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Start-ups incubate foreign MBA students' careers

Many overseas students are willing to work for small and mid-sized companies, and even voluntary organisations.

Mar 29, 2010, 05.21 AM IST
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BANGALORE/MUMBAI: Christy Trang Le, a first-year MBA student at MIT Sloan School of Management, is charged up about her internship with an event and entertainment portal thousands of miles away.

“The investor and entrepreneur communities in the US today believe that the next emerging Silicon Valley will be outside of the US, very likely to be in a developing country like India or China,” says Trang Le.

Trang Le isn’t the only one enthused about her training. Nearly 23 of her batchmates are interning with companies in five cities across India under an internship programme called ‘India Lab’, with projects in subjects as diverse as information technology and tourism.

The internship wheel has come full circle. Where Indian students once aspired to train with companies in the US, these aspiring entrepreneurs and corporate leaders believe experience with young companies in India, some of which of are yet to register revenues, is invaluable. Besides, MBA internships are not easy to come by in the US, with recession taking a toll on the job market.

“India is the flavour of the season. A lot of students and employees from foreign countries want to add their experience in emerging markets, which is helping them get better visibility in the job market,” says A Suryanarayanan, chief operating officer at the NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, IIM-Bangalore.

Adds Pranay Gupta, joint CEO, Centre for Innovation, Incubation & Entrepreneurship, IIM-Ahmedabad, “India is already the next growth engine and hence, experience at Indian start-ups is something a lot of foreign students are now looking for.”

Among other things, the students treasure the understanding of local business opportunities, cultural perspectives, meeting new entrepreneurs and working with fledgling businesses.

“I wanted to work with an Indian company in particular, because India, as an emerging market, has a dynamic economy which makes it the perfect place to start a new business. I wanted to experience this first-hand,” says Fatma Yalcin, a first year Sloan School student.

Overseas students also find the levels of innovation in Indian start-ups fascinating. “There is an increasing trend among foreign students to intern in Indian start-ups as they get exposure to interesting technologies, which is not possible in a big company,” says Prasenjit Kundu, design manager at start-up Dhama Apparel Innovations.

Many overseas students are willing to work for small and mid-sized companies, and even voluntary organisations. Their experience, they say, has been richer in the interiors.

“At the Taj Mahal, we spoke with tourists about the channels they use to plan their holiday. We had a total of 130 interviews with people from 45 countries,” said Kelsey McCarty, member of a group that is working with a hospitality company, Ras Group, to market a digital tourist guide in Agra.

The internship is working in two ways, it’s helping companies take a closer look at their strategies, while giving students a starting point for their careers. “The students’ user-experience is important for our product to succeed,” says Gautam Shewakramani, business development director, Ras Group.

As far as the students are concerned, one of the takeaways is the Indian work culture. “There is such tremendous energy, passion, and ambition in the air wherever you go; from the panwallah to the most successful business executive, there is this great desire to work very hard and very smart,” says Faisal Ali Ahmad, who is part of the Sloan School programme.

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