At CODE New Delhi 2023, Sarvesh Agrawal, the founder and CEO of Internshala, shared an inspiring and detailed account of how he transformed a simple idea into the world’s largest internship and skilling platform. This blog post, enriched with his insights, details his journey and the strategic role interns played in shaping Internshala’s success.
The Inception of Internshala
Finding Purpose on a Beach in Chennai
Sarvesh began his talk by recounting a reflective moment during his final year at IIT Madras. A night spent with friends on a beach led to a profound realization about life’s transient nature and the desire to leave a lasting impact, planting the seed for Internshala.
From Humble Beginnings
Internshala’s journey started in the study room of Sarvesh’s home, symbolizing the company’s bootstrapped roots. He proudly mentioned that some of the original furnishings, including a printer and a beanbag, are still part of Internshala’s office, representing the company’s journey and its commitment to frugality and simplicity.
The Integral Role of Interns
The Early Team: Interns at the Helm
For the first three years, Internshala was run entirely by interns, with Sarvesh being the only full-time employee. This period was crucial as the brand continued to grow, and the platform began to take shape. Interns brought fresh perspectives and a relentless drive, proving instrumental in the company’s initial growth phase.
Transitioning from a Blog to a Business
Sarvesh shared the challenging but rewarding process of transitioning Internshala from a blog to a robust platform. This phase took three years and involved several trials and errors, including hiring freelancers and agencies, before building an in-house technology team. The transition marked a significant evolution from a simple blog to a fully functional platform.
Building a Core Team from Intern Talent
A striking aspect of Internshala’s growth story is that many of its current team leaders started as interns. This fact underlines the immense trust and investment Internshala places in its interns, viewing them as potential future leaders.
Internshala’s Recipe for Success with Interns
Sarvesh Agrawal shared several key strategies that helped harness the potential of interns:
Crafting Compelling Job Descriptions:
Internshala focuses on creating engaging and relatable job descriptions that resonate with potential interns, making the role attractive and clear from the outset.
Recognizing the importance of fair compensation, Internshala ensures that interns are paid adequately, reflecting the value they bring to the organization.
Rigorous Screening Process:
Emphasizing the need for a thorough screening process, Sarvesh shared that every intern is interviewed with the same rigour as a potential co-founder, ensuring only the best are selected.
The Critical First Week:
The first week is meticulously planned to make interns feel valued and integrated into the company’s culture, setting the tone for their entire internship.
Interns at Internshala receive continuous guidance and mentorship, essential for their professional growth and effective contribution to the company.
Clear Daily Goals:
Interns are encouraged to set and adhere to clear daily goals, fostering a sense of accountability and ownership.
Freedom to Innovate:
Once onboarded, interns are given the freedom to explore and contribute creatively, unleashing their full potential.
The Culture at Internshala
A Culture That Binds
Internshala’s culture is a critical factor in its success. The company’s 11 cultural values, prominently displayed in every office, are not just principles but a way of life for the team. This strong culture is what retains talent and drives the company forward.
Embracing Challenges and Milestones
Sarvesh’s narrative at CODE New Delhi 2023 wasn’t just about the triumphs but also the challenges and milestones that shaped Internshala’s journey. He spoke candidly about the obstacles faced during the initial years, especially when transitioning from a blog to a business platform. This phase, marked by perseverance and innovation, was crucial in defining Internshala’s future trajectory.
The Transformation from Interns to Industry Leaders
A key highlight of the session was Sarvesh’s focus on the transformation of interns into industry leaders within Internshala. This transformation underscores Internshala’s commitment to nurturing talent. Sarvesh shared personal anecdotes of interns who joined at the grassroots level and rose through the ranks to become vital members of the leadership team.
Internshala’s Success Recipe: A Closer Look
Sarvesh delved deeper into the strategies that made Internshala a success:
Job Descriptions as a Tool for Attraction:
Each job description is crafted to resonate with and attract the right talent, showcasing the role as a unique and valuable opportunity.
Fair Compensation as a Talent Magnet:
Internshala’s approach to compensation demonstrates its commitment to valuing intern contributions, setting a standard in the industry.
Rigorous and Thoughtful Screening:
Emphasizing the importance of a meticulous screening process, Sarvesh shared insights into how Internshala selects candidates who not only fit the role but also align with the company’s culture and values.
The Pivotal First Week:
The first week at Internshala is strategically designed to integrate interns into the company, focusing on cultural induction and expectation setting.
Mentorship as a Growth Catalyst:
Continuous mentorship is highlighted as a key factor in the professional development of interns, helping them contribute effectively and grow within the organization.
Setting Clear and Achievable Daily Goals:
Interns are encouraged to set daily goals, fostering a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.
Encouraging Innovation and Independence: Internshala’s culture of allowing interns to work independently fosters creativity and innovation, enabling them to contribute significantly to the company’s growth.
The Cultural Backbone of Internshala
Sarvesh emphasized that Internshala’s culture is not just about work; it’s about creating an environment where each team member, especially interns, feels valued and motivated. The company’s 11 cultural values are more than just words; they are ingrained in every aspect of Internshala’s operations and ethos.
Final Thoughts: An Inspiration for Entrepreneurs
Sarvesh Agrawal’s address at CODE New Delhi 2023 was not just a story of building a company but a narrative filled with lessons on innovation, perseverance, and the value of nurturing talent. His journey with Internshala serves as an inspiration for entrepreneurs and startups worldwide, illustrating how a clear vision, coupled with the right team and culture, can lead to remarkable success.