First Week in Chennai

I am slowly growing accustomed to India. During the week, we spend most of our time in an air-conditioned office with pretty modern amenities, so the weekends are our main opportunity to see the other facets of Chennai. This past weekend, Nikhil and I visited temples in Mylapore (the one pictured is the Kapaleeswarar Temple), the Sri Ramakrishna Math, a monastic organization, and the Guindy National Park on the IIT Madras campus, which consisted of lush green areas and disappointing animal enclosures. The traffic in India is always chaotic. The sidewalks don’t seem to be well constructed, so crossing streets amid the hordes of motorcycles, bicycles, and street vendors remains a challenge. We live in a fairly modern urban district, so although many of the older women wear saris, kurtis, and salwar kameez, the younger girls sport more typical western clothing like jeans and T-shirts.

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Last week, we redefined our roles with Arjun, the CFO of IFMR IRCS. Since I am interested in delving more into financial services and Nikhil wants to prepare for a career in consulting, we switched our responsibilities, so that I will be compiling a debt newsletter and information memorandum based on an analysis of financial projections and statements, while Nikhil will conduct site selection research. So far, we have completed roll rate and cohort analysis to evaluate default rates at various KGFS branches. Nikhil and I will also be working on a group project, an equity IM for the Pudhuaaru KGFS branch in Thanjavur. Since we only knew basic Excel before the internship, there is a sharp learning curve to understand the shortcuts and coding.

I have discovered that I really love Indian food, particularly parathas, pan-fried flatbread, and dosas, thin crepes made from rice batter and lentils and served with various sauces, curries, and chutneys. For dinner, Nikhil and I have been experimenting with different types of eating establishments around Chennai, from a bizarre rainforest-themed restaurant with a running waterfall and waiters in leopard print to a fine dining Italian place by the sea and an American-style cafe with amazing French toast and espressos.

I have been accepted into the Wharton Research Scholars program to write my senior thesis on frugal innovation in India and I am hoping to develop additional case studies on interesting microfinance models in India to add to my project for the Wharton Social Impact Research Experience, so over the coming weeks I plan to contact some organizations in the area related to these projects. I will be in Bangalore next weekend to celebrate my birthday and am very excited to explore the sights and sounds of another Indian city.

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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.