Nurturing culture leaders

The leadership programme for interns at Godrej India Culture Lab aims to build and nurture culture leaders in the country.


The internship season is on and companies are hiring interns in full swing. But, when I think of my personal internship experience, I can hardly recall any great piece of learning that came my way.

The truth is that students rarely focus on high-end stipends when they think about internships. Their enthusiasm is more to do with the brand they will be associating with and the learning they will receive as part of the summer internship. But many companies look at interns merely as people who can be made to perform all their cumbersome and time-consuming work.

With an aim to bring about a change in this trend, Godrej India Culture Lab’s leadership programme is designed in such a way that all the desires of interns— in terms of receiving good exposure and experience —are fulfilled. The leadership programme, which was started last year, to create future culture leaders, is a mix of classroom training and on-the-job learning.

For this programme, Godrej India Culture Lab is only looking for humanities students, who come from the fields of history, art, culture, geography and mass communication.

“We always had interns at Godrej Culture Lab, but we wanted to make it a more formalised programme. The objective is to take a step towards building a strong pipeline of culture leaders as there are no schools for it,” says Parmesh Shahani, head, Godrej India Culture Lab, India.

For this programme, some eight colleges were targeted covering over 500 students. First and second-year students from colleges, such as the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies (KRVIA), Sir JJ College of Architecture, Industrial Design Centre (IDC) of IIT Mumbai, St. Xavier’s College and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) were evaluated and selected.

The Company followed a rigorous selection process via which only nine students were shortlisted.

The candidates were first asked to write a creative pitch or an essay, after which they faced an interview where they were qualitatively assessed.

Parmesh Shahani

“We always had interns at Godrej Culture Lab, but we wanted to make it a more formalised programme. The objective is to take a step towards building a strong pipeline of culture leaders as there are no schools for it”

As the leadership programme is more of a learning curve for the students, it has been divided into three main components— classroom learning, visits and the final project.

In classroom learning, master classes were organised by experts from various fields, such as writing, film making, art, painting and many more. Experts, such as theatre artist, Quasar Padamsee; the Dharavi Project Team, which offers a platform for hip-hop talent from the slums; Shilpa Kamble, author of the award-winning novel Nilya Dolyanchi Mulgi; gallerist Mort Chatterjee of Chatterjee & Lal; and writer-producer Nikhil Taneja are invited to interact with the students and talk about their experiences.

The Company has also prepared some content for the students, which they have to go through in their reading sessions.

The students are also taken to various locations of cultural significance in Mumbai — museums, art galleries, film and music studios, and so on — that are true representatives of the culture and society of the city.

As part of their final project this year, the students have to organise an event called the ‘Migration Museum’ in June at the Culture Lab in Mumbai.

The students will curate the event themselves, taking care of the logistics, promotion, and each and every aspect of the same, and also reach out to people, under the guidance of mentors.

This time the leadership programme not only has more student participants, but also offers more reading material than it did last year.

According to Shahani, with the kind of confidence boost that the students experience by undergoing the programme, they are equipped to add value wherever they go, irrespective of the industry they join.
And what is more, the students also get paid for the internship.

Some of the students who were part of this programme last year are now working in big companies, such as Piramal, while many were hired by Godrej Culture Lab itself.

By giving the right kind of skills, knowledge and exposure to these students, Godrej Culture Lab is ensuring a pipeline for cultural leaders, who can understand the culture as well as the society, in general, and do something to improve and celebrate them in different ways.

“Culture is one of the building blocks of our nation. Unfortunately, there aren’t many institutions dedicated to nurturing cultural leaders. With our leadership programme, we’re hoping to introduce students to the exciting possibilities in the cultural space, and we hope they will find their place in it as well,” says Shahani.

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