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Ritika Saligram | 2021 Summer Fellow

Ritika SaligramWeek 11/12: And That’s a Wrap!

August 2-August 11

Hi everyone!

I am officially at the end of my internship at The Asia Group! Today was my last day with the team, and it was definitely bittersweet. I’m so excited to get back to Duke and classes, but I have truly had so much fun working on the India team. I’ve spent the last couple of days offboarding, doing exit interviews, and wrapping up all of my products and materials to pass on to the next South Asia analyst. Today, I had my last check-in with the India team and did my final interview with my supervisor. TAG also hosted a really lovely virtual send-off for me and another analyst who is returning to graduate school! I think the most surreal part of the day was sending off my last digest. I’ve done over 50 digests this summer, and it’s crazy to think that tomorrow morning I won’t wake up and do it again!

There’s a lot to think about as I finish up at TAG. First of all, I am certain after the last three months that I want to work in risk assessment. I read a piece for a class last semester which argued that multinationals and businesses are leading the policy world right now, and I’m very inclined to agree with that view after this summer’s experiences. Working for TAG and tracking policy updates every day, it has become evident to me that companies hold increasing power in trade negotiations, policy discourse, and regulatory framework creation. Being involved in the conversations that have a direct impact on people’s lives is something I want to continue doing, and this field is a great way for me to employ my political understandings while also having a seat at the proverbial negotiating table. Though I was only an analyst, my work at TAG did impact how the firm interacted with clients, and subsequently how those clients went out and did business in India. I now know I want to keep doing that kind of work on an even larger scale after graduation. Second of all, I feel that I am walking away from this internship with a new skill set that complements the one I’ve been building at Duke. I can say I’m confident and competent in new areas of policy analysis, I’ve sharpened my writing skills, and I’ve also learned a lot about networking and working with different people. Working in a professional environment is quite different than working in a group for class, and I’m grateful to have experienced that, even in a virtual environment. This internship has also taught me a lot about how to dive into something I’m uncomfortable with and how to adapt to unfamiliarity quickly. 

I’m pretty sure that this is not the last I’ll see of TAG (or the last they’ll see of me)! I’m honestly quite sad that this internship has come to an end, but I’m even more excited about what I’ve taken away from it. I also want to extend a huge thank you to the AGS community, including the sponsors and donors, that made this incredible experience possible for me. I have so enjoyed sharing my time at TAG with you, and I hope you’ve learned something and enjoyed it too!

Until next time!

– Ritika Saligram, AGS Summer Fellow 2021

Week 10: It’s All About Feedback!

July 26-July 30

Hi everyone!

I’m truly in shock that there are only 10 days left at TAG. Time really flies! This week, I had a great chat with my supervisor. We talked about the work I’ve done, how I feel about my performance, my learning experiences, and my goals as I look towards the next 2 years of college and possibly pursuing a career in risk assessment. My supervisor is actually a Duke alum and was a part of the AGS program while he was here, so we also spent a lot of time talking about programming, classes, and the experience of being in AGS during this transition period as we begin to look past the pandemic. I also got some great feedback about the projects that I’ve been working on over the last 3 months!

If you’ve been reading the blog since the first couple of weeks, you’ll know that I was hesitant to do so much work in the tech policy space — and that there was a bit of a learning curve with the digest too. But now, I’ve realized that the two tasks I was most worried about taking on are actually the ones I’ve learned the most from. Doing the digest every single morning has given me an in-depth familiarity with a variety of industries and sectors across India. I know which policies are relevant to track, which industry bodies have the most stake in what issues, and exactly what our clients need to keep track of over time. The repetition has not only cemented a process (search, copy, paste), but also an ability to pick apart a story in seconds and know exactly what’s important to whom and why. It’s almost like a superpower… if reading the news really fast counts as one! 

As for all of my work on tech policy, it has actually been incredibly empowering to feel comfortable talking about issues such as media regulation or cryptocurrency. Tech is a male-dominated sector, both professionally and whenever it comes up in conversation. As such, I’ve never felt certain enough in my ability to converse about what’s happening in that space. In fact, before this summer, I wasn’t even sure if I could tell you about e-commerce regulations (hello, antitrust!) or opine on China’s role in global telecommunications. The last 3 months have given me the opportunity to build my knowledge and confidence when it comes to tech policy, and that’s one of the most important and exciting things I have taken away from this internship. 

My chat with my supervisor also reminded me of the importance of feedback – both giving it and receiving it positively. Early on in this internship, I committed to try and receive feedback positively, which is not something I’m always known for! It was a new job in a very new space for me, and I knew that with the wrong attitude, it would be difficult for me to learn from my colleagues. I am so glad I did that, not just because it enabled me to have the experiences detailed above, but also because other people took notice and appreciated me for it! To any first years or to anyone starting an internship, that’s probably my biggest piece of advice — take feedback with a smile, internalize it, and act on it! It makes a difference. 

I think that’s all for this week. My next update is likely my last, so stay tuned for my final thoughts on this summer’s experience!


Week 9: Policy Updates and Looking To the Close

July 19-July 23

Hi everyone, welcome back!

I was going to start off this update by saying that this week has been super busy… but I realize that I say that most weeks. However, I do have a few updates to share on some of the issues I’ve been tracking since I’m sure you all are as invested as I am!  Firstly, an update on Nepal. If you read last week’s entry, you know that Nepal’s political situation has been a bit of a mess. However, things have finally settled down; Deuba was appointed as caretaker Prime Minister and he won his vote of confidence, which means he is officially the Prime Minister of Nepal until the elections in 2022. Personally, I really hope that this means Nepal can form a government and start tackling its health crisis. It’s long overdue! Next, a quick update on India’s Personal Data Protection Bill, or the PDPB. Most people expected it to be introduced in the Monsoon session of Parliament, which began on Monday, but alas – it didn’t make the agenda. It’s unclear when we’ll see a draft, but for now, this means that stakeholders can continue raising issues and voicing concerns about the bill’s more stringent provisions. Finally, an update on the IT Rules, or the social media rules. India actually appointed a new IT Minister in a recent cabinet reshuffle — the largest ever undertaken by the Modi administration — who has come out in full support of the rules and seems to be enforcing them pretty strictly. The government recently issued notices to a number of smaller firms under the purview of the legislation for not complying, giving them only a few days to turn things around and respond to the government with updates. The new minister also made some comments about Twitter’s delayed response and the signal it sends to other firms operating in India, indicating a continuation of the very public tensions between the company and the government.

On a separate note, I only have a week and a half left at TAG, which has prompted me to begin reflecting on my experience this summer. I said this in week four, but I really do feel validated in my aspirations to pursue a career in risk assessment. The work is challenging, fulfilling, and I am constantly learning. I’ve found that I can take on pretty big projects and work with complex issues independently, and with a bit of guidance, I can complete them successfully and be proud of what I create. I don’t know how many 20-year-old college students can say that they’ve found their dream job and tried their hand at it with some success, but I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve gotten the opportunity to do so. 

As for my goal of taking breaks from the screen, I can’t say I’ve been as successful. This job requires dedication and commitment on a new level, and that has often meant that I am sitting at my desk working far past 5 pm. Sometimes I’m ok with that, and other times I’m not. But just as I said in week 5, it all comes down to balance. If you love what you’re doing, it’s ok to push yourself hard, because it doesn’t feel like work. But you also have to take time for yourself. And I’m still learning that, even as my internship comes to a close. 

I’m so excited to see what the next 2 weeks bring. I’m sure that they’ll be as exciting and action-packed as ever, so don’t miss it! Until next time!


Week 8: Back to Life, Back to Reality

July 12-July 16

Hi everyone! 

I’m back from my week off, which meant that this week I got to play a lot of catch-up. It was tiring, but rewarding! I think the hardest part was getting back to those digests… I love all of my work, but that task gets old pretty quickly! Anyways, I thought that I would take this space to update you all on something that I’ve been following closely for TAG over the last few weeks: Nepal’s political situation. You must be thinking, “it’s a small country, how much news can there be?” Well, I thought that too at the outset, but the situation is complicated, to say the least. First, a bit of context. Nepal has a parliamentary system with both a prime minister and a president. This means that when the Nepali people go to the polls, they’re voting for both a party and a candidate. There are a few key parties to be aware of: the Unified Leninist Marxist (UML) party, the Nepali Congress (NC) party, and the Maoist Center (MC). There are a few key players in this story as well: KP Sharma Oli, head of the UML; Madhav Kumar Nepal, another prominent UML leader; Sher Bahadur Deuba, head of the Nepali Congress; and Bidhya Devi Bhandari, President of Nepal. And now, the drama!

KP Sharma Oli of the UML was elected Prime Minister in February 2018 as a result of the UML winning a majority in Parliament. Upon his request, President Bhandari dissolved the Nepali House of Representatives in December 2020, which sparked protests and was reversed by the Supreme Court in February 2021 on the grounds of unconstitutionality. Then, in May 2021, Oli called a vote of confidence in Parliament, which he lost due to his mishandling of the COVID-19 situation in the country. As a result, opposition parties, headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba, tried to re-form parliament and oust Oli from the position of PM. President Bhandari intervened, saying neither Oli nor Deuba had the majority to form a new government. Instead, she decided to appoint Oli as a caretaker PM and set an election for November to elect an official PM. In response, the NC and the MC formed an opposition alliance, headed by Deuba, and took to the Supreme Court to petition the decision. Notably, a faction of the UML, led by Madhav Kumar Nepal, split away from Oli to join the opposition alliance. 

For a few weeks, the situation continued as such. The opposition alliance, now composed of the NC, MC, Nepal’s UML faction, and some other small parties, continued to submit petitions to the Supreme Court against the legitimacy of Oli’s appointment as caretaker PM, stating that Deuba should immediately take his place. Meanwhile, Oli conducted a major cabinet reshuffle, dropping and appointing a slew of ministers to try and build favor and credibility ahead of the November election. There were occasional student protests, but nothing serious. The Election Commission set the official dates for the November polls, but everyone seemed to be waiting for the Supreme Court’s verdict. And this week, it arrived. On July 12, the Supreme Court ruled that Oli’s appointment as caretaker PM was in fact unconstitutional, and appointed Deuba in his place, effective immediately. However, that appointment was still in a caretaker capacity; the court ruled that Deuba had to conduct a vote of confidence within the first month of his appointment. If he won, he would become the official PM, and the November elections would be canceled and pushed out by a year and a half. However, that very same night, Nepal and Oli held a meeting to discuss UML party unity, and came to a tentative power-sharing agreement, wherein Nepal would leave the opposition alliance and rejoin the UML permanently. This detail is crucial — without the support of Nepal’s UML faction, Deuba will not be able to win his upcoming vote of confidence. If that’s the case, the November elections will proceed, favoring Oli’s UML party over the now weakened opposition alliance, and Oli will likely become the official PM of Nepal. 

We’re now at a pivotal moment for Nepali politics. The country has gone for months without an official government, and the COVID-19 situation worsens by the day. The politicians all seem to be caught up in competition with one another while most citizens lack access to vaccines or treatment. If Deuba manages to win the vote of confidence and form a government, the country could finally see some stability. However, if he doesn’t, the country will have to face uncertainty and instability once more until November.

That was a long update, but I’ve become very invested in it after following it so closely, and I wanted to share that with you! You may wonder why it matters at all what happens in Nepal, but as a close ally of India, Nepal is certainly relevant to the work I’m doing at TAG. On a personal level, it matters because real people are affected by it. That’s a realization I had this week — I’m tracking all of these political issues and policy updates for clients, but I also have to remember that these are real situations involving the lives of real people. Those policies matter. Having functioning government matters. As a political science student, that’s what I care about and why I was interested in politics in the first place. It can be easy to get caught up in projects and presentations, but because I’m doing this while I’m still in school and studying these issues from an academic perspective, I have the advantage of being able to step back and analyze what the issues mean beyond the memo due tomorrow. That sounds a bit existential, but what I think I’m trying to say is that I’m ready to get back to school — I love working at TAG, but I miss seminars too! 

Until next time!


Week 7: Happy July 4th!

June 28-July 2

Hello everyone!

Hope that you all had a great holiday weekend and enjoyed the sunshine!

This past week has been pretty slow. I think everyone else was ready for a few days off too! This week, TAG started a new series of sessions to introduce new employees to the firm and its various practices. I attended sessions on TAG’s Japan and Southeast Asia practices, which were great! We got to meet some senior people on each team, and they walked us through the main issues they cover for their clients, how their team works internally, and how their work helps the organization advance as a whole. I appreciated hearing a new perspective on issues that I had been looking at mainly from the context of India. I think it’s really easy to pigeonhole yourself into one very specific area of work, especially in a remote environment, so it was nice to have a chance to hear from others.

I also got an analyst buddy this week! Having been at TAG for over a month now, our Analyst Coordinator asked me to help a new analyst through his onboarding and just be there as a resource to answer questions and such as he settles in. I didn’t think I’d be able to serve someone else in that capacity, but it seems that I’ve gotten more done in my time at TAG than I thought. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a great team that has really folded me into their process, and I feel very much a part of the firm and know how I can contribute to it. So it was actually very exciting to talk about that with someone new and pass on some tips and helpful advice that I was given when I started. 

Other than that, the week was pretty much routine. I did the digest every morning, supported my colleagues on a few different client projects, and worked on some longer-term projects that I’ve been assisting with. A lot of it was a follow-up on the issues I talked about in last week’s post, so you can check back there for the bulk of the material.

I’ll be back for my next post in a week (I’ve got a few days off and am going to unplug). Until next time!

– Ritika

Week 6: Tech Updates!

June 21-25

Hi everyone, welcome back!

There isn’t much to report in this post — it’s definitely been a slower week across the board. I’ve been working on my usual products: the daily digest, some weekly updates and reports for clients, and the occasional research support where needed. After a chaotic couple of weeks, it was really nice to take a step back and enjoy a little more free time. Still, there have been some pretty interesting developments in India’s tech sector, so I thought I’d use this space to provide an update. 

First, some context. A few months ago, India passed into law new rules for the IT sector. Essentially, they give the Government of India (GOI) oversight authority over social media. The rules cover a pretty wide set of issues, and many view the provisions as too stringent. For example, each company has to designate three people based in India to respond to any GOI concerns about the company’s operations. Those people, including a chief compliance officer, could be held criminally liable if the government doesn’t approve of their employer’s actions. There has been a lot of debate in the last few weeks between social media giants and the GOI over the constitutionality of the rules and whether or not companies should be losing their intermediary status and other legal shields. The largest developments of the last few weeks were the news that Whatsapp was suing the GOI over the rules, and that Twitter was refusing to comply with the rules for an extended period of time past the deadline. Both of those issues made headlines and prompted commentary from multiple stakeholders. 

Moving on to the recent updates, early this week, three UN Special Rapporteurs published reports saying that the IT rules did not conform with international human rights standards. The GOI responded saying that the rules were put in place to protect and empower users and that the country’s democratic standards of freedom of expression were still guaranteed by the Constitution. A few days after that exchange, big tech companies and industry bodies such as the U.S. India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and the U.S. India Business Council (USIBC) began pressing authorities over the removal of specific clauses, especially the one that imposes personal criminal liability on companies’ chief compliance officers. Meanwhile, the court cases and legal battles between Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, and the GOI continued with probes and inquiries into privacy policies and compliance. 

Against this backdrop, India has been gearing up for another contentious tech issue: the passage of the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) in the monsoon session of Parliament, which takes place next month. The PDPB was introduced in 2018 and is one of the more comprehensive data protection frameworks in the world. It is comparable to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This legislation covers issues such as data localization, law enforcement access to data, personal data protection, and more. If passed, it could have significant impacts on digital infrastructure, cross-border trade, and data transfer mechanisms. It could also seriously impact the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and India, especially given the already existing tensions with U.S.headquartered firms on the IT rules. India has been trying to pass the PDPB for a few years, and it has always been delayed due to the contentious issues it addresses and raises. It will be very interesting in the next few weeks to see how it plays out in Parliament and what that could mean for tech firms operating in India. 

I hope this update was interesting — I’ve had a lot of fun doing the research and building my own understanding of these complex pieces of legislation and analyzing what they could mean on a global scale. Until next week!

– Ritika

Week 5: Finding Balance

June 14-18

Hi everyone! It’s week five, which means I’m almost halfway through the internship!

If I thought last week was busy, it pales in comparison to the last five days. As it turns out, everyone just really wants to get work done before the July 4th weekend! I also had a friend in town this week that I’ve known since I was 7, so it was really fun spending time with her after work. Before I get into it, let me say that this week’s post is a little bit introspective. If that’s not your speed, there are some other AGS blogs running that are definitely worth reading if you haven’t already!

This week I worked on stakeholder maps, briefs, country-specific research — you name it, I did it! However, this week’s routine felt a little more familiar than in weeks prior because I was doing a lot of academic-esque work. I spent most of my time researching nationalism, trends in economic protectionism, and policy updates across various sectors in a few different countries. It almost felt like I was back in class preparing to write a research paper. 

With all of these projects also came a new level of responsibility. I had people emailing me left and right asking if I could take on this project or that product, and at times it felt very overwhelming. I think that’s exacerbated partially by the online environment. When everyone’s sitting in the office together, you can see who’s working and who’s talking to whom, and it’s easier to get a sense of what’s on everyone’s plate. When it’s all happening online, if you don’t communicate, nobody has any idea what’s going on. Since my week started with a heavier workload, I didn’t have as much time to communicate whether I was free or busy. That’s not to say that people didn’t reach out; one of the things I love about TAG is that it’s a very supportive environment, and people really are looking out for each other. For me, that has also meant that people are willing to give me opportunities I may not have received elsewhere in the same position. I’m taking the lead on some pretty big projects, and that’s not always the case in a college internship — especially if it’s virtual. I’ve found that it’s really hard to say no to people who are giving you opportunities, even if that means more work, because you want to keep pushing yourself and you don’t want to let them down. So this week was an exercise in balance, where I had to remind myself that as much as I wanted to dive headfirst into every opportunity, doing so may also mean that I run out of bandwidth to take things on in the future. 

For me, it all comes back to balance. Last summer, I took a class where I created a personal brand, which I sum up in the phrase, “balance in everything to do everything.” It means that I need to create balance in all aspects of my life so that I can do everything that I want to do while still feeling fulfilled and excited about it. This week I had to remind myself to take those amazing opportunities at work but also know my limits, as I had things outside of TAG that I wanted to give my attention and excitement to as well. I wanted to spend time with my friend, who deserved my attention just as much as the brief I was working on. I wanted to try the new ice cream place near my house (I LOVE ice cream) and that meant I had to make sure I didn’t burn myself out at work and lose the energy to go get dessert.

All of this is to say that in a virtual environment, you have to set boundaries for yourself, especially when you’re doing something that you are passionate about. It’s all too easy to say that you’ll just finish up that slide deck or do just a little more research, and before you know it, you’re exhausted and falling asleep the second you shut your computer. Work can be fulfilling, but life is a lot more than that. We need balance so that we can enjoy it all!

Thanks for indulging my little journaling session in this week’s post. Until the next one!

– Ritika

Week 4: Making Connections and Finding New Interests

June 7-11

Hi everyone! Welcome back to the blog!

This week has honestly been a blur — work has been super busy and I’ve been switching between quite a few projects for some very different clients. It’s been a bit of a mental task trying to juggle pretty disparate policy issues, but hey, that’s what I signed up for! I’m really enjoying it though. This week has forced me to open my eyes to some policy areas I wasn’t aware of or interested in before this, and after doing some research, I’ve realized that there’s a lot to unpack. That’s been my favorite thing about this past week; I’ve come to understand how a policy that I thought was isolated can actually be far-reaching and how it can impact more people and sectors than you might think. 

For example, one big policy issue I’ve been tracking is India’s 5G auctions. The government is slowly introducing 5G to the country, and it’s holding auctions for telecommunication companies to bid on various spectrums. It seems pretty straightforward — India gets 5G, cell phone connection gets better, everybody wins. In reality, there’s so much more than that. First, the government has to decide which bands to auction and to whom. Then, it has to decide whether it will entertain Chinese companies’ bids. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has only earmarked a few specific GHz bands for 5G bids. However, telecom companies are asking for others to be auctioned as well rather than have them allocated solely administratively, so there are decisions to be made there too. The government also has to consider the fact that roughly 300 million Indians still use feature phones and are still transitioning from 2G to 4G. Issues of accessibility, from both a user and provider perspective, are really dominating the conversation.  

At that point in my research, I found myself thinking that, ok, there’s more to it than I thought, but it’s still pretty isolated to the tech sector. But then a story broke about how 5G can be used in healthcare, and how India may very well need 5G technologies to deal with the anticipated third wave of the pandemic in October. During the second wave, India faced capacity restraints in terms of hospital beds and medical equipment as well as a lack of healthcare access for many populations that were suffering from COVID-19. 5G can provide patients with remote access to healthcare professionals and allow for easier monitoring of patients in quarantine at home. Some healthcare players are already working with local telecom companies to enhance the patient experience, conduct teleconsultations, and use virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) to reduce chronic pain for patients. 5G enables all of that, and it may be the key to survival if vaccination numbers aren’t high enough by the fall. 

I was never really interested in tech policy before working at TAG. I know it’s important, of course, but I’d much rather spend my time talking about military drills and trade negotiations than discuss antitrust regulations or social media misinformation. But I’ve been doing so much tech work in the last few weeks that I’ve gotten a chance to see how tech policy actually impacts the issues I care about, and how it’s far more complex than I gave it credit for. International relations do play a prominent role in tech policy, and I’m really excited to have the opportunity to discover those dialogues, whether it be from an intellectual standpoint or connecting it back to real business decisions. 

Anyways, this week has been a whirlwind — but in a good way. I feel very validated about my career aspirations of working in political risk assessment, and I am even more excited than before about the weeks ahead.

Until next time!

– Ritika 

Week 3: Foreign Policy Fun!

May 31-June 4

Hi everyone! Welcome back to week three!

I’m really excited to share this week’s update with you because I got to focus on Indian foreign policy! This is the one aspect of Indian news I’ve been decent at keeping up with over the years, but now I get to look at it from a much more analytical perspective. And for those of you that don’t know me, I get very excited about foreign policy issues, so this was a big deal! 

India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, returned from his trip to D.C. to virtually chair a meeting of BRICS, which is an acronym for the association of five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The BRICS members have been meeting annually since 2009. Some of my work this week has been tracking what was discussed at the meeting, the statements issued by governments following the meeting, and what their decisions mean for the political and regulatory climate in India, especially around foreign investment and aid. This meeting of BRICS focused on one of their core goals: multilateral reform. BRICS has been contemplating reform to many parts of the multilateral system for years, including the WHO, WTO, UN, and IMF. This meeting was significant because it was the first time the association of countries introduced a document detailing their desired reforms and an action plan to achieve them. Their joint statement referenced all of the international bodies I mentioned above, with particular emphasis on reforming the UN Security Council. And that’s not all BRICS has been up to this week. The association has also backed the COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver that India and South Africa jointly proposed at the WTO. The proposal calls for the sharing of doses, transfer of technology, and development of vaccine production capacities to assist countries that are still battling the pandemic. There’s been a lot of back and forth on this patent waiver, with the private sector and vaccine manufacturers in the US pushing against it and various governments pushing for it in an attempt to reach vaccine equity across countries. All of this is to say that India is at the forefront of global partnerships right now, and it has certainly been busy beyond the immediate domestic crisis it is still facing with the second wave of the pandemic. 

So what have I done this week, beyond tracking all of this and reporting it to our team? I did some research to support some other team members’ projects (not related to foreign policy), and of course, I worked on the digest! Every morning, I do the digests and then give everyone updates on the top news at our daily team meetings. It’s nice to contribute something in the group setting, especially because I’m not tackling too much work fully on my own yet, so giving those updates is a nice way to do my part for the team. We also welcomed a new person onto the India team this week! He’s actually based in India, so it’ll be great to have more on-the-ground experience and intel. 

I think those are all of my updates for this week. Until next time!

– Ritika

Week 2: India’s COVID-19 Situation

May 24-28

Hi everyone! I can’t believe it’s already week two of my internship — time flies when you’re having fun (and working hard)!

There’s a lot going on this week on the India front. India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, has been in the U.S. visiting with the UN Secretary-General and top Biden administration officials to discuss a wide range of issues, including the bilateral relationship between India and the U.S., climate change, and of course, the Indian public health situation. The second wave of COVID-19 has been incredibly damaging to the country, and though recent case numbers are looking optimistic, India still needs vaccines. A lot of my work this week has been tracking the COVID-19 situation in India, as well as Minister Jaishankar’s statements and activities during his U.S. visit. It’s been interesting to see how the rhetoric being used by government officials around inter-state collaboration and receiving help from the private sector (looking at you, Pfizer and Moderna!) coincides with the actual development of the pandemic. Given that India’s situation has become much of a global issue, it’s really important for us as a team at TAG to be aware of the developments as they occur — that’s what allows us to be ready to answer clients’ questions and help advise them with knowledge about the situation on the ground. 

Beyond tracking the COVID-specific issues, I’m still plugging away at perfecting the daily digest. It’s a lot easier now than it was a week ago! I’m definitely getting faster at pulling stories together and knowing where to look for information on specific issues. And just as I mentioned last week, it still feels very rewarding to know what’s going on at home. I didn’t read Indian news very much before starting this job, but I can say with certainty that I’m going to continue the habit even after summer is over. Digest aside, in the past week I’ve gotten the chance to engage with a few more projects, which is really exciting! There’s a learning curve for those too, but everyone on the team has been so supportive and helpful whenever I have questions. I think that a lot of this work could be daunting, but TAG is really good about communication and support in the online environment, which I appreciate. I’m also happy to report that I’ve been good about my goal from last week of spending time away from my screen when I can. Then again, it’s only been a week… we’ll see how long I last!

TL;DR: Week two has been fantastic! I’m excited to take on new projects, learn about new subject matters, and get to know the people on my team better. Until next week!

– Ritika

Week 1: Getting Started

May 17-21

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my blog — I am so excited to share my summer experience with you all. 

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m studying Political Science, History, and Markets and Management Studies at Duke. I’m really interested in the intersection of politics and business, mostly because that intersection is far more complex than it sounds. The private sector has a huge impact on relations between countries, whether through trade, foreign policy, infrastructure, health policy, or anything in between. Where and how businesses invest can impact countries at all levels — it can shape political landscapes and impact individual citizens’ lives. That’s why I’m really excited to be working with The Asia Group (TAG) this summer as an analyst on their South Asia team. I’ll have the opportunity to learn about the various challenges India, in particular, is facing, especially now during its second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and understand how those challenges can affect the decision-making of businesses hoping to invest and continue working in the region. 

Monday and Tuesday were super busy. I’m an hour behind the rest of the organization, so I was up bright and early to prepare for orientation on both days. The first two days of the week were spent meeting people all across the organization, including the team I’ll be working with for the next 3 months or so. I met some analysts working on other regional teams such as the Korea and Japan teams, as well as my mentor for my time at TAG, who is absolutely lovely! But I will say that the Zoom fatigue was definitely hitting me a bit after those first couple of days; one of my goals for the summer is to create pockets of time away from my screen to make sure I stay energized and don’t get burnt out! In the second half of the week, I spent a lot of time getting acquainted with the process of creating a daily digest of Indian news, which goes out to the whole organization every morning. I’m starting to figure out what updates are important to share with everyone, and what certain news might mean for clients in the region. There’s definitely a learning curve for this particular assignment, especially since I have to parse through multiple sources for good stories — India deals with partisan reporting, distracting headlines, and fake news issues, just like any other country. But on a personal note, it feels really great to be in the know about what’s going on in India, given my cultural background and family connection to the country. 

I’m so excited to dive into work in the coming weeks, even if it’s in an online environment. I hope to keep you all updated on what it’s like to work for a risk assessment firm totally online, and hopefully share some fun stories with you along the way. Until next week!

– Ritika