Come May, Nitin Sonthalia and his three batchmates will move to Mumbai from New Delhi for two months. Two professional services advisory firms in Mumbai will host these management students for a two-month summer internship programme at a Rs 50,000-per-month stipend, which they feel is decent.
Sonthalia and his friends were apprehensive about their job at these companies, as their seniors had warned them against those. But the lure of having the company’s name on their curriculum vitaes has got the better of them.
“Last year, one of my seniors did not have a great time interning at this company. But I want to join the financial consulting business after I graduate and this company's name on my CV will matter,” says Sonthalia. He and his batchmates are pursuing their post graduation in business management at a reputed B-school in New Delhi.
Internships, traditionally, have given both students and companies, a chance to evaluate each other. But, of late, the definition has changed. While companies are regarding this as more of a formality, students try and bumble through it.
At many B-schools and technology institutions, summer internship is not mandatory. Students are free to apply for it on their own. Also, after internship, students give a feedback on the work culture an organisation has and the work they were made to do. Based on this report, the institutes make a list of the companies one should approach for internship.
Roopen Roy, MD, Deloitte India, says, “In some organisations, summer internships are not well thought out and then there is a risk that the intern will be used as an extra pair of hands.” Many institutes say they have barred various companies from participating in summer placements based on the work profile they give to their students.
“It happens that many students do not like technical work but find number crunching interesting. So they look at finance and consulting firms. But considering the lack of interest these companies display in training our students, we have blacklisted them from our summer internship list,” said the placement chairperson of an Indian Institute of Technology who did not wish to be named.
The human resource head of a financial services firm said he was fine with institutes blacklisting his company for summer placements. “We do not want students to intern with us. For a period of two months, what kind of an assignment do you think we can give them? Besides, if we give them a mentor, the mentors think it’s an additional responsibility for them. Ultimately, no one takes it seriously,” he said.
He adds his company keeps receiving internship requests from B-school students though they are not keen on having them. “But because we visit their campuses for final placements, many times we have to oblige them,” he added.
“In my internship of two months, I was initially put on the bench. Later, I was made to work on some excel sheets, some documentation and serve tea around. There was no application of what we had learnt in the classroom,” said a student from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, now working for an FMCG company in Mumbai. Industry players, however, feel students often exaggerate their claims.
"Students usually have very high expectations when they come for an internship programme. They need to understand that since it is an internship and they are new in the industry, they may not be treated as an executive. That is how people learn and everyone including me had to go through all this to achieve what we have," said the HR head of a broking firm which recruits in large numbers from the premier B-schools, including the Indian Institutes of Management.
The official said since the students do not have a prior experience in the field, it was unfair of them to expect a “royal treatment” at internships.
Roy says a solution to this problem is that trainees should talk to their seniors to assess which organisations take them seriously and which do not — either by design or by default and separate the wheat from the chaff.
Munish Bhargava, placements chairperson at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, agrees. “A student needs to decide where to go for internship. If they go where a guide is not interested in training them, it is a total waste.”
For example, consider the exposure a young intern got in a reputed company. An HR student was asked to take on the challenging role of suggesting ways to plug the security loophole in the company's headquarters. While the project sounded promising, the intern's enthusiasm evaporated soon, as his task was reduced to sitting in the sofa in the reception area, watching people going out and coming in. He did not receive any guidance and all that he reported in his project work was the bright idea that there was a possibility of theft during lunch time when the guards and the receptionist take a break. The intern said he would never go back to the company for work. The fate of his internship project is unknown, though he suspects that was consigned to the dustbin as soon as he completed his internship.
Not everybody may have had similar experiences, but it sums up the way most companies look at internships.
With inputs from M Saraswathy