Indian companies hiring global interns in droves

Source: Economic Times

Posted by admin on Nov 29, 2012

Indian firms are increasingly scouting for interns overseas, a strategy aimed at aligning the workforce with the growing geographical spread of domestic businesses ranging from biotechnology and market research to airport development.

With an array of Indian companies expanding their footprint globally, the trend started by the IT firms in the country has both deepened and extended to the other sectors. While a few companies are vying for foreign interns to connect better with their target customers abroad, others are seeking graduates from leading business schools to raise their profile.

Karnataka-based Regional Airport Holding International, for instance, has hosted management students from Turkey, Czech Republic, Brazil and Sri Lanka while diversified conglomerate RPG Enterprises is in active discussions with an Ivy League university to hire interns.

Biocon, IMRB and Columbia Asia Hospitals along with IT firms InfosysWipro,Mphasis and Hexaware are some of the other companies that are looking to hire interns from countries as diverse as Mexico, South Africa and Germany.

“For an Indian company that wants to expand, recruiting foreign students as interns is a safe way of helping employees understand how other economies and cultures work. They are put on risk-free projects, stipends are not very big and if a perfect fit is not possible, there are no liabilities,” said V Nagadevara, professor of quantitative methods and information systems at IIM Bangalore.

Some companies take foreign interns on a case-to-case basis and not through alliances with universities. For instance, biotechnology firm Biocon has had interns from Germany and the US. Columbia Asia Hospitals gets doctors from Bangaladesh and Nigeria to observe operations such as kidney transplant done in India. These doctors are not allowed to practice in India, but they are expected to implement in their home country what they learn in India. The hospital chain stands to gain since these doctors recommend the hospital to patients at home.

Even companies that do not have a regular policy of getting foreign interns are now keen to hire them. “Interns from overseas locations have a completely different perspective and their own way of working. It’s an enriching experience for the whole organisation,” said Sridevi Rao, vice-president HR at Indian Market Research Bureau, which has had interns from Germany for their media research department. “We are certainly open to accommodating more foreign interns, but finance is a constraint,” Rao added.

Though stipends for foreign students are similar to what their Indian counterparts are paid, the companies often end up spending more on them. This is bound to limit the number of foreign interns, Prof Nagadevara said, adding that this will ensure the preference for Indian interns in large numbers.

“The monetary benefits are not perceived by the foreign students to be the primary driver to consider internship opportunities in India. Hence, we do not have a differentiated stipend structure for foreign interns vis-a-vis interns recruited from Indian B-schools, but we would ensure their travel, accommodation and living expenses are adequately taken care of by the organisation,” said Amit Das, senior vice-president, group HR at RPG Enterprises.

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