The University of Cambridge, the University of California, Berkeley, and the London School of Economics are joint participants in Tata ISES, an innovative international student internship programme launched by the Tata Group. Tata ISES offers students the opportunity to work on social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility projects within the Tata Group of Companies in India.
Some of our previous Tata Social Interns tell us about their experiences of the scheme:
Aleksandra Szypowska from Poland, a University of Cambridge (UK) student, interned under the Tata Social Internship programme in 2016 at Tata Chemicals in Mithapur (Gujarat) on a livelihoods development project with a women’s collective.
In Lent Term 2008 I was studying Part II Biological Natural Sciences. I knew very little about India or its culture, and I had never even heard of Tata (beyond them acquiring Jaguar and Land Rover). I was searching for summer jobs relating to NGO or charity work, hoping to spend my summer in a worthwhile manner contributing to a development project. The Tata ISES internship stood out as a real chance to undertake meaningful and positive development work, but also as a chance to immerse myself within the Indian social and commercial environments.
Suddenly a few months later I had just graduated and I found myself sitting in a Tata guest house in Mumbai. It was my first time in India (actually my first time out of Western Europe). I couldn’t speak the language, I was still in slightly in shock from what I had seen driving through Mumbai, I knew nobody in this strange country and I felt I knew nothing about development. It was a daunting task ahead of me when I was sent out to the Tata Chemicals Plant in Babrala.
Once in Babrala (working with Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development (TCSRD)) I immersed myself in the task of my project: to increase the household income of the rural poor through devising an alternative method of milk sales in the region. From day one the task involved going into the villages and understanding the local lifestyle and culture. Only once I was in the villages did I begin to get a feeling and understanding of exactly what daily life involves in a rural village in Northern India. Overtime I collected information from academic papers and through primary data from field visits to draw up an action plan for TCSRD to take forward into the future. The project was not trivial, but was a real question which Tata wanted answering. Encouragingly, senior management really seemed to buy into the findings and recommendations I had generated and are looking to take the project on more seriously early next financial year.
For me, the most rewarding part of my Indian experience was the fantastically warm welcome I received by everybody I met. I really felt part of TCSRD team, and never felt I was an extra limb. I learnt so much about the different culture, and made some real friends during my time there. I will remember my Tata ISES 10 week internship as a huge rollercoaster ride of emotions and experiences of trying to conduct a difficult project in a completely different social environment. Tata ISES really was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to experience life in India with Indian people, and I am so thankful for the opportunity I was given. Coming home was really hard, and I’m already planning my next visit back to India.
Grant and Selene with local women and children from the Babrala villages in which they were working.
In spring 2008, I was a Cambridge MBA student with a keen interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), international development, and social enterprise. I also had a burning desire to travel to India, a place that came up constantly in both my business and development studies as a paradox: a rapidly growing economy with the largest population of poor people of any country on earth. The opportunity to experience all of these things: India, CSR, development, and social enterprise by working for one of the world’s leading companies drove me to apply for the Tata ISES programme.
The experience did not disappoint.
Serious work that’s taken seriously by Tata… Tata ISES is not the kind of internship where you spend all day in the office doing research. It’s not the kind of internship where you’re given menial tasks that don’t matter much to senior management. We were given real projects on which serious business decisions will be made.
The Community Development initiative on which I worked is the Rural Entrepreneurship Development Programme (REDP), through which Tata staff train poor villagers how to start and run small businesses. The goal of the programme is to equip people with skills that will help them generate additional income for their families and hopefully move them out of poverty.
One factor that influences the likelihood of an individual starting or upgrading a business after completing REDP training is the availability of a micro-loan. My project was to determine how to improve delivery of micro-loans to REDP graduates. This required me to spend time understanding and evaluating REDP and its links to finance sources. Almost daily, I was out in the field, attending REDP sessions and interviewing REDP graduates, local government officials, and bank managers. I also had ample opportunity to research and learn about how microfinance works in India and abroad.
At the end of the summer, I presented my findings and recommendations not just to the Community Development staff in Mithapur, but also to several key leaders from all the Tata companies. Even Executive Director of Tata Sons Alan Rosling took the time to meet with us and learn about our experience.
First time in a developing country … no problem Prior to Tata ISES, I had only travelled in Europe and North America. Not only was this my first trip to India, it was my first trip to a developing country. It was not easy at first. On our drive into Mumbai from the airport, I remember looking at the slums on the side of the road, thinking, “Oh my … what on earth do I know about this? Am I going to be of use to anyone? Will I be able to cope?” But, the Tata staff took very good care of us. Our accommodation was comfortable and nice. They helped us with transport and provided us with meals and drinking water. They helped us connect with our families. They incorporated us into the local team and checked in with us regularly. It did not take too long to adjust, and in fact, Tata really valued the fresh perspective of someone who was not accustomed to life in India.
The unforgettable bits By the end of August, I was ready to go home. But within a week of being back, I was missing India. The people I met – especially the villagers and local people I befriended – changed my life. I now understand some things about the world, about people, and about life that I could never have known without this experience.
Today, I am getting ready to start a job in a global poverty relief organisation. The experience at Tata not only informed my decision to pursue such a career, but it also renewed my hope in the corporate world’s ability to contribute to development in very significant and positive ways.
In short, Tata ISES is perhaps the most comprehensive and relevant internship opportunity out there. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Stepping off the plane from London to Mumbai, the subcontinent’s monsoonal humidity immediately enveloped me and clung to my airplane-weary clothes, dampening them. Finding it at first difficult to breathe after the hours in an air-conditioned cabin, I thought the pervasive humidity an apt foreshadowing of my internship-to-be: the wet, sticky air would prove to be a direct outflow of the country itself. This is to say that India is vibrant and alive in every way imaginable; it holds you close and forces you towards its beating, pulsing heart so that you cannot remain at arm’s distance.
And so it was that I spent the summer of 2008 in Mithapur, Gujarat, at the site of Tata Chemicals working alongside the Tata Chemicals’ Society for Rural Development (TCSRD) team. They welcomed me as one of them, incorporating me into both their meaningful work and their lives; we went into the field together trying to find practical solutions to everyday problems villagers face, we took tea together, and ate together. Almost everyday I found myself in someone else’s home, farmers, widows, nomads and engineers, talking with them about their lives, listening to their joys and troubles.
What I am trying to say is that the Tata ISES internship is more than development work experience in a rural setting, though it is undoubtedly that. Rather, it is an invitation to share another culture, another language, another way of seeing the world and learn from it. The things you learn, you will take with you forever and they will change your way of seeing the world.
Titan Industries corporate social responsibility (CSR): education
Tata Medical Center
Impact assessment of TCSRD’s agricultural, watershed and water resource management projects on the livelihood of farmers
The Okhamandal Taluka
Evaluation of carbon footprint calculators
Impact assessment of Tata Steel interventions in the economic and social aspects of the community in 23 villages
Impact assessment of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities in Lote Rallis India Impact assessment of corporate sustainability programmes at Lote (where factory is situated) and working out the way forward
Rallis, Lote (Maharashtra)
Health and hygiene: safe drinking water
Tata Chemicals WAPU (water purifier business)
Sustainable livelihood: impact assessment of Tata Steel interventions in the economic and social aspects of the community in 23 villages in the Saraikela Kharswan area
Tata Steel, Jamshedpur (Jharkhand)
Marketing and communications at the new cancer hospital through promotional materials, newsletter, current website(together with an intern from the University of California who will have been working on aspects of this project from June).
Tata Medical Center, Kolkata (West Bengal)
Agriculture based: working with farmers on wasteland (usar or highly alkaline soil) reclamation
Tata Chemicals, Babrala (Uttar Pradesh)
Developing community engagement programmes for Taj Safaris (company requirement: post-graduate student, preferably with an interest and qualification in media/mass communication).
Taj Safaris, National Parks in Madhya Pradesh state
Economic development through self-help groups (SHGs)
Mithapur or Babrala
Enhancing identity through economic empowerment in rural women
Tata Consultancy Services, Mumbai (Maharashtra) or Chennai (Tamil Nadu)
Financial linkage and monitoring system for Rural Entrepreneurship Development Programme (REDP)
Identify a model for sustainable livelihood opportunities for community in the hydro areas (amongst the 107 villages in the ‘catchment’ area).
Tata Power, Lonavala
Income enhancement through animal husbandry
Natural resources management with specific focus on land and water management
Tata Steel, Jamshedpur (Jharkhand)
A road map for educational intervention in area exploring possibility of linkages with both government and non-government agencies (project will have component of documentation through case studies).
Tata Chemicals, Mithapur
Skill building and employability for the community, plus The way forward for Tata Motors on the journey towards sustainability
Tata Motors, Mumbai
Social and economic development of women through self-help groups
Tata Steel, Jamshedpur (Jharkhand)
Sustainable assessment of Parivar Kalyan Kendra and its future direction
Tata Chemicals, Babrala
Sustainable livelihood through agriculture intervention in Gunnor tehsil or Income enhancement through horticulture crops in Gunnor block
Tata Chemicals, Babrala
Tata Motors, Pimpri (Maharashtra)
Water management for village farms or Social forestry (through eco clubs; mangrove rejuvenation; afforestation of grassland).
Tata Chemicals, Mithapur (Gujarat)
About Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development (TCSRD)
Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL) set up the Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development (TCSRD) in 1980 to promote its social objectives for the communities in and around Mithapur, where its facility is located. This service was further extended to the communities in and around its Babrala and Haldia facilities.
The Society works to protect and nurture the rural populations in and around TCL’s facilities, and helps people achieve self-sufficiency in natural resource management, livelihood support and the building of health and education infrastructure.
Taking into account the different geographical spread of the three regions and their individual subcultures, different agricultural, economic and development programmes have been implemented in these regions.
Tata Chemicals was one of the first organisations to hold an Impact camp, which was held at Mithapur in the year 1982, providing eye care to hundreds of patients at the Mithapur Hospital. Tata Chemicals was also the first organisation to run world’s first hospital on wheels – the Life Line Express, through Jamnagar district for the first time between 21 November and 21 December 2004.
This information about Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development was provided courtesy of Tata Chemicals.
About Tata Chemicals
Established in 1939, Tata Chemicals is India’s leading manufacturer of food additives, fertilisers and inorganic chemicals.
Lift Irrigation and Rainwater Harvesting in the Tribal Villages of Jharkhand State, and Insight into the CSR Activities of Tata Motors, Jamshedpur, India
Rosalynne Sophie Watt Download report (pdf, 1.4KB)
Financial Linkage and Monitoring System for Rural Entrepreneurship Development Programme (REDP)
Valerie Fitton-Kane Download report (pdf, 2.03MB)
Develop a Conceptual Framework for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Relation to TCSRD’s Female SHGs
Selene Gittings Download report (pdf, 1.13MB)
Income Enhancement through Animal Husbandry
Grant Jackson Download report (pdf, 359KB)
Business Plan for a Cluster-based Enterprise and SHG Federation Road Map
Lee E. Nordstrum Download report (pdf, 460KB)
Applications for this year how now closed.
A one-day seminar will take place in London, run by LSE.
Costs & arrangements
The Tata Group will arrange and provide:
local boarding and lodging
domestic travel costs in India
a per diem allowance for incidental costs
The Tata Group will also contribute up to one third of the return cost of economy air travel to India. All other costs, including personal costs such as travel insurance and vaccinations, are the responsibility of the internship holder. Eligible costs incurred in India during the internship will be either directly paid or reimbursed by the Tata Group. Candidates are encouraged to approach their colleges for further help with funding.