After three long months of online classes, my Master’s program finally came to an unceremonious end in the middle of the pandemic. Like many other graduates, a job right after graduation is what I had hoped for. However, the universe seemed to have other plans for me.
I applied for the position of intern at Rang De. To give you a little bit of context I had just completed a Master’s in Education, however, Rang De works in the development space. Curiosity got the better of me and I took up this wonderful and well-timed opportunity.
My journey with Rang De so far has been quite eventful and enriching. My first task as an intern was to create a borrower profile. Each borrower came with their own life experiences. I had access to unique farmer stories, from every nook and corner of this country. Each of these diverse tales left me humbled as it shed light on the deeply-rooted challenges that farmers in India face. The very next task designed for me was to conduct an inquiry on the financial impact of COVID on farmers. To me, this felt like a logical progression and helped me delve deeper into these systemic problems.
Thus began my first experience in a team project. Two of my seniors in the company were assigned on the same task that I was, giving me the opportunity to learn from their field experiences. As the research progressed,
I learned my strengths and weaknesses and was given space to explore all of them. This space gave me the courage to share ideas despite my naivety and lack of experience in the field. I felt perfectly part of the team and understood how the Division of labour succeeded with mutual respect for each other’s experiences. This is how I was introduced to the Swabhimaan campaign at Rang De. Swabhimaan is Rang De’s financial literacy module aimed at both providing basic financial information and bringing about a behaviour change in rural India.
As I plunged into this project, I understood how decisions are closely related to the communities’ beliefs and how these beliefs impact behaviour. I realized that our solutions must take into account these notions while providing a strong, yet tangible incentive for any kind of change to occur. As we began redefining the Swabhimaan campaign, we were forced to evaluate our assumptions and beliefs about the nature of rural credit. This exercise served perfectly to understand reality without any actual fieldwork. This meant that we were constantly in close discussions with our partners who worked on the ground level as well as our experienced mentors.
Until this point, I hadn’t stopped to consider the stakeholders relevant to our model. We weren’t just serving farmers. Artisans and students fell well within our gambit. So were social investors who are key stakeholders of the system. My immersion into the Habba campaign allowed me to view our model from the perspective of a social investor. I realized that as an institution we were not just accountable to those we serve, but to those that help us serve as well. Suddenly, the pace of work quickened. We were instructed to actively participate in the Habba campaign. I was given the responsibility of interacting with several CEOs and encouraging them to participate in our campaign. Honestly, this exercise was quite nerve-wracking.
However, after a few conversations, I truly began enjoying it. Every conversation taught me something to incorporate into the next. One would imagine that important people like CEOs probably have under two minutes to converse with a stranger, however, that was just a myth I believed in. Most of them gave me valuable feedback on the conversation, and the product and were very considerate. All in all, the entire task grew on me and I enjoyed it.
November arrived and I reached my next milestone. I received my offer letter here at Rang De. I was finally an employee, welcoming adult life at its best and excited about how much learning this opportunity would bring. Our next campaign, #LightUpIndia was already taking shape, and I was tasked with collecting videos from as many team members at Rang De. What’s important to remember, is that my 5 months at Rang De had all been online, with limited interactions with members outside my small team. How was I going to convince people (who I have never seen or spoken to) for videos? Another senior employee encouraged me and said that “People are your strength and conversations are stepping stones for a potential relationship.” With this in mind, I approached as many people as I could. I later found out that we had a decent turnout of videos.
My mentor here told me that at Rang De, we have the scope to explore different tasks, units, projects, and departments. She was right! I have had the opportunity to work on different projects, take on distinct responsibilities, build new perspectives, learn new skills, and find a wonderful team.