For my first blog I will begin by talking about why I applied for the internship and the hopes I had before coming to India. I’ve been here for a week or two now so I’m beginning to get some idea of whether or not my hopes will turn into reality by the end of summer.
The internship initially appealed to me more for the skills and subject matter than the exotic geographical location of the job. I had been planning to look for an internship in the U.K over summer that was centred around cycling as it is something I am passionate about. This being one of the industries I feel that I might like to work in after I graduate I thought it would be sensible to try and compliment my humanities degree (philosophy) with some more practical experience.
The interview process began in January; it was thorough and involved an application requiring around 2,000 words. An interview took place via Skype with my (potential) manager in India, so I was very happy to make it through.
Throughout the exam period I booked my flights, got my injections and did some reading up on Southern India where I was headed.
I had minimal contact with T.I cycles before I headed out so I mainly knew that I would be doing something to do with conceiving of some solutions to a problem that the Indian cycling industry has – namely the fact that cyclists aren’t seen in a particularly positive light past childhood. Recent graduates and people who begin to earn money are far more inclined to buy a snazzy moped or motorcycle than purchase a bicycle to cycle to work on. This isn’t necessarily the case in the U.K so for that reason T.I thought it would be a good to have a little advice from someone who knew a little about cycling in the U.K. I was telling people that although the interview I had been through was very interesting and the Skype discussion had a lot of depth to it I was still not entirely sure what my job in India would entail.
I hoped to learn lots about the way in which bicycles were perceived in India and in that way gain an insight into the different social status’ early professionals attached to different modes of transport. I was also excited to visit the Indian subcontinent for the first time and learn more about the food, culture and language – I can say I’ve definitely had success in two of those categories.
My journey started on July the 25th on the plane I bumped into a friend who was heading out to Nepal to volunteer teaching children debating, so I wasn’t too lonely on the plane. I arrived in Chennai and was taken by taxi to the guest house. The first taxi ride was of course absolutely chaotic with tuk tuks and mopeds zipping around everywhere, incessant horns and cows blocking the road. Cyclists (seemingly a lot braver than I am) were quite literally everywhere, cycling up the wrong side of the road and in between lorries with things dangling off them. The next day, a Friday, after a fair a fair amount of initial confusion (this happens lots here) I managed to make it into the office – there I went through and spent the day talking to a few people from my department (product design). Over the weekend I nursed my jetlag and went on a ridiculous cycle ride on the Sunday morning. Because of the tropical climate here most of the recreational cycling is done before the sun rises. The cycle ride was sponsored by the company I’m working for (they provided rental bikes – and pit stops) and was 50k from the centre of Chennai to a place along the Coromandel Coast called Mammalupuran. The ride started at 6 in the morning with around 240 people taking part which was great, given the fact they had to wake up at ~5 on a Sunday. The sun rose during the cycle and towards the finish the temperature was around 35-40 degrees so it was challenging to say the least. At the end there was a buffet and I had ample opportunity to talk to the organisers about Indian cycling trends.
The next week or so I spent getting fully settled in and also doing a full visit to the factory and various departments. Part of the reason I took so long in posting up this blog is that it took me a fair amount of time to got hold of a dongle that didn’t have the companies firewall in place – I was able to access my university email and Gmail accounts or it seemed any other useful page on the internet. I’ve also got a local phone and SIM so am starting to feel a little more at home.
I’ve spent a long time talking with my colleagues about the product range T.I Cycles has and began to research online various components and frame geometries. I have made some rudimentary comparisons between the Indian and European cycling markets and determined that there are definitely huge differences in the way bicycles are used and the segments of society that use them (crucially there are vast swathes of society that exist on far less than anyone does in Europe but still use bicycles as their main form of transport). With the comparisons I set about building up some prototype Ideas and then, with a significant amount of help from the designers in product design who I sit nearby managed to draw a few mock ups in Photoshop of the bicycle I envisaged building. The department has at its disposal a full prototype workshop and a storehouse, there are also thousands of retail shops spread across India that are great to visit to gain an insight into who buys bicycles and what decision processes they go through. I’ve also done a few visits but I’m learning more from the shop owners and customers every time I visit – enough to have caused me to significantly change the mock ups of the project to reflect more precisely the Indian markets.
I’ll follow this blog up relatively swiftly with more detailed talk about exactly what my project entails, who I am working on it with and the research that I’m doing to back it up – I’ll also talk about the trip to nearby Bangalore that I am currently on.
Bye for now…..