Final Blog

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Three months ago I began my journey by writing in my blog and for the final time I will complete my journey at this same place

I do not even know where to start……

A Worthwhile Experience……..

I have definitely found coming onto this project to be a worthwhile experience. It is a new organization, a new location, new people, new management; I was surely out of my “comfort zone”. Specifically to the organization my ideas were fresh, they came from a different mindset, I was someone new to think “outside the box” which had allowed me to also offer constructive criticism (if any) on the projects I was working on. The past experience at Credit Suisse and professional coaching by Ed Williams surely allowed me to hit the ground running at an early stage. The PDC project I was working on meant working closely with another investment bank so I was particularly valuable to serve as a “bridge” between the two organizations and facilitate their long term collaboration. Also by working with the Swadhaar team developing skills and having buyin, I had a lasting impact because when I left they were be able to build on our previous work experience together.

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What will I take back to CS…..

Through my three month experience I shall surely be taking back to Credit Suisse that CS employees like me are particularly valuable for these types of projects. In banking I (we) gain a lot of skills. Skills ranging from advanced excel, to writing reports, presenting slides to dealing with difficult people, in addition, of course to the banking-specific skills like understanding back office to front office processes, cash management, risk management, research and extensive product knowledge. All these skills are valuable in a microfinance context, i.e. another form of financial services, and worth transferring which is why I shall be gladly promoting this project when I go back to CS and reiterate why employees are so valued on these projects

Personally…

Personally I have had first hand experience that there is a world out there other than banking. I have learnt how to deal with a diverse range of individuals, different cultures and occasionally different perspectives. I have become more assertive, a confident decision maker and an active listener. Personally I have learnt how to put myself in someone else’s shoes and to see things from their point of view.

Professionally……

For this project I was based in the head office but gladly had the opportunity to see the “roots of the tree” which in Microfinance language means going into the field. Professionally I have learned a lot about how microfinance programs function and how a MF firm operates. I have learnt for all tasks (projects and line roles) it is important to understand what goes on behind the scenes as understanding this will help me to progress on my role back at Credit Suisse with a greater sensitivity to other people’s needs.

What I have learnt on this project I will surely take back to CS. I have become an assertive decision maker, more confident in delivering results, become better at reviewing priorities and learnt how to allocate tasks. On a personal note I have learnt not to let the small things bother me, life is too short when there are so many other positive notes I can focus my mind onto. This experience has been just great, has helped me to grow as a person by seeing 1st hand that the skills I learn in banking are extremely valuable to social organizations. I am glad to have transferred some of that knowledge in the last 3 months and was gladly able to make a sustainable impact. I had a great relationship with Swadhaar, not once did I feel like an external consultant but always part of the team. I made some wonderful friends on this assignment with whom I shall be keeping in touch with both professionally and on a personal note. I do not see this as the end of my involvement with Swadhaar or MF but the beginning

Three Months…..

Three months is a pretty significant amount of time, so if during that time of writing in my blog, I said, did, or posted anything which offended anyone then please accept my apologies, but if while following my blog you felt you learnt something, or if any of my discussions on Microfinance (or the Rescue Foundation) sounded inspiring which made you want to take on a new challenge, then please recall those “sweet talks” and always remember this wonderful journey we shared together.

Thank You…..

I finally wanted to say a BIG THANK YOU to all my followers! Actually what motivated me to continue writing was the significant amount of people who followed my blog and also the constant emails I received when I had not updated my blog on a regular basis.

I wanted to say a final thanks to three people. Firstly to Swadhaar for having me for 3 months and for always making me feel part of the team, secondly to Laura Hemrika who worked closely with me throughout my assignment and finally to my manager and dear friend Kristeen Mehta who has been very supportive over the last 3 months. I know it’s been hard for Kristeen without me in the CS office but we both know the experience had been worthwhile and I shall be taking many positives both personally and professionally back to CS NY which Kristeen is excited in hearing about over “spicy red” – she also has a stack of work kindly waiting for me!

New York here I come

Namaste

Lunch and Learn at Credit Suisse Mumbai (Ceejay House)

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I had been invited by CS Mumbai to present a “lunch and learn” on my Microfinance project.  Reena Sen (head of accounting) and I attended to talk about the below:

I went much enjoyed the lunch and learn.  I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout and the level of interest from the attendees.  There was a hunger to learn & understand more about the Global Citizens Program and about how the Microfinance world operates.  Reena and I made a great team as between us we could discuss Swadhaar, how this can be linked into the Credit Suisse Global Citizens Program and how this connection has benefitted both parties.

PDC Project Update

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I feel I have mentioned this project a lot in my blog but that is only because I am very excited about how much it has progressed in the last 3 months.  I remember when I started and paid the initial visit to the “partner organization” the meeting was filled with questions, concerns, gaps and loops – I guess no different to any other initial meeting.   Throughout my blog you can see how this project has progressed and started to fit into place.  The jigsaw puzzle is almost complete.  Today I had invited the management from the partner organization to come to Swadhaar to look at our internal operations and confirm we had not missed any details prior the pilot run.  The meeting and “dummy role play” was very beneficial as it allowed me to see an example of how a PDC will flow from A->Z.  This pleasantly allowed both parties to address any constructive criticisms which are currently being updated into my proposal.

This project between Swadhaar and the partner organization has really enabled me to develop many skills which I will surely take back to Credit Suisse.   This project put my negotiation skills to the test as a large part of this project was me linking a small firm which has the capability of offering a tailor made customer services solution to its clients, to translating to this to a more standardized flow when moving to the large partner organization.  The challenge was not to compromise the quality of output and most importantly not to diminishing the level of service currently offered to clients.  My goal was to increase the controls, reduce potential costs and implement positive change.

Sadly the pilot run is happening after I leave but I am excited to hear about the ongoing developments which the current staff have promised to keep me posted on.

Cash management project update to follow next week

Day trip to Tirupati

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I was very excited about my trip to Tirupati Balaji. Tirupati Balaji is a very famous temple for pilgrims as it is considered to be the most sacred place in India as it houses the deity called Tirupati Balaji which means “lord of Laxmi” (Laxmi means wealth). I was told its one of the richest temples in the world so I had to pay it a visit

The journey started off with a 4am bus pick up from my hotel in Chennai followed by a long 4 hour 145km journey to Tirupati Balaji. The first thing I noticed was the security at the entrance of the temple was like getting into a nightclub in the Meatpacking District (New York) on a Saturday night. All shoes, mobile phones, cameras and bags are handed over before deciding which queue I wished to stand in:

1) VIP line for 300 INR with a 6 hour average wait time

2) Average line for 50 INR with a 12 hour average wait time

3) Standard line, free entry with a 24 hour average wait time

I tried to opt for my own “number 4”. This was zero hours wait time with a “donation” of 2000 INR but the security was having none of this! So I waited in line, bare foot, no phone, nobody to talk too as hardly anybody in
the queue spoke English or Hindi (all spoke Tamil) with only a bottle of water and my thoughts. Six hours later I made it into this amazing temple, it was partially made of gold, very clean, well maintained deities and gorgeous architecture

After a long journey I made it back to Chennai at 11pm. Honestly this was quite the experience. I always knew that devotees/pilgrims traveled many miles through rough roads and hills for these journeys but I never knew how much hard work it would be. For now I am done on this once in a lifetime experience, something else to tick off my long list of things I would like to do 🙂

I was unable to take pictures in the temple but to give you a visual here are some pictures from YouTube with important disclaimer below.

Album below: Tirupati

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** Disclaimer: The album pictures above named “Tirupati” have been taken from the internet. The original
source for this is from the TV show “Yatra” which is owed by Star Plus TV. I am not claiming I have taken any of the
pictures in file “Tirupati”. All pictures in file “Tirupati” belong to their respective owners. Please let me know if it is case of copyright violation and I shall remove these pictures or incase of any issues please contact me direct

Weekend trip to Chennai

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The week started off with a visit to Mumbai’s annual property exhibition for the “discerning customer” wishing to purchase upscale properties in Mumbai. I clearly fit into that criteria being the international property tycoon I am so could not resist a visit

I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of apartments being sold.  Some were New York finishes, floor to ceiling glass, contemporary spec and personal car parking spaces in your actual apartment where the car is transported via a car lift – now that is impressive!

This weekend I ventured to Chennai (1030KM miles from Bombay) for a relaxing getaway weekend.

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Field Visit to Kalyan (कल्याण)

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I am starting to feel like a superstar! Firstly my video on CS “This Week”and secondly I have started to receive pleasant fan email from people at CS who have been following my blog!  I actually met a fan last week from the CS India office and it was a pleasure to speak to someone who shared the same passion for volunteering as I do.  Thanks to all for following and enjoying my blog!

Kalyan

The day started off with an 8am train ride on Central Railways from Mumbai to Kalyan which is 53 km north-east of Mumbai.  Here I visited the local branch to spend the day visiting the handful of clients which were in default.  We started off by visiting “Mr Phone Man”.  Mr Phone Man had taken out a loan to build his mobile phone store which consisted of selling and fixing phones.  The repayments started off fine but due to the increased volume in mobile phone shops in the area and the larger mobile phone shops being able to offer better deals, Mr Phone Man’s sales had been poor – hence little profit – hence no repayment.   Our 2nd visit was to Mr Tailor whose specialty was making blouses for saris.  When we turned up at the store Mr Tailor was not there so we spoke to his assistance who surprising had the same answer as Mr Phone Man – lack of customers, more competition and no ideas on how to boost sales.

Locals

Locals

Side Street
Side Street

Through my personal findings I am seeing the below:

1) Collections are very manual which is why I am very excited about the cash management project which looks to find ways in eliminating a Loan Officer collecting cash from clients allowing the customers to pay installments direct via an alternative method (phone, cash bank).

2) Point 1 links well into freeing up the time of a Loan Officer.  I believe this will allow them to work more closely with clients in default to generate ideas on boosting sales.

3) Due to some businesses being seasonal I am noticing that some clients have a “willingness to pay” but do not have the “capacity to pay”.

4) I see that women are very organized and have a very good ability to budget & save.  I see that the women have a leverage factor of good social skills which has contributed to them maintaining a loyal consumer base which ultimately has reflected well on their businesses

After a long, tiring, 35 degrees Celsius, humid day on the field I was a tired old man!  I had a great day, met friendly staff at the branch, saw a completely new area and managed to get my shoes cleaned for  2 INR – now that was the bargain of the century!

Kalyan

Kalyan