How an Internship Abroad Can Kickstart Your Entrepreneurial Journey You learn how to adapt to surroundings which are different from what you are used to

By Aniket Singh

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The saying, imitation is the best form of flattery, holds true for the majority – especially in business. A number of Indian startups have borrowed successful ideas from established companies abroad, and have adopted and modified them to suit Indian demands. Hence, while Big Bazaar was the Indian answer to Wall Mart, Star Bucks faced tough competition from Café Coffee Day in India,Flipkart was inspired by Amazon and Ola was India's Uber… the list goes on. In fact, according to research by Tracxn, an analytics firm that tracks startups, for every established startup in the USA, there area number of startups that have come up in India which have been heavily inspired by their US counterparts.

The common thread between these startups and their founders is the exposure to different cultural environments that have enabled Indian entrepreneurs to come up with innovative products which they then implement in their home market. But where these companies may be similar to the original ones in the services they offer, they have differentiated themselves by tweaking their products and innovating for the Indian market. Thus, bringing about the perfect amalgamation of international ideas and Indian innovation.

How cultural experiences foster innovation

In his travelogue, titled Innocents Abroad, American writer, humorist, entrepreneur and lecturer, Mark Twain, who sailed around the coast of the Mediterranean in 1869, wrote that travel is "fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." What Twain wrote then has been corroborated by researchers and scientists today. That the new sounds, smells, sights and feelings that arise when one travels have the potential to spark changes in our brain's neural pathways, hence increasing our ability to create and innovate.

When California based apparel company La Jolla Group found out in 2007 that they were facing a shortage of designers for their surf fashion, CEO Toby Bust had a brain-wave – to have teens participate in a runway fashion show judged by the audience. The winner would then get USD 4,000, free clothes and an internship at La Jolla. This thus enabled the company to groom talented interns to innovate and become future designers in the company.

Hence, instead of relying on his own employees, or hiring new ones, CEO Bust realized the potential of hiring talented interns to work on bringing out innovative designs for his apparel line, thus giving him an edge over his competitors. This proves that companies that foster innovation are ones that learn from diversity and from new talent.

And it is not just companies that are able to bring out innovative solutions to problems by searching for talented interns, students also benefit from taking up internship opportunities – in their home country or abroad, which can help foster innovation, and kindle the entrepreneurship spirit in them.

By travelling and interning abroad, you get to explore new environments. One of the biggest advantages of interning abroad is that you learn how to adapt to surroundings which are different from what you are used to. Be it picking up a new language, developing your social skills, coming to accept people who are from different racial backgrounds, and more – you learn how to deal with people and adapt in ways that may not be possible if you stay at home.

Practical experience through internships can do wonders to your career in ways good grades cannot.

Here is how cultural exposure that you get during your internship abroad can help foster innovation:

Hands on experience: By interning with a venture abroad, you will get the hands-on experience of what it takes to start and run your own enterprise. You will also know how to deal with people from different backgrounds and abilities, hence making you a more inclusive leader.

Think out of the box: Travel broadens your mind to the various possibilities that can exist, enabling you to think out of the box when you are faced with situations and problems. This sparks creativity and innovation – important qualities for an entrepreneur.

Grow your network: One of the best things that come out of interning abroad are the various connections you will make during your stint abroad – friends, your employer/university, colleagues, other people you meet during your travels, the local population all will help you during your entrepreneurial journey.

Intern your way to your own enterprise

There has to be a starting point for every entrepreneur – the spark of creativity that leads to a brilliant idea, which then becomes an enterprise. The internet is flooded with motivational stories of how students who took the first step of getting out of their comfort zone went on to become leaders. But how do you get into the right frame to think out of the box and come up with ideas that will bring out successful startups? An important way would be by immersing yourself in a different culture from what one has grown up with, and learning through adapting. And a great way to do that is by taking up an internship abroad.

By getting out of your comfort zone, you will be able to discover what you are good at, how you can manage difficult situations, and overall help you become a better person, both professionally and personally.

Aniket Singh

Author, Intern abroad this summer

Aniket Singh comes armed with a treasure trove of experience and knowledge gained through his internships abroad. Singh loves to talk to students during their formative years so that they can avoid anything that is not helpful to long-term growth. Singh holds a BTech degree in Electrical Engineering from the IIT, Madras, Chennai, and a Master’s degree in Wireless Systems from Politecnico Di Torino in Torino, Italy. He has interned at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and Ecole Polytechnic Federale de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland during this studies. For a rewarding internship and career, take the first step.

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