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M.B.A. Students Bypassing Wall Street for a Summer in India

Published: August 10, 2005

BANGALORE, India, Aug. 9 - This summer, Omar Maldonado and Erik Simonsen, both students at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University, did something different.

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Namas Bhojani for The New York Times

Jason Rosenthal, a summer intern at Infosys in Bangalore.

Namas Bhojani for The New York Times

Interns spend an average of three months at Infosys, where they live in a 500-room hotel complex.

Bypassing internship opportunities on Wall Street, just a subway ride away from their Greenwich Village campus, they went to India to spend the summer at an outsourcing company in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi.

"The India opportunity grabbed me," said Mr. Maldonado, a Boston native whose family is from the Dominican Republic. "I wanted to get a global feel for investment banking and not just a Wall Street perspective."

He and Mr. Simonsen, both 27, are spending three months at Copal Partners, an outsourcing firm with 100 analysts. It produces merger and acquisition pitch books and provides equity and credit analysis and other research to global banks and consultant groups, including those on Wall Street.

Mr. Maldonado and Mr. Simonsen, of Riverside, Calif., are part of a virtual invasion of India by American students. Graduate students from top schools in the United States, most from master of business administration programs, are vying for internships at India's biggest private companies. For many, outsourcing companies are the destinations of choice.

India is not just a line on an American student's résumé, said Kiran Karnik, president of the outsourcing industry trade body, Nasscom, "but also culturally fulfilling." Many students travel while in India, giving them a view of the country and its long history, he said.

Nasscom is now trying to track the ever-increasing numbers of foreign interns. Many are in India to study globalization firsthand, Mr. Karnik said; that is often not possible in China because, unlike India, English is not widely spoken there.

Mr. Karnik said he had met more than a dozen interns from the Harvard Business School who were spending this summer in India. "I expect a bigger horde of students to arrive next year because the ones here said they had a great time and will go home to talk about it," he said.

Elsewhere, too, the trend is on the rise. Four students from Fuqua School of Business at Duke University are interning in India, compared with only one last year and none in 2003. Of this year's interns, three are at Infosys Technologies, an outsourcing company in Bangalore, and the fourth is in Chennai at GlobalGiving, an organization based in Bethesda, Md., that helps support social, economic and environmental projects around the world.

At Georgetown University, Stanley D. Nollen, a professor of international business at the Robert Emmett McDonough School of Business, said India was of growing interest to students.

"No longer is India thought of as a land of snake charmers and bride burnings," he said. "Now India means the world's best software services, and increasingly, pharmaceuticals and auto parts."

Professor Nollen directs the school's programs for M.B.A. students in India, which include "residencies" - academic courses that are centered on consulting projects for companies operating in India. A group of 49 students arrived this month and went to companies like Philips India Software and MindTree Consulting, both in Bangalore; the motorcycle-making unit of Eicher in Chennai; and the ICICI Bank in Mumbai.

India can be a jolt to a first-time American visitor. In Gurgaon, a small town despite its tall office complexes and shiny new malls, Mr. Maldonado and Mr. Simonsen share an apartment where the power fails several times a day. Temperatures are regularly above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

The two men said they came prepared to find inadequate infrastructure, but were not prepared for the daily frustrations of Gurgaon. There is no mass transportation system, and shopping, even for something as basic as an umbrella, can take hours. They rumble to work in an auto rickshaw - a motorized three-wheeler that seats two and is a ubiquitous form of transport in Indian cities.

But the sophistication of the work being done in Copal's Gurgaon office contrasts with the chaotic city outside. Mr. Simonsen said he was amazed. "I came expecting to see number-crunching and spreadsheet type of work; I didn't expect American banks to farm out intricate analytics," he said. The two students are working on a project that analyzes investment opportunities for clients across 23 countries.

Infosys Technologies, the country's second-largest outsourcing firm after Tata Consultancy Services, discovered how popular India had become as an internship destination for Americans when the company began recruiting: for the 40 intern spots at its Bangalore headquarters, the company received 9,000 applications. Only those with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.6 or more made it to a short list, and then they were put through two rounds of interviews.

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Photo: Columbia University, 1960
Photo: Columbia University, 1960