News your connection to The Boston Globe

As work shifts, internship in India the new rite of passage

What a global role reversal.

An increasing number of US students are going to India to intern at top information technology services firms or to participate in tours that allow them to network with the country's corporate elite.

The shift reflects a sea change: For years, students from India and elsewhere in Asia have been nabbing internships at US companies, thinking that was where the action was.

Michael Anders, 24, of Cambridge, spent last July, August, and the first week of September in Bangalore for a stint at the corporate headquarters of Infosys Technologies Ltd. The company, which reported revenue of $754 million in its latest fiscal year, is India's second largest exporter of software and technical services, with more than 19,000 employees worldwide.

"A lot of businesses are having to approach the whole question of offshoring and how to manage 24-hour work cycles across geographies," said Anders, who holds a master's in finance from the London Business School and is in a one-year graduate program at Harvard University. "Infosys seemed to be a place where it was being done successfully."

Spurred by the growth of India's information technology services sector, universities are tapping Indian know-how to help teach students how to manage operations between domestic and offshore sites. The trend coincides with American firms' increased outsourcing activities. Eighty-six percent of US software firms are sending work abroad or will do so in 2004, according to Sand Hill Group, a San Francisco investment and research firm.

At the same time, many US companies are sending back office operations to foreign shores or opening subsidiaries overseas. Employers say the practice allows them to produce the same work in foreign time zones, extending the workday to 24 hours -- and slashing labor costs.

Last year, Cornell University launched a 20-day tour that brought 45 students to Mahyco, India's largest biotechnology firm. The trip's goal: to see how the firm grows and commercializes genetically engineered crops.

Stanford University has an Asia Technology Initiative that offers all-expense-paid internships in Bangalore, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

Bentley College officials are negotiating the terms of an MBA internship program at a Delhi firm, and looking to develop more in Ireland. A Bentley computer technology professor will lead an academic tour to India in January for 15 to 20 graduate students and alumni.

At Infosys, Anders helped develop media and marketing strategy. "Seventy-five percent of the company's clients are in the United States, 20 percent are in Europe, and 5 percent are in India," Anders said. "So it needed a message for each country that was consistent."

The monthly wage: about $320 to $350 per month, with paid transportation, lodging, and meals. An MBA in a comparable internship in the United States would have earned $6,000 to $8,000 a month, without expenses, specialists said.

Beth Ferreira, 30, a second-year MBA student at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, arrived at Infosys in June. "A lot of companies throw you in a corner and then say, `Work on this,' " said Ferreira, who reviewed the firm's evaluation system for $425 per month. "This one gives its interns a lot of exposure to senior-level officials."

Diane E. Lewis can be reached at

The series
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives