Ritika Saligram '23
The Asia Group | South Asia Team Analyst
Week 5: Finding Balance
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!
Week 4: Making Connections and Finding New Interests
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!
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!
Week 2: India's COVID-19 Situation
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!
Week 1: Getting Started
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!