States often strike me as polar opposites. As easy as it might be to assume that I have nothing in common with the Indian culture, I will go in with an open mind, ready to draw out commonalities where they exist and appreciate a heritage that is extremely rich and colorful. Having traveled to around 15 countries, I realice that cultural immersion is extremely powerful, and I hope one day my professional and personal decisions will be colored by these memories of meeting people with needs, dreams, and problems that are simultaneously so different from and similar to my own.

My prior finance experience comes from raising over $15,000 to launch a microfinance program in Huancayo, Peru. This summer, I am interested in juxtaposing the KGFS approach to improving financial access with the microfinance models I have studied in Peru. I hope that this summer can be the start of a much longer journey spent learning about and falling in love with India, and I cannot wait to get started.

2012-08-18 07.04.41

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About Leah Davidson

Class of 2016, intending to concentrate in management and finance in Wharton. Intern at IFMR IRCS in Chennai, India in summer 2014.