- The Tata Social Internship programme provides a unique learning experience to students from some of the world’s best universities in the areas of community development and sustainability.
The 2016 edition of the Tata Social Internship culminated with a contingent of 19 international students – three from the University of California, Berkeley, USA; one from the University of California, Davis, USA; nine from the London School of Economics & Political Science, UK; and six from the University of Cambridge, UK – completing their two-month experiential internship in the on-going sustainability projects of the Tata companies in India.
The batch of 2016, worked hands-on on the community initiatives of the Tata companies and entities like Tata Chemicals, Tata Power, Tata Communications, Taj, Tata Business Excellence Group, Tata Medical Center and the Tata Trusts for a period of two months. The areas of their projects ranged from the impact assessment of sustainability programmes at Tata companies to studies about health economics of infection management at hospitals, women literacy initiatives, tackling malnutrition, agriculture and non-agriculture-based livelihoods for rural hinterlands and improving education through technology, assessing student performance parameters, promoting traditional handicrafts, and skill development.
The programme structure of Tata Social Internship 2016 provided the interns with grass-root level exposure to India and at the same time brought international perspectives and practices to these projects at Tata companies, promoting international understanding.
The visiting interns, selected by their educational institutions along with Tata representatives, came from diverse academic backgrounds such as developmental studies, social anthropology, public policy, neurobiology, economics, gender studies, philosophy and engineering. The first phase of the internship programme kicked off on May 30, 2016 with the University of California, Berkeley students. The second phase for the interns from the University of California, Davis, Cambridge and the London School of Economics commenced on July 4, 2016.
Elias Mead, a BSc Philosophy student from the London School of Economics, who interned with The Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces in Mumbai, worked towards developing a project plan for Taj’s CSR programme for promoting traditional arts, crafts and handicrafts of India. Elaborating on his experience, Elias said, “I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to intern with the Tata Social Internship because I got to work on issues in a new country, particularly one that is developing so fast and is becoming a leading superpower. I feel like I have grown more as a person and professionally in the past eight weeks than I have in the two years that I was at a good university. Being exposed to a whole new culture where things are increasingly international and in a different economy where things are changing. It was so valuable to be able to experience and be a part of that change.”
Aleksandra Szypowska who is completing her BA Classics at the University of Cambridge interned at Tata Chemicals in Mithapur, where her project was based on understanding women’s collectives and its impact on their interactions in public and private spaces. “My time in India at the Tata Social Internship was a memorable time, full of amazing meetings with wonderful, inspiring people. I wish it could have lasted longer, for I feel like I have only scratched the surface. The journey has just begun – and I am sure I’ll return to India to continue it. My experience with Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development in Mithapur has challenged many of my world views and expanded my horizons. I learned a lot about empowerment – that it expands into amazing directions I never knew before. I want to take what I’ve learned here and share it with the women in Europe, because, funnily enough, it seems we have more to learn from Indian women than I ever thought,” said Aleksandra.
As part of the programme, an interactive seminar took place in Mumbai on September 2, 2016, with the students from LSE, Cambridge and UC Davis, and students from the Centre for the Development of Corporate Citizenship at SP Jain Institute of Management & Research, to share experiences in the area of community development and sustainability.
Prof Ruth Kattumuri, co-director, India Observatory and Asia Research Centre of the London School of Economics, said, “The Tata Social Internship has become prominently engrained into the summer internship calendar of students at LSE and Cambridge in the UK, and students from various Universities in the United States of America. Tata group has now become a household name globally. The interest in India, more so among young people from around the world, is growing exponentially. Tata Social Internship provides an excellent opportunity for international students to spend two months working on a myriad of Tata projects and getting to know India better. The students contribute their insights to the projects from their diverse learnings and backgrounds. Most of the students in turn imbibe the love-of-India-bug and go on to pursue careers that are in some way associated with India.”
Atul Agrawal, senior vice president, corporate affairs, Tata Services, said, “Tata Social Internship serves the dual purpose of allowing us to provide international students with grass-root level exposure to India and developing our social sustainability outreach through knowledge sharing. With a diverse range of community projects on which the students have engaged, this platform reiterates the Tata group’s ethos of giving back to society while also helping to build international understanding.”
The students during their internship also participated in an online essay competition on their experience in India (essays can be accessed at http://www.tatasocial-in.com/tata-ises-experience). A distinctive corporate sustainability internship programme, Tata Social Internship was launched in 2008.