Internshala: Developing the culture of meaningful internships in India

By Chintan Zalani
From BITS Pilani, Goa
Posted Aug 6th 2013 1:34AM
Internshala:Developing culture of meaningful internships in IndiaSarvesh, an IIT Madras alumnus (Class of 2006) started Internshala in December 2010. Since beginning Internshala has delivered superb internships, and thus establishing a great name for itself in the student community. Let's unveil details about Internshala from Sarvesh.

The Eureka Moment for Internshala
Sarvesh comes from a rural background in Rajasthan and always wanted to pursue something in the education domain. While there were already websites for preparations for competitive exams, practice material, career guidance etc., "Internships" was one area where Sarvesh found a gap and he took the plunge in 2011 after working in Corporate sector for 5 years since graduating from IIT Madras in 2006.

Coming from a business family, Sarvesh always wanted to start his own venture. The idea that one day he will do something of his own always existed. He was well prepared by reading articles on entrepreneurship and startup stories. This conditioning ensured that Sarvesh's transition from corporate life to startup was a smooth one. Parents just wanted him to be sure of what he is doing!

Does parental pressure really stop people from starting up?
"The whole issue of parents being conservative and not allowing their children to pursue entrepreneurship is blown out of proportions. At the end of the day every parent has just three questions to his/her child – 1. Are you happy? 2. Did you eat well today and 3. Is your health fine?"

Sarvesh put forth valid questions: Your parents are your best friends and the easiest lot to be convinced. If you can't convince your parents how could you be expected to convince your customers or potential hires? May be your own fear aren't allowing you to pursue your idea and parent's disapproval is just a mere proxy to hide your own lack of conviction.

On Internet and Technology Startups
"Internet has revolutionized our lives and has made starting up easier as well as very inexpensive. Now, one can easily reach out to customers. Knowledge sharing and networking have become easier through Internet. In India we don't have manufacturing, infrastructure and product sort of environment which has led to internet being the rescue for the aspiring startup enthusiasts."

On the CEO and Founder, Social Media Fad
X starts a website named www.hindustanunlimited.com and the first thing he does is update his Facebook profile to "founder and CEO at Hindustan Unlimited". Sounds familiar? Right; that is what is the fad amongst many students in India currently.

In the 1980's such people were called by a different name, shopkeepers, but, Sarvesh feels that this fad is also fostering the startup ecosystem in India.

"The value addition for such fellows is what can act as a resource for other startups if they themselves fail after a couple of years." The skills like starting a website, setting up a Facebook page and creating campaigns to drive customers are really useful skills. "Overall, it's making entrepreneurship mainstream and making it more acceptable. So, yes, overall, it's a positive sign."

On the kind of Internships at Internshala
Internshala with sole focus on internships excludes jobs, competitions and scholarships. But, they have just one filter of posting only "quality internships". Except in case of NGOs, internships listed on Internshala, across all domains, are with stipend; the reason being that it does not want the employers to think of students as vulnerable and seeking internship opportunities.

In line with the Indian job market, mainly internships also seek skills in programming, mobile application, development, web designing or related IT areas. Other than these, internships in marketing, social media marketing, content writing for websites are also common.

The Stipend and other Internship Stories at Internshala
To bring the culture of meaningful internships in India is a challenge. Sarvesh felt that to craft this culture a knowledge base of internships should be there which led to internship story contests at Internshala. Besides these stories also build some excitement, awareness and a sense of fulfillment for aspiring student interns! The Your Internship Story contest for 2013 is currently underway and students can share their internship experiences here.

Sarvesh - Founder InternshalaOn why internships are transformative?
There are two layers of students in the country: creamy and not so creamy. For the first set of creamy layer students internships help in making informed career choices since they ready students for corporate career much ahead of time. And, for the non-creamy layer students it helps in making them more employable. 85% of graduates coming out of mass colleges are deemed unemployable by the industry (lack technical or soft skills). Internships are the mechanism by which this issue of unemployability can be addressed.

You will never go unreciprocated at Internshala
Internshala has over 70,000 comments in 2 years including the website, emails and Facebook page. Sarvesh proudly claims that even every generic query on internships is answered by his team till date. He believes that it is a social responsibility to answer queries of students who post at random places, since,such students are in maximum need of help. "Internshala is a .com business with a heart of .org."

Further, it also augments the customer engagement. "If a student gets his query answered at Internshala, he is going to tell his 4-5 friends about our portal. And, this helps in word of mouth publicity which is very significant for us."

These comments play a great role in strategizing about new features at Internshala, since, listening to your customers is the best way of knowing what they want. The 'Intern connect' feature at Internshala (which connects students going for an internship in the same city) was born as a result of user comments on one Taiwan Internship post.

The Internshala Team
Internshala was actually a purely intern based company until Jan 2013! Yes, besides Sarvesh only interns (10 in number) worked playing various roles of editing, content writing, social media marketing etc. They have done a terrific job from crafting videos to engaging users on Facebook. Serving as a good example to other companies they have convinced them for offering internships. Now, Internshala has expanded. It has a full time team of 4 members besides 10 interns and Sarvesh himself.

New Features at Internshala and the Message
The Internshala website might get a makeover soon, since, that is something where Sarvesh wants to invest time in now. And getting a lot of core internships(in departments like civil engineering and non-traditional internships) would also be a major focus of Internshala going forward.

When asked what his message is for the student community Sarvesh urges "to focus on learning and not on earning right now. Don't worry about the amount of stipend you are getting; absorbing skills from your internship is essential before you enter the corporate world."

Let's wish Sarvesh and Internshala a very good luck for their future endeavors!
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