Interns are to Employees what Startups are to MNCs; both the smart new kid on the block giving the older kids a run for their money. We spoke to 3 young, successful entrepreneurs who agreed that interns have been invaluable to them, when handled with care. But what is it about interns that make them so perfect for startups? Are startups and interns really made for each other?
1. They’re Useful- I solemnly swear I’m up to some good.
Interns have been found to be the source of some truly brilliant ideas, thereby giving fantastic returns on investment. Call it beginner’s luck or a stroke of young genius, but they can give you a fresh, uncluttered perspective to do something that you and your team are finding tough to complete. Additionally, they’re often in tune with the latest happenings around the world and could introduce you to tools and applications they’ve come across in their everyday lives.
”Interns are driven and excited about their work, and the idea of having a job as a whole. They want to learn everything and they’re always looking for something more to do,” says Vineet Sethi, Co Founder of Hysteria, a wildly popular merchandise store in Bangalore and New Delhi, India.
2. They’re Economical- Saving penny by penny for when you’re older.
Offering cash strapped startups cheap labor is like dangling a carrot flavored carrot in front a starved rabbit. Whether interns are hired for a full time or part time (virtual) internship, their pay, according to industry standards, wouldn’t be higher than 1/4th that of a regular employee. The various HR procedures that sometimes cost a packet, like training and orientations, can also be done away with. Interns are usually asked to come to office for anywhere between 6 to 8 hours, though that number can swing either way depending on your requirements.
Our own experience with interns was exquisite. We had 2 interns work with our marketing and business development team for 2 months in the summer of 2014, and we found they worked arduously and had the sometimes underappreciated gift of giving updates after the day’s work and asking for the next task, never once silently skulking off without a word.
3. They’re Customers- Latest news reports prove that interns are in fact, real people.
For employers who manufacture products or services that need to be thoroughly tested before being introduced to the market, or even for feature updates, interns can be the focus groups you need but can’t afford, for primary research. Not only do they serve as customers whom you can rely on for real world reactions to, say, a website that isn’t as user friendly as you think it is, or an advertisement that doesn’t make as much sense as you think it does, they are also the most social creatures on the planet, and would find it fairly easy to get you more test audiences and survey fillers.
“Interns are who we look to for bouncing off ideas and trying out campaigns- they are the customer, and they can give us some really good insights into what we’re facing in the market,” says serial entrepreneur Nischaiy Pradhan, who is currently the Lead Consultant at Firefish.
4. They’re Entrepreneurial- We be innovatin’.
Interns can be the x-factor that sets your work culture apart from your peers’. They are youthful, energetic, motivated and positive. They’re not victims of the 9-5 mentality that weighs down so many of your other employees. They want to learn and rarely say no to a task, whether it’s seemingly repetitive, like cold calling, or extremely stimulating, like brainstorming. Additionally, because they aren’t made accountable or responsible for most of their actions, they’re more likely to think out of the box, taking risks and trying things that most others might try and stay away from.
“Interns were a great fit for us because we wanted smart, fast learners who understood new media, were quick on the uptake and would create content and value, and that’s what they did,” said Sameer Gupta, Content Director at The Outdoor Journal and Director-Marketing & PR at MCG Camp Road Pvt. Ltd.
Firstly, when deciding the compensation for your next intern, you must consider the legal consequences of this decision, and this major management mandate: interns who are unpaid or poorly paid have a much lower motivation to come to work, or perform well. Money is a powerful incentive, but never more than when it is scarce. Moreover, if you have an intern whom you aren’t paying, you might end up underutilizing them because it costs you nothing to not exploit their potential.
Secondly, don’t invest in interns at the cost of your own time and value creation. It’s best to assign someone to mentor them and assign them tasks, rather than expect them to pick it up from observation or inherent skill, or make it everybody’s job to answer their queries.
Thirdly, interns know they’re only there for a couple of months, so they don’t think long term. Sameer agreed that interns just want to ‘come in, do their thing, and get out’, making it tough to induce the importance of every task they’re doing, because they are only seeing the short term goal, rather than really investing into the future of the startup, which is what every entrepreneur does every moment of every day. Vineet also added that interns do want to learn everything¸ but the downside to that is that they seem to think they’ve mastered a skill just because they’ve done for 2 days or worse, hours at a stretch, constantly asking, “What next?”, when in fact they’ve just touched the top of the iceberg.
Fourthly, when all is said and done, they’re young. If they aren’t supervised, you might find yourself dealing with messy offices, missed deadlines, junk food obsessions, drowsy mornings, unsolicited visits from their friends and a largely unprofessional attitude. Vineet, Sameer and Nischaiy all agreed that if interns aren’t reigned in, they can go wayward, and cost you big bucks. Why? Because correcting their mistakes, when combined with all the time you wasted teaching them things they weren’t capable of learning, is a lot of time spent not growing your business.
Lastly, hiring interns doesn’t seem like much of a task, but how can you mitigate a disaster if you’re not careful? Especially when all 3 of our entrepreneurs agreed that the odds of finding a stable, skilled intern instead of one who abandons the job halfway or is incompetent is 1 out of 5? We’ll be telling you that in our next post about Startups Recruitment, so stay tuned.