Get Global

Creating together

To find out more about our global internship programme for Newcastle University Business School Stage 2 students, visit our website.

Week 1

Olivia, one of our International Business Management students tells us about the first week of her GEO internship at India’s Self Employed Women’s Association. 

So, the first week, has been a culture shock! The positives however, have far outweighed the fear of the unknown. My name is Olivia and I have just finished my second year at Newcastle University. I have now ventured to Ahmedabad, India to be a part of helping plan an upscaling production of a garment sector, working with the Self Employed Women’s Association, otherwise known as SEWA.

A few challenges to begin with were to be embraced for the four of us from Newcastle and Boston University in terms of adapting to a different way of life. Taking each day as it comes was very different for us; going from having a set schedule at Newcastle and Boston to arrangements being open to change was different, with our ingrained culture telling us we should not arrive late for meetings! We are slowly adapting to this, however hopefully not too much as the English and American way deems this to be far from acceptable!

The first few days were full of exploring, especially the campus where we are staying, as well as meeting our teammates and getting to know one another’s lives back home. It seems that now we can navigate around the IIM-A campus and could certainly take someone to where the cafes are located. On that basis, it is safe to say ‘we have found our way around’ somewhere we originally thought to be a complete maze. Here, Kristin from Boston is pointing towards where graduation is held for the Masters students at the end of each year.

We also ventured outside the campus, buying lighter clothing so we were able to feel comfortable in the 38-degree heat. Also, going for dinner and tasting the true spice the Indian cuisine has to offer. I am slowly getting to know that everything and anything has a touch of masala.

Our journeys to the office have been far from dull and the streets are extremely chaotic and exciting. There seemed to be no system but somehow ‘it just works’. Our journeys this week have ended up at what is known as SEWA’s Trade Facilitation Centre, where the women workers were warm and friendly. It was in ways what I had expected in terms of layout, bits of machinery lined up parallel to one another.

What is interesting to see is the workers have a say in every aspect and steer what they want the association to be. If they don’t like something, then they have an equal right to say exactly why and it will not be enforced. Here is a photo of them explaining the way in which they express the deadlines and products produced.

Another exciting aspect to the journeys to the office is when sitting in the back of an autorickshaw you really do get a true reflection of Indian living. I have never seen a camel before and I found myself riding right next to one! The experience is surreal and I sometimes have to take a moment to let it all in. Cows are also not an animal to be found stood at the side of the streets at home, so it was a surprise to see them occasionally walking across the road alongside the on-coming traffic.

A huge eye opener to say the least are people sleeping on the pavement, living where they can; the poverty has made each one of us reflect on our lives back home realising how lucky we are. This confirms how much we want to really make sure we truly make a difference to those we meet during our time here and makes us want to help those less fortunate in the future.

It is with this in mind that the first impressions of this organisation are extremely genuine. The SEWA women are truly out to ensure a sustainable livelihood for their workers. When asking the main members of management where would they want to see the Association to be in 20 years’ time they reply with; ‘a nice question but you should ask the workers, they are the shareholders of the association. Where they want to see it is the direction in which it will go.’ This is the aspect I like the most so far. The equality through the Association is a privilege to be a part of, alongside the women’s sense of calmness and the drive members of the whole association have through each generation. It’s endearing and listening to the women leaves me hanging on for every word.

Taking part in a conference call

Another aspect I like is each morning the SEWA women join in for yoga before the day starts. We arrived half way through on Thursday but people were very keen for us to join in. I found it to be extremely calming and a start to the day I feel I might take on board when I am back home.

Week 2

Beanie, one of our Economics students, tells us about week two.

This week started with our first days in the office. The offices are located in the SEWA Gram building, where the ground floor is a shop, the first and second floors are dedicated to SEWA’s renewable energy program and the third and fourth are for the SEWA bank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We set off to Anand to visit the district office to meet the women who are actually using mBachat, the money transfer app being utilised by some of the SEWA members currently, to avoid having to pay for transactions in cash. Previously, the group leaders had to collect the cash and savings from the members in villages and then take it to the district office, filling out everything by hand. This mean the process was very slow and could take up to two weeks. However, if they are able to use the app, time is saved and our job is to find out how much! After a fairly easy journey by Indian standards, we arrived at the district office. After a round of introductions and Namastes, Nathan and I were introduced by Shobhit (our fellow intern from IIM-A) we spent a few hours discussing mBachat and any problems they were facing, with Shobhit translating for us.

Now we have been here for a few weeks, a few things have become clear about India and Ahmadabad in particular. Firstly, the heat is now bearable, even if the air still feels thick. Secondly, everyone is incredibly kind and helpful. We have had no end of people coming up to talk to us, helping us with directions and offering recommendations. Thirdly, the working culture is a lot slower. Generally, we have done nothing before 10.30 and meetings and the general working pace is a lot slower. At home, people reply to emails almost instantly, whereas here we are lucky to get a response within a week!

We have also done lots of sightseeing, with the main focus being restaurants and cafes, and have found some really good ones. The chocolate brownie and the Zen Café may be the best one ever, and the art gallery in a cave shaped a bit like an octopus made the experience even yummier! Rickshaws are our favourite way to travel and so far we have only had one close shave, although the price varies hugely depending on what the driver is like!

Week 3

Kristin, from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business tells us all about Week 3

My fellow interns and I are thoroughly enjoying our internship experience and we cannot believe that it is already halfway through. Being Indian American, I have been amazed by learning more about my heritage. Our third week in Ahmedabad, India interning with SEWA has challenged our cultural norms and has exposed us to celebrations of life and culture.

At the start of the week, we celebrated Liv’s 20th birthday. For fun, we ventured to a bangle store to buy bindis (decorative stickers that women wear on their forehead) to wear for the special occasion. The multitude of colors and shapes surprised us and reminded me of my childhood. As per our Indian interns’ suggestion, we had an Indian BBQ feast for dinner consisting of vegetarian and non-veg kabobs and a multitude of desserts. As Gujarat is a non-alcoholic state, we wished Liv into her next year of life with mocktails including Pina Coladas and Cinderellas.

Birthday polaroids and cake

Our project of expanding the rural garment unit at SEWA has become clearer and we have decided on a distribution strategy. We were very fortunate to meet with Rama Bijapurkar, one of India’s leading consultants on market strategy and consumer behavior. She helped us understand what rural women are looking for when they purchase clothes. In order to compare the modern garments that we will be implementing to the traditional hand embroidered garments, Liv and I ventured to SEWA’s Hansiba store. These intricate and vibrant blouses and skirts were truly exotic—each piece took two years to produce! I have never seen Indian clothes of the past generations, and it was empowering to realize the importance of preserving the traditional hand embroidery in modern garments.

Liv holding up the traditional garments

 

Along with Sakshi (our Indian intern), we travelled to the town of Radhanpur and village of Santalpur (about four hours away) to conduct market research. The women were so welcoming and hospitable as they allowed us inside their homes and served us all kinds of Gujarati snacks and kulfi (Indian ice cream). One woman said they had never had foreigners inside their homes before and were so happy that we came. In Santalpur, we were surrounded by half the village as we were roaming between clothing shops! As we learned of the differences between fabrics, many children came up to us and smiled when we waved at them. The experience was surreal as people were genuinely intrigued and also very helpful. We got a taste of the Indian rural culture and way of life—simple, colorful, and fastly growing. We had a lovely day.

 

Week 4

Nathan from Boston University tells us about week four

This week we did lots of things around town in places we have never been to and visited a couple of old favourites in our never-ending pursuit of the tastiest bit in town! Our week consisted of mostly working independently in the mornings and venturing out of campus at the end of the day to try new restaurants suggested to us by the IIM-A students.

On Saturday we joined several summer school exchange students along with a few members of the Heritage Club on campus on a walk around the old city. We made our first stop of several at the Siddi Saiyad Jali Mosque which is the oldest mosque in all of Ahmedabad. It was a beautifully simplistic structure that had a three-walled concept where the rear side of the mosque was open to the air. The structure had a carved stone window in the rear of the mosque that has since been adopted as the local symbol of Ahmedabad. We then proceeded to walk through the streets of central Ahmedabad to see the Bhadra Fortress and through a small market to the Jumma Masjid Mosque.

We finished off the great walk with a dining experience at the Manekchowk Market. Amongst the chaos and bursting tarps full of rain water precariously hovering over our heads as we ate we were seated and given food. We were served Poha, a type of bread, and a tomato sauce with a healthy knob of butter in the center of the sauce. We also had a meatless version of Dosa and some Thumbs Up Soda to drink. We were then given “Mango Ice Cream Sandwich” which was white bread without the crusts and traditional Indian ice cream. Then another layer of bread is added which is where the Mango sauce is added and a nice helping of shredded cheese. To say the least we were all confused. They paired that sandwich with a chocolate cheese sandwich which was less confusing due to the overpowering nature of the chocolate of which there was a fair amount on that sandwich. It was a fantastic night all around and meeting all the other transfer students was a welcome delight.

Over the next few nights we continued to eat around town and visited Jassi De Paratha for lunch and got it delivered several nights later for dinner. I think we have found a dish we are all fans of. We also went out to dinner at Hyderbadi Hut with some friends we met on the heritage walk. We had several Biriyani between the six of us and had a few other local foods. The following day we went to Punjabi by Heart and ate some Cholle Bhatura and some curries. I had some Mango Lassi that was chilled into almost a custard like consistency that was very refreshing. We even managed to slip in a night of Indian Dominos which was strikingly similar to the US and UK Dominos. To say the least we had a very diverse array of meals this week!

On Tuesday Beanie, Shobhit and I went to the office to talk to Rushi, one of our supervisors, about our presentation and the progress of our research. We received good news that we were on track with our direction and that we were meeting the directives laid out by SEWA. This was good news considering that the presentation we have is approaching quite fast. We also discussed the possibility of another field visit which we were very excited about.

Beyond just working and eating we also got to attend the Annual General Meeting that was held for the SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre. We got to see a Google Executive speak along with the founder of SEWA and the current CEO of SEWA TFC with several others. It was super unique just seeing how they structured their meeting around personal experience of the members and not just the high up executives. I found this to be a very unique and fun approach to something I would generally assume to be a mundane activity.

Week 5

Newcastle student Liv tells us about her penultimate week

This week has been a heavy week in terms of work, with our final week approaching and the first presentation completed, both groups are working on their projects at a pace. We have been bringing all the research that has been done from the last month together and getting ready to provide a business plan to SEWA in our upcoming week.

Producing the presentations, we have definitely found cultural differences in terms of American English and the way Beanie and I write, an aspect I had never thought about before. What seems the best way to do things hasn’t always been the best way from each person in our groups; so, compromising has had to be on the agenda!

One of the biggest challenges has been adapting to the Indian way of work over here, patience has been key and at times it’s taken a trip to the ice cream parlour with Kristin on the way back from the office to re assess our project; we have had to laugh and start over once along the way but it seems we are getting there and are on the same page now. With this challenge, the language barrier has also caused confusion at times, even when communication is through a translator.

Outside of working in the office, we took a trip to Udaipur which was definitely a cool place to visit. The City Palace and Lake Gujarat were amazing. Unfortunately, monsoon season should not be taken lightly this year and even fellow students here have not seen anything like it for some time.  It has taken 6 days of continuous rain for the heavens to decide to take a break from the extreme downpour. I didn’t think I would say this but it seems I have missed the 38-degree heat that we were once upon a time blessed with.

It is safe to say our stomachs have seen better days but I really will miss the food here, going from ordering a predictable Korma back home; a food palate which would be a shame to go back to after all the flavours I have tasted here. I hope I’m not disappointed when I venture around the English Indian menu back home.

One of my personal favourite memories of each week here, as simplistic as it is, is taking a rickshaw any time of day, morning or night. It’s never short of an experience and has really made me think about doing the Rickshaw Run, which would be incredible. This is a trip from the North of India to the South of India on a rickshaw.

I would really recommend India as a place to anyone, it couldn’t be more of a culture change if it tried and with that I hope one day to come back to explore all over India travelling properly.  The people we have met have been more than accommodating and it has been a privilege learning their stories. 

As home time approaches in a week’s time; each one of us is looking is forward to seeing our family, friends and our first hot shower. A luxury we have forgotten what this feels like!

Week 6

As their internship comes to a close, our SEWA interns reflect on their six weeks working in Ahmedabad, India.

Somehow we have managed to make it to the last week and it’s been a busy one. Although we have had six weeks to create these reports, there was definitely a slight last minute panic to get everything in order and ready to present. Luckily, the projects seem to have gone smoothly and SEWA seem happy with our research and findings! After our presentations, we were presented with a Hansiba product and a book by the SEWA founder Ela Bhatt. As we had spent six weeks with SEWA learning about the embroidery and work that goes into the products, we were all really touched by the gifts and had an emotional good bye.

As it was our last week, we decided to make the most of it and visit some of our favourite places in Ahmedabad. Specifically, these included Manek Chowk which is transformed into a jewellery and spice market during the afternoon. It is chaotic and completely unforgettable as you bump from person to person trying not to knock anything off the stalls and dodging the stall owners who are desperate for you to purchase something. It is also one of the best smelling places as all the herbs and spices are in bags, on tables and hanging from random poles!

Finally, we made the much talked about visit to Gandhi’s Ashram. This was a fitting end as throughout our six weeks he has been constantly referenced and so we could put what we had heard and the facts together. It was an eye-opening experience and definitely something we will remember as it was such a simple building that made such a difference. It was also amazing to see pictures of the bridge in Ahmedabad where Gandhi delivered some of his speeches and how it looks almost identical to when we drive over it, minus a few thousand people.

This internship has been an amazing experience and something that we will remember and learn from as it allowed us to see and use some of the theory that we have learnt, but has also opened our eyes to a different culture and way of life. There have been so many memorable moments, from the roads and rickshaws to the cold showers. A few interesting meals ranging from the traditional Gujarati to a chocolate and cheese ice cream sandwich but overall the kindness of everyone we met and worked with was unforgettable. We would like to thank SEWA, IIM-Ahmedabad, Newcastle and Boston for giving us this opportunity and hope that at some point we will be back!

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