ACCCRN Champion Author: Arfiana Khairunnisa Comments
ASIA: India

“The one thing that I love about my job is that it gives the opportunity to ask questions,” said Saon Ray when she was asked about her work as a researcher or senior fellow in the area of the economy and development.

“No question is unimportant or uninteresting to me.”

Ray was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India. Her father’s job took her family all over the country. She studied in schools in Kolkata, Shillong, Lucknow and Jaipur (these last three were small towns in India, back then). Though she lives in Delhi now, she keeps going back to Kolkata which is her second home.

Ray is Senior Fellow at ICRIER (Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations) and she gained her Ph.D. in Economics from the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“I was first exposed to the subject of economics when I was a high school student. We had a wonderful Economics teacher. I still remember that in her classes, she would sometimes read out op-ed pieces from financial newspapers and then discuss them. I recognized right then that problems of economics are all around us. That was perhaps what led to my interest in the subject at an early stage of my life and career,” Ray explained.

She is so fortunate that her interest in Economics drives her work to this day. As a think tank, ICRIER is engaged in the policy space by providing evidence based policy research. This presents an opportunity for researchers like her to engage in important issues of public policy and to participate in public debates.

“My latest research is in the area of global value chains and I am looking at how some of these chains can be made green. I have also examined how adaptation needs to be understood in the context of industries, which is a neglected are of research. The unifying theme of my research is the behavior of firms.”

At present, she is looking at the issue of air quality in the context of Delhi NCR with her colleagues.

“We are trying to model the dynamics of air quality with transport and population growth and suggest ways to improve the quality of air. Our earlier work at ICRIER, as part of the climate adaptation of cities has focused on four cities. Our research has focused on ways to make cities more livable.”

The study focused on four secondary cities in India – Pune, Surat, Kochi and Ludhiana to understand the conditions under which climate security, adaptation and economic resilience can go hand in hand.

The city of Pune. Photo credit: Saon Ray

While the team were conducting the survey for the study Climate Change and the Competitiveness of Cities: Making the Business Case for Urban Adaptation, she and her team visited Pune. There has been a significant increase in the mean temperature of Pune and most firms have adapted to this change. Since most of the large industries are not in the city and the climate has changed very gradually, awareness of climate relate impact is low.

“However, when we asked firms about their perception of climate change, they were unsure. Climate change is still perceived as something that does not concern them,” said Ray who is also a member of the Indian Econometric Society and the Forum for Global Knowledge Sharing.

In regard to climate change resilience, especially in India, as a researcher, the important thing is she needs to get the feel of the issue, then she could understand the problem and try to deliver solutions based on the understanding. She learns from her experience that there is no substitute for visiting a place to get a feel of it with a view to further research.

“Every city is unique in its own ways and research has to capture that uniqueness even while drawing broad conclusions.” Ray closed the conversation.

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Below is our interview with Dr. Saon Ray: