As my second week of Shahi begins, I find myself excited yet nervous to see what lies ahead. The first week was filled with factory visits, meetings with department heads, and delicious lunches at the canteen, and I learned more about the garment industry in one week than most people do in a lifetime. I am incredibly grateful to Shahi, and particularly the Organizational Development (OD) team, for opening up so much to us and for making time to help us understand the organization. This first week has also reminded me of the immense privilege I have as an intern from Penn. The fact that I came from a prestigious university in the US with a reputable program gave me the opportunity to meet staff at high levels of the company, something not many interns at other companies are able to do. Staff who are constantly busy cleared their schedules for us without a second thought, and I was able to understand the company at a much deeper level as a result.
However, it wasn’t just our privilege that allowed us to learn so much; it was also the immense kindness of OD team members who spent their entire days giving us tours of factories and introducing us to various department heads. The first OD team member who took us on a factory tour of Unit 7 could not have been more patient with us. She explained characteristics about the garment manufacturing process that I’m sure were very basic to her, but it made all the difference to us to have someone take the time to make sure we understood everything we were observing.
I particularly remember commiserating together about how the clothes Shahi produced were later sold back to India for 10 time the cost of what it took to make the garments, prices that were far too expensive for the average consumer. I had underestimated the power that Western clothing brands had over markets in India, and I am now much more aware about how price sensitive Indian consumers have to be.
My co-interns and I have also been extremely fortunate to meet kind people even outside the factories. About a week ago, another OD team member spent 2 days introducing us to some rural factories. Our tour had run a bit late, so the lunch canteen had closed by the time we had arrived. However, the lunch staff were kind enough to still serve us food after hours, which we all greatly appreciated. While we chatted during lunch, I mentioned offhand how I loved curd rice (a staple South Indian dish of rice mixed with yogurt traditionally eaten at the end of a meal). I was touched when the OD team member with us immediately called over one of the lunch staff and asked them to bring me a second serving of curd rice.
Devoting precious time to answering our incessant questions, serving extra helpings of food, and bringing us endless cups of chai despite our protests—these small gestures of kindness that are so common in Bangalore hit home just how big the hearts of so many people here were. I hope to be able to return the favor through the work I do for Shahi in the coming weeks.