Getting There

I arrived in India on May 28 after a daylong layover in Abu Dhabi, during which I visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Emirates Palace.

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I still remember the early morning taxi ride from the airport in Chennai – driving past women cutting fruit by the side of the road, palm trees swaying rhythmically, and people trying in vain to cross the busy streets in the midst of honking cars and buses.

Zach, our supervisor, introduced me and Nikhil to IFMR IRCS’s model of improving financial access in rural communities throughout India. We have spoken with several senior executives within IFMR and learned that the KGFS model employed by IFMR involves providing BOP customers with a greater range of financial loan and insurance products than a traditional MFI (microfinance institution). IFMR employs local citizens as wealth managers at its branches throughout India in order to optimally serve a particular geographic area. During this internship, Nikhil will both learn about Excel, statistical analysis, and financial modeling. I will most likely concentrate on the company’s five-year strategic model, while Nikhil will work more with debt raising. The company culture is great – hardworking, yet relaxed, and Zach has taken us to many delicious restaurants in the area.

So far, India has proved an interesting cultural experience. The food is very tasty and in the city we have access to many different types of international cuisine. I still find it very hard to eat exclusively with the right hand, but I am adapting to the variety of spices, breads, and curries. I recently went shopping for more traditional Indian clothing at a local mall. Indian clothing is very colorful and vibrant. I have started loving the autos and the gentle breeze which makes the 37-40 degree weather slightly more bearable.

Yesterday we had a surfing lesson at a beach 30 minutes from Chennai. The water was so warm and beautiful. I truly believe that surfing is more psychological than physical. If you do not overanalyze, you will be able to ride the wave, but as soon as you realize what you are doing, you will lose focus and wipe out.

This coming week, we will begin our team project on data collection and prepare for our site visit to a KGFS branch. I know that both the business and cultural knowledge I accumulate over this summer will greatly impact me later in life, and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to meet such hospitable people.

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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.