Mumbai: Harry Robertson, a computer science student, had a good idea of how he wanted to spend the summer after completing his engineering degree from Ecole Polytechnique, a French university. Harry was keen to use this time to improve his programming skills and get some real research experience in information technology before he goes to Stanford University for his Master’s. The best place to get that kind of experience, according to him, was in India.
Harry is one of a growing breed of students from top schools around the world who have signed up to intern at businesses across India this summer. They are everywhere: Infosys Technologies Ltd, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), Tata Sons, Helion Ventures Partners, Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, and many more firms in services and manufacturing sectors.
Currently, an intern with Infosys, Harry came to India because he prefers “to embrace than ignore a country which produces half a million engineering graduates per year and is reshaping the global IT landscape”. He has been working at Infosys’ R&D unit, SETLabs, in Bangalore. “I was greatly impressed with how much greenfield research is done here, and I’ve been immersed in a pretty innovative project,” he says.
TCS receives many applications for internships from students of leading schools across the world. “The booming Indian economy, global exposure at TCS and excellent learning opportunity are some of the key reasons behind the growing number of foreign students seeking internship at TCS,” says K. Kesavasamy, head, Global Academic Interface Programme at TCS.
The company has interns from La Rochelle Business School (France), Bocconi University (Italy), University College, Dublin (UK), Nanyang University (Singapore) and University of Washington (US), among others. The number of interns at TCS has doubled in the last couple of years, according to Kesavasamy.
Venture capital firms, auto companies, even health-care institutions are attracting students from overseas for short internship stints.
According to Satish Pradhan, executive vice-president, Group HR at Tata Sons, internships provide students a good platform to assess growth opportunities in growth markets. “This exposure helps them decide if they could pursue opportunities in these emerging markets or whether they should stick to businesses closer home,” he says.
Tata Sons started accepting interns from B-schools such as Harvard Business School and Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania a few years ago. Today, the company has about 50 interns from across the world in its corporate centre alone. “This is in addition to those that individual Tata companies take on by themselves,” says Pradhan.
Helion Ventures Partners, an India-focused venture fund, has been receiving internship applications from students at Ivy League B-schools even though the firm is less than a year old. According to Kanwaljit Singh, managing director—investment advisor, Helion, “Students want to get some hands-on experience in the venture capital space in India. They see a lot of value in this experience,” he says. Helion will have two students from top B-schools interning with it over the next few months.
Even the health-care space is witnessing the same trend. Medical students, especially from Europe and Russia, have been flocking to CMC, Vellore. “With more foreign patients coming to India, the country is being seen as among the best in the world in terms of medical skills,” says Dr George M. Chandy, director at CMC Vellore.
According to Ameet Nivsarkar, vice-president, Nasscom, the interest in working in India, particularly in the IT sector, has been growing.
Sanjay Purohit, associate vice-president and head, corporate planning at Infosys, agrees. “As one of the few fast-growing trillion dollar economies, the buoyancy in Indian economy is attracting the best to experience globalization first-hand,” he says.
Infosys’ campus at Bangalore plays host to almost 125 summer interns from institutions across the world. Last year, the company received 12,000 applications, a huge increase from the 300 applications it received when it started taking interns from overseas schools in 1999. Currently, Infosys recruits interns from 83 schools worldwide; most of the schools are in North America, the company’s biggest market.
It’s not just students that gain from the experience; companies that host them also benefit. “The internship programme helps showcase the organization as an employer of choice among the global student fraternity,” says Kesavasamy of TCS.
Mid-way through his internship at Infosys, Harry says his stint in Bangalore is giving him a balanced and realistic view of the role India and its companies will play in the future in the hi-tech world. “Even if I work in the West for a US or European firm later, my path will certainly cross with India’s again, and this experience will be useful,” he adds.