I got an opportunity to be part of research project in India. I have lived in India my whole life but each place in India has its own history, culture, food and sometimes even a different language. So, even though I had some idea about what to expect, I was looking forward to a new experience.
The research project is being conducted in 2 states in India by professors from Georgetown University and Trinity College of Dublin in collaboration with Chaitanya, a non-profit in India. Chaitanya is a community based organization that has built a network of saving groups and the project is leveraging that to introduce new loan products that make it easier for women to save. The products have the same cost of capital as traditional loans but are expected to change saving and credit behavior especially among women entrepreneurs.
I was involved in the preliminary stages of the project, reporting on the operational structure of Chaitanya and the software they used. I conducted focus group discussions in Indore, Ujjain and Pune. Since I was the only researcher in the field, I acted as the point of contact between Chaitanya and the professors.
I was working in close contact with Chaitanya in Indore, where I was staying in their offices. The work also involved a fair bit of travel to conduct interviews and learn about Chaitanya’s work and method of data collection in different cities. I mostly travelled alone using different and sometimes questionable modes of transportation. The people at Chaitanya are the most inspiring and hard-working people I have ever met. They take pride in their work and were always ready to help me finish my tasks.
My visit to Pune was the most memorable where I stayed overnight in a beautiful village with a local family. Throughout my stay, I interacted with people, mostly women with a background very different from mine. They were very welcoming and seemed to be doing their best to improve their lives given their circumstances. They also possessed an acute understanding of their situation and the opportunities available to them.
The experience was challenging and frustrating at times but it provided a break from my comfort zone of solving homework and working primarily on a laptop. I started thinking about research projects not as pristine thought experiments but as real puzzles and a function of the on-ground reality.
Thank you for the opportunity!