Tanaya Srini, Class of 2015
My twelve weeks in India were often bizarre, frequently rewarding, and always challenging. As an intern both in the poverty assessment and banking startup sectors of India's development scene, I was able to cultivate a broad set of skills and diversify my knowledge base of development issues. My time as a research fellow for InVenture, a mobile banking social enterprise illuminated the challenges of running a startup in an international space. Though the company is lacking in organization and support for its interns, I was able to independently gather a lot of information about workable incentive structures, the scope of mobile technology in development, and the manner in which social performance is measured. I pursued another internship opportunity after it was clear that InVenture couldn't support my activities in the way I expected, and ended up at Grameen Foundation India--the research wing of Grameen Bank. This position combined research and consulting, and allowed me cultivate skills in client-side consulting. I worked with many MFIs and NGOs to understand how Grameen's Progress out of Poverty Index could better serve different organizations based on variations in client demographics, geography, and poverty levels. This was incredibly valuable and opened my eyes to many of the shortcomings of poverty measurement in within various development schemes. It also renewed my interest in effective poverty measurements, which I am sure I will further pursue in the future. I also played a role in fact-checking and copy-editing the many case studies and reports that GFI publishes. I mainly worked on case studies concerning the business corespondent model, which is newly being introduced in India as a way to bring branchless banking to the informally employed in rural areas. The scope and pace of the work at GFI combined with its impact and global reach made me feel like an integral part of the team. It is an organization that I will continue to follow in the years to come and would recommend to anyone looking to learn about poverty outreach and social performance metrics.
When I wasn't working, I was able to live just as a middle class Indian would thanks to the Summer Experience Grant. This included roaming the streets for snacks after work, bargaining at the many street stalls for handicrafts, and talking to the locals. These informal conversations soon turned into my own personal research project: I wanted to understand how young people conceived of their political agency. The results were pretty jarring. I learned that most young Indians don't believe their government can provide any services effectively. They don't believe in the democratic system, and consequently, don't have a very strong belief in their upward mobility--even given the recent liberalization of the economy. I also took on another mini research project interviewing self-proclaimed feminists about their thoughts on solidarity, social organization, and political agency given the string of gang rapes that made quite a stir in the media only months before. These initiatives helped me feel connected to the political fabric of the country, while inspiring many potential thesis ideas. For this I am eternally grateful and will always look upon the last twelve weeks fondly!