I first heard about the India Industry Internship through flyers at the entrance of ETH Zurich. As I didn’t have any concrete plans for the summer yet, I decided to apply. Just one week after (finally) finishing up my master’s thesis, I travelled to Bangalore to start my three months at Qrera Technologies.
A cultural and professional immersion into the world of Indian tech start-ups
My first impressions upon arriving confirmed a lot of stereotypes about India and Bangalore: the traffic was somewhat crazy with the constant honking and cars, scooters and tuktuks passed each other left and right. At each intersection, people were selling small trinkets, flowers, and – unexpectedly – cotton candy. Cows freely roamed the streets and quite often blocked the way. The noise was definitely one of the biggest differences from living in a smaller town in Switzerland. Even in my apartment on a calm, tree-lined road, I could always hear some street seller offering their flowers, fresh vegetables, or even ice-cream.
I shared an apartment with three Indian girls from Kerala and West-Bengal. This was definitely one of the best parts of my experience, as I really got immersed in their culture by cooking together and going to the local markets for shopping and street-food. Having them around was probably the reason why I felt comfortable and at home in Bangalore immediately, and they definitely helped with the repeated language barrier when a delivery person, vendor or garbage collector only spoke Kannada or Hindi.
Qrera, the company I was working at, is a small start-up company founded by graduates of ETH Zurich and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), with just four employees and two interns including myself. Their main focus is a power and machine surveillance system for smaller manufacturing companies that may not be able to afford more expensive solutions. The power monitoring helps to easily identify machine downtime, and enables energy saving through the analysis of these reports.
My main task was the integration of a cycle counter for the power-monitoring system. This involved 3D-printed prototyping, testing, and programming the device in collaboration with my colleagues. In addition to learning these new skills, it was very interesting to see how different the start-up environment is compared to much bigger companies where I had interned before. I really got to see what everyone was doing, and experienced both set-backs and progress first hand.
A main difference between working in Switzerland and India that I noticed early on was the different focus on cost. At both ETH Zurich and my previous internship, while I had to make a case and keep in mind our budget I was able to order and use pretty much anything that I needed for my projects. At Qrera, I really had to retrain my brain to find more economical alternatives, which sometimes involved taking a completely different approach.
My three months here in Bangalore have flown by, and I’ll be sad to leave the city and all my new friends. Still, I am looking forward to travelling through India for a few weeks after finishing my internship, and hopefully coming back for visits soon.