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  • Writer's pictureChris McKenzie

Q&A with a Colleague: GCC India Director Naveen Shah

Global Career Center has been offering internship programs in Mumbai and Bengaluru India for 10 years. I recently spoke with GCC India Director, Naveen Shah, to find out what makes interning in India so special.

First, a little background. Naveen was born in Mysore, just outside of Bengaluru and currently lives in India. She has spent over 35 years introducing students and faculty to the wonders of her home country through various types of education and internship programming. Below are some lightly edited highlights from our conversation.

The Goddess Mumba-Devi

What are some of the differences between Mumbai (Bombay) and Bengaluru (Bangalore)?

Let’s start with Mumbai. I love Mumbai. No other city in India has this feeling of unity and diversity that Mumbai has. It is vibrant, diverse, traditional, and modern all at the same time. Mumbai is a coastal city stretching north and south along the sea. The train system is the pulse of Mumbai and is how students move through the city. The street food is the heart of the city and a great way to begin introducing students to Indian culture.

Bangalore is the garden city of India; filled with gardens, parks, and lakes. Yet, it is also considered the Silicon Valley of India with large buildings and technology parks. The city is inland in the South of India and is more circular in its design with the bus system being the main mode of transportation. The South is a highly educated part of India and attracts many young Indians from all over the country to pursue education and participate in a strong startup culture. English outside of the workplace is spoken more often which some students find helpful.

Spending time in either city you are going to experience the real, authentic India.

Bangalore Palace

Do the two cities differ as far as internship opportunities for students?

The unifying theme for both cities is a strong sense of and commitment to social development. Mumbai approaches social development through sustainability, public health, and infrastructure initiatives and Bengaluru approaches it as an implementer of change through its vast startup ecosystem. Regardless of the type of work an intern is interested in pursuing they are going to gain a good sense of how to implement socially responsibility in their lives and work.

Rikshaw Taxi

What are some of the top industries in each city?

For Mumbai, I would say Finance and MicroFinance, Marketing, Media and Communications, and Entertainment because Mumbai is the home of Bollywood. Also, non-profit organizations especially related to public health, education, urban slums, sustainability and infrastructure.

Bengaluru is very strong in Technology, AI, Data Analytics, and Data Sciences. The startup ecosystem is excellent and it is also a good spot for traditional Business internships.

Bollywood Movie Posters

Can you describe the work culture?

In general, offices or work environments are very community-based meaning that everyone working together genuinely cares about the well-being of their co-workers. Students may do some individual work but the team concept is very important. Supervisor’s check-in with workers almost daily. There is less structure or format to the day but this shouldn’t be misconstrued as less effort. It is more about taking the appropriate amount of time to do a really deep dive to find the best solution. But, some industries like Tech or with Multi-National Companies students will experience a bit more westernized work culture.

What do students do when they are not working?

When students arrive GCC conducts an in-depth orientation to the city, people, culture and traditions. Students are introduced to the local food and local transport by riding the train in Mumbai and buses in Bangalore. GCC introduces interns to local students through a meet & greet session with our local university partners.

Dharavi Slum

GCC encourages students to explore Indian culture and places suggesting they travel during the weekend, explore the local sights and attractions, or to pursue an interest off the beaten path. A few examples are a visit to one of the Asia’s largest urban slum, Dharavi, in Mumbai; or a visit to a holistic wellness center in Bangalore which teaches alternative lifestyles, sattvic food, and yoga; or a visit to a nearby rural settlement to observe local south Indian traditions and savor local village seasonal foods.

Students do want to experience other parts of India beyond Mumbai and Bengaluru. A few of the top spot’s students visit are the city of Agra to see the Taj Mahal, Goa for its beaches and tropical climate, and Rajasthan State visiting Jaipur, the Paris of India, and Jaisalmer for the amazing desert landscape.

Are you hosting any student interns in India currently?

Yes, GCC is hosting a cohort of 15 students from the University of Auckland, a long-time partner. These students were awarded New Zealand’s Prime Minister Scholarship for Asia (PMSA) funding and are completing their 6-week internship this week [week of 20 February 2023].

Students have accepted placements in different industries and various fields of work including:

  • data collection and analysis for the United Way of Mumbai,

  • visa and immigration research for the New Zealand Consulate in Mumbai,

  • legal and policy work on behalf of homeless women for the Urja Trust,

  • qualitative and quantitative surveying for SNEHA, an NGO promoting healthcare for women and children, and

  • work on microfinance projects for New Opportunities Corporation who provides financial assistance programs in the urban slums.

The students are housed in the central business district at a YWCA that is set up much like a college dorm. There are 2 persons per room with morning and evening meals provided. We like this location because it is so close to the main train station and is a reverse commute, which is much easier for the students to handle.

As part of the learning and academic experience the University had each student maintain a blog for the duration of their internship. The reflection and individual growth is evident as you follow along with each of their stories. You can find the blog site here and also follow them on LinkedIn and other social media.

Student Interns Participating in a Traditional Festival Meal

So, this entire time we've been talking I've been curious about what prompted the name changes for cities in India.

(Laughs). Yes, it can be confusing. There are many complex reasons behind the name changes and not everyone is in agreement. The main reason is to return to historical naming conventions after India gained its independence in 1947.

Editor's Note and Further Reading

I've spent time in both Mumbai and Chennai and would and look forward to returning to India to explore and experience more places and better understand the culture. It is cliche, but I have to admit, I do love the food and have been learning how to prepare traditional Indian dishes ever since my visit a few years ago. Below are links to additional articles that you may find interesting.

Here is a good place to start for more context on the Dharavi Slum

For further reading on Bollywood, check out this interesting essay

And lastly, a cooking blog for some very worthy Indian recipes (I highly recommend the section on dals)


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