Today wraps up my second full week of work at Jana Urban Foundation here in Bangalore, although it feels like I have been here for more than a month. Coming to India I expected to adjust fairly quickly to the environment around me and the people that I would be interacting with. The places I have been to before (Italy, Rwanda, Brazil, Jordan) have not really challenged me in the way that India has. The sensory overload was overwhelming in every way. The game of frogger while trying to cross the street, the stares I get as I walk by on every sidewalk, the noise, the cars, the spicy in the food and the never stopping heart beat of the city. I did not have an easy time settling in and the first few days that I was here I felt very isolated from everything that is familiar to me, a feeling that I had not felt since moving to the U.S from my native Dominican Republic. I’ve been abroad many times and for various reasons but India is completely different in a way that I’m not really able to describe yet, but will probably only come to understand as I spend more time here.
After my initial impressions of sensory overload and slight homesickness, I was able to dive into what I feel is going to be a phenomenal summer. At my first day of work at Jana Urban Foundation, Tina and I met our supervisors and fellow interns from Duke. It turns out, the Jana Group is a pretty big group comprising of six different entities, one of which is Jana Urban Services for Transformation (JUST) which serves as a consultancy to Janalakshmi Financial Services (the micro finance branch of the Jana Group). I will be working with the Customer Insights and Analytics team on an agent banking project (more on this to follow). Everyone at work is very helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. Whether that means getting a SIM card, going for lunch, useful Excel tips or helping plan our next weekend trip.
Speaking of, I have only been in India for a little under three weeks but have already traveled so much. The first week in India I was in Delhi and in Pondicherry. Last weekend, the Jana interns went to Antragange (a rocky mountain range outside of Bangalore). Tomorrow I set for a weekend visit to Mysore! It’s amazing how much there is to do on the weekends but also how much I get to explore Bangalore (which has so much to offer)! I hope to travel quite frequently while I am here without neglecting to spend time in Bangalore.
Updates on my project (I will be including this part on everyone of my blog entries to have more detailed progress on my project):
As I mentioned earlier, I will be working on the Agent Banking project (Click here to get a better understand of Agent Banking is). Essentially, Janalakshmi is trying to create a network of “agents” that will carry out banking services (such as withdrawals, deposits, etc) in their neighborhoods. The purpose of this is to making banking services more readily available to a segment of the population that for any reason cannot make it to a formal bank. Janalakshmi works with Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE) who they want to target as new potential Agents. My job is to analyze all the existing data on the MSE and create a criteria for the Agents. I will also have to look at existing agents, Jana MSE, and other enterprises in the market and what their geographical reach is. This project is really exciting because I will be able to learn a lot of practical data analysis skills while at the same time doing work that really focuses on financial inclusion. This past week, I did an analysis of the data on Jana’s MSE and that was very data analysis heavy, which for me is challenging but very exciting.
I’m still trying to find a routine that will make this place seem more familiar (my breakfast), but I’m growing to appreciate the way that this city has made my senses come alive in a totally different way. The game of Frogger has turned into a Mario Kart race where I can be Princess Peach ,the unfamiliar streets are now a puzzle to discover, my fellow interns and I are now regulars at Foody’s (a restaurant near work) and my spice tolerance has increased exponentially. For now, all is well 🙂