Mumbai: 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.
This year, the 10th edition of the Tata Social Internship programme culminated with a contingent of 15 international students – four from the University of California, Berkeley, USA; two from the University of California, Davis, USA; one from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA; six from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK; and two from the University of Cambridge, UK – completing their two-month experiential internship in the ongoing sustainability projects of the Tata companies in India.
The batch of 2017 worked hands-on on the community initiatives of the Tata companies and entities, such as Tata Steel, Tata Chemicals, Tata Communications, Taj, Tata Capital, Trent, Tata Coffee, 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, evaluation of life-skills training and financial literacy programmes, process documentation of a ‘model village’, basic maternal healthcare awareness, and aligning a company’s CSR strategy with its business strategy.
The programme structure of Tata Social Internship 2017 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, political economics, environmental economics, peace and conflict studies, public policy, microbiology, economics, accounting, philosophy and engineering.
The first phase of the internship programme kicked off on May 29, 2017, with the University of California, Berkeley, and MIT students. The second phase for the interns from the University of California, Davis, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics commenced on June 27, 2017.
Margaux Payton, a BA Political Economy student from the University of California, Berkeley, who interned with Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces in Mumbai, worked towards developing a manual to enhance the livelihood programme that Taj Hotels undertake so that they can better promote the traditional arts, performance, and handicrafts of India. Elaborating on her experience, Ms Payton, said, “It was a privilege to have got this coveted chance to intern with Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. During the internship, I realised that large corporations must be accommodating and open-minded to support local communities and small businesses. In the case of Taj, by providing a platform for local artisans, craftsmen and performers, on their property, they are not only preserving traditional trades, but also ensuring sustainable and skilled-based livelihood for them. I believe that international companies must replicate Taj’s ethical and sustainable business practices, especially against the backdrop of globalisation and its impact on the artisans”.
Alexander Gray who is completing his BSc in Philosophy and Economics at the London School of Economics interned at Tata Capital in Thane, where his project was to evaluate Dhyan Gyan – Tata Capital’s Financial Literacy programme. “My experience on the Tata Social Internship has given me the opportunity to see first-hand how companies can influence people’s lives for the better. It has helped me to appreciate the vast differences within India as well as the enormous potential and existing capabilities in the country. I look forward to bringing these personal lessons back to the UK with an open mind,” said Mr Gray.
As part of the programme, there have been two Building Bridges Across Boundaries seminars held in Mumbai. The first seminar was with the students from UC Berkeley, MIT and from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on July 28, 2017, and the other on August 24, 2017, 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 their experiences in community development and sustainability and discuss conscious capitalism.
Atul Agrawal, senior vice president, corporate affairs, Tata Services, said, “With an exposure to a diverse set of community projects, Tata Social Internship is a platform that gives international students a unique opportunity to experience India at the grass-root level. Given the Tata group’s strong focus on community development and sustainability, these students will take home a treasure trove of knowledge on sustainable business practices”.
Puneeta Kala, program director, Institute of South Asia Studies, University of California Berkeley said, “The institute is thrilled to have completed 10 years of collaboration with Tata Sons on this incredible programme. Till date, more than 70 students from UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Davis have had the privilege and honour of working in India as Tata interns. The programme has afforded them unparalleled opportunities to design, research and implement path-breaking rural and urban development programmes in health, education, infrastructure and much more. The internships have been very rewarding and enriching, and our students have only positive things to say about their internship experiences, their places of work, as well as their Tata colleagues. For some, the experience has proven to be so foundational that it changed the very trajectory of their academic careers. Congratulations on reaching this milestone, Team Tata! We look forward to continuing this programme with you in the many years to come”.
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, the Tata Social Internship programme, was launched in 2008.