Starting Up

Work starts at 9am, though people only generally start trickling in around then: it isn't uncommon for Madhu, the legal assistant with whom I share my cubicle, to meander in between 9:20 and 9:30. This late start is still unfamiliar to me--if I'm not at my desk with my computer on right as the clock hits nine, I'm worried I'll be behind schedule.

That's not to say I don't necessarily have good reason. Although the distance between my house and my workplace is a scant eight kilometers on busy roadways that pass the entrances to two of Delhi's primo universities, I have no real inclination to leave work after dark; therefore, if I'm to earn my Rs. 525/hour net tax on a 40-hour work week, I do feel compelled to be on time, in order to be home in a timely fashion.

At least so far, my work has involved reviewing amendments to co-operation and grant agreements associated with IFC's advisory work. In addition to providing equity and loan financing, a large part of our mandate involves helping companies and governments with certain of their capacity-building initiatives. We farm much of this work out to consultants,  financing those consultants and providing technical expertise is concerned often falls to us. Our advisory teams in various offices and cities in the South Asian region put these deals together and send them back to New Delhi or Mumbai's legal offices for review. In general, though those teams don't tend to have lawyers attached to them, these agreements require very little work; however, I've had two or three so far where there are marked discrepancies between what the contract is trying to achieve and what it in fact does. Sonia--the legal assistant who does a lot of the advisory contract review--and I definitely have our work cut out for us in terms of making sure that IFC is getting what it wants out of these agreements. While I'm conscious of being a step removed from the negotiation process, these early ventures into the realm of document review will be useful for when I'm drawn into larger equity investment conversations, which I hope to be as the weeks progress.

Additionally, I've been  updating some of our internal documents relating to Indian corporate governance. On the face of it, the subject seems--rather dry, until you find yourself in the nitty-gritty weeds of the business, at which point it's actually pretty fascinating. This in between doing my document review and waging war against Citibank trying to get a local bank account set up (a story too long to be worth the telling, but indicative--suffice it to say here--of the slow-moving, efficiency-wanting bureaucracy for which India is infamous).

Lunch is an interesting affair. The fourth floor has a cafeteria where, for a modest Rs. 60 (just over US$1) per meal, billed to you at the end of the month, you may help yourself to a plate of rice or noodles and a generally-delicious lentil-based curry. I have no opposition to lentil-based curries or rice, or even the idea of paying Rs. 60 per lunch. But because a perfectly lovely young woman cooks me altogether too much dinner every evening, I'm always able to put the leftovers from dinner in my oversized pink lunch bag and cart them in with me for lunch the next day--as so many of the staff seem to do. Whether you eat with a group of people in the cafeteria or alone at your desk seems to be a matter of busy-ness rather than a matter of preference, but there doesn't seem to be a hugely strong culture of using the lunch break to talk shop. In fact, people are so efficient in New Delhi when they are working that it appears that South Asia may be spared the stresses that generally accompany the June 30 fiscal year deadline: we are ahead of, or at worst riding barely under, most of our targets for the year, and very few teams appear to be anticipating the late coffee-fuelled nights that are usually found in June.

Which is why I'm pretty much always in a "radio taxi" (standard metered cab) on my way home by 6:30. This trip is invariably more frustrating than the morning's, not only because of the traffic, but also because drivers appear to be perpetually puzzled as to why why, when I tell them to go in the general direction of "Hauz Khas main market," I insist that they drop me off a kilometer from my stated destination. Now I can't say I blame them, as by doing so I'm gypping them of rupees that both parties need, the drivers far more than me; however, having gotten driven around during my first week for a good forty-five minutes because "the GPS couldn't find B-sector," I've discovered that it's far more efficient to have them drop me off in front of the gate to the complex that Mr. and Mrs. Kalra live in and walk two hundred feet than give them the entirety of the address.

I will explain how I occupy my weeknights in a later post.