12 Jun 2018 18:06 IST

Going the social way

Students are now opting for social internships during their MBA course

Internships in B-schools are a big deal. Not only do they add value to students’ resumes, they also give them exposure to what it really is like to be in the real work world. And while most students opt for summer internships at corporates, some of them are now choosing social internships; that is, working with NGOs or in the CSR wing of companies.

Ground zero

Smriti Mahlawat, a second-year student of IMI Delhi, decided to intern with Professional Assistance for Development Action, an NGO that works for the upliftment of marginalised women. Working in the remote area of Jamsola, which lies on the border of Odisha and West Bengal, she studied how the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act impacted the place in the last five years.

“B-schools now teach social responsibility. In one of our classes, a professor told us that 20 years from now, there won’t be any water left for us. At Jamsola, I saw this first hand. Whatever we discuss in our AC classrooms about the future is already happening now. And we’re not aware of it. This social responsibility has to be experienced, and cannot be taught in class,” Mahlawat explains.

The remuneration ranges from unpaid internships to earning around ₹20,000 a month. While some choose this path voluntarily, others tread here because it is compulsory. In fact, social internships are catching up in B-schools. IIM Indore’s five-year Integrated Management Programme mandates students to dabble in this area at the end of their third year.

“Since they will intern with corporates in their fourth and fifth years, we thought it better that they do a social internship one year,” says Professor Kamal K Jain, Academic Dean, IIM Indore.

XLRI has a Village Exposure Programme and an Outbound Programme for its first year students. SPJIMR, too, integrated a mandatory social internship programme in its management curriculum. “In 2001, the Centre for Development of Corporate Citizenship (DoCC) was established and it is implemented in all the programmes,” says Dr Nirja Mattoo, chairperson of the centre. DoCC is a course that aims to sensitise students by helping them work with the not-for-profit sector and other development programmes.

When asked how these internships help the students, she says, “It demonstrates the universality of management principles and their applications in the social sector. It makes them socially responsive, empathic and humble, instils a team building spirit and teaches them to manage crisis and conflict.”

New learnings

Learning a completely new way of doing things is a reason students opt for social internships. Harish Khanna, a first-year MBA student at IIT Madras’ Department of Management Studies, is one such case. He bagged a market research profile with Rural Technology Action Group (RuTag) in Pattamadai, Tirunelveli, which is famous for its mats. His job entails him to come up with ideas on how the product can be marketed better. “I have no prior experience, and most of the other internships required it. When I came across this profile I was convinced about taking it. I always wanted to understand ground level work, and didn’t want it to be an extension of my academics. The work I am doing is quite raw, and involves no software. It demands groundwork,” Khanna says.

A number of students who do social internships genuinely want to bring about a change in society. “Reading about an issue and meeting people who have been affected by the issue are two very different things,” says Vandit Sawansukha of IIM Indore. He is interning with SELCO Foundation in its incubation department. SELCO India is a solar energy company promoted by IIT graduate Harish Hande.

Sawansukha heard of the foundation when it started a project in his hometown, Udaipur. “SELCO India began because of a thesis project the founder worked on at University of Massachusetts Lowell. It was about the energy gap that exists in South-East Asia. The company aims to bridge the energy divide between the rich and the poor,” he explains, adding that energy access helps everyone develop their living standards. “If an area is electrified, healthcare, education, and the livelihood of its people will also progress.”

“The reason I chose this instead of a CSR job is that here, the work we do actually makes a difference on ground. You feel responsible for it. I never thought intervention in energy access can help solve so many different issues.”

Ankit Kumar Gupta, his batchmate, is working with Waste Warriors in Corbett, as its data manager. “When you’re in a corporate setting, you only see numbers; you don’t see the people who use the products. But when you’re doing a social internship, you meet different people and doing so much groundwork makes you humble. I think this is very important because sitting behind a computer doesn’t make you realise the impact you create.”

New career choice?

A few of the students are even rethinking their career choices. Mahlawat says, “I am reconsidering my career choices because this society needs us. But in the development sector, you start with a very low income. That might be a reason why MBA students are reluctant to join the sector, since they have invested a lot of money for their education.”

Sawansukha agrees: “I don’t think I’ll go into this sector right after my MBA but maybe some years later. A lot of people ask me, ‘What good is a social internship? Won’t corporate internship hold more value?’. But I believe this is a good experience. If , in future, we are in positions to take decisions that will affect everyone, it is good if we are cognisant of the underlying issues that our country faces.”

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