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HK-based NUJS grad Debolina Saha on the hard work of starting a platform in her free time to provide internships for women, by women

The first 18 placements by Internship Bank from recently: now that number is 28
The first 18 placements by Internship Bank from recently: now that number is 28

“I had always made it a mission to mentor students to the extent I can,” says Debolina Saha. “What I noticed over these years, there were brilliant students who had everything on their CV. The only thing they didn’t have was a brand name of top school or university.”

And so, Saha set up an “online platform” called Internship Bank as a not-for-profit, which “seeks to provide a repository of internships offered by senior women professionals to upcoming female professionals”.

“It provides young women with rolemodels,” notes Saha. “Women who want to emulate other women, often only find them in print or in the media or magazines, not in the real world.

“By providing internship opportunities, we are providing role models for young [women].”

Since setting up in December 2019, Saha and her team of three others have now received 28 internship confirmations for Internship Bank students from places ranging from from Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail, Obhan & Associates, Singhania & Partners and Anupam Sanghi & Associates.

Also collaborating with internship bank are L&L Partners, to SBI CA, Cars24, NovoJuris Legal and International Justice Mission (IJM).

And they have recently also received their “first international Internship offer from Hong Kong”.

Law schools of placed students include Aligarh Muslim University, NLUJA Assam, Amity Law School, Lucknow University, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, NLU Mumbai, Manipal University, SLS Pune, TNNLU, SLS Noida, SLS Hyderabad, Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, NAS College, Jogesh Chandra Chaudhari Law College and Saveetha School of Law, Chennai.

Saha is is a 2006 NUJS Kolkata graduate, who is currently working in Hong Kong at international firm Dorsey & Whitney.

Before she moved to Hong Kong in 2013 (to join Allen & Overy) and except for a two-year stint at Ashurst in London, however, she had worked at Indian law firms in Delhi including what-were-then Amarchand Mangaldas and Luthra & Luthra.

In terms of deciding students from which colleges would get support, the definition is somewhat flexible right now but would definitely exclude her alma mater or other NLUs that have been around for a long time. For now, she says, Internship Bank would be guided by Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) criteria in its rankings, as well as alumni networks and previous placements.

The practical problems

According to Saha, a major problem is that many meritorious students’ CVs never make it to a right place in an organisation, often “merely because of the brand name of the college they come from”.

Second, she noticed that there remained a real lack of gender diversity in the legal profession, so she decided to “help female students to gain the opportunities [they] deserve if [they] have a good CV”.

In practice right now, much of the process of matching students to internships is still manual.

“We not merely match the right position to right candiates, we go a step further: we review CVs, send the best CVs to the right position, and along with this, we are with the intern every stage,” Saha explains, noting that she also personally interviews candidates beforehand. “And the organisation is free to accept or interview candidates - I don’t want Internship Bank to be looked at as a quota or reservation system.”

Additionally, “while they are interning I also mentor them”, says Saha.

Due to the manual efforts involved - already “at least 30 emails come to me every day” - Saha says she has been spending a considerable proportion of her free time on Internship Bank alongside with three students who are assisting her: Nalsar Hyderabad student Shubhaankar Ray, University of Hong Kong student Tsui On Sang and Nalsar Hyderabad student Mansi Meena.

The team of Saha, Ray, Sang, Meena
The team of Saha, Ray, Sang, Meena

She admits that she had originally underestimated the time it would take to run the website and the programme and adds that she doesn’t like “going back on her word” though she may not “personally interview or mentor every student in a year or two”.

“After office, Saturdays and Sundays this is what i do,” she says. But she is not complaining: “It’s for a good cause. The first time I placed a student, the joy I had, I can not even tell you.

“The happiness I get for that free work - the joy i get doing is amazing.”

Vision for the future

Saha says that she might also be looking to find student placement coordinators in each college to ease the process and ensure quality (student heads of placement committees can email her directly at to get in touch, she notes).

And after building up a “reliable platform”, “in future I would love if people start funding it in some way”, perhaps to “contribute towards the internship expenses of a student”, even if just paying for railway tickets, she says.

While she has made no detailed plans for such funding, her experiences so far have been positive. “The road keeps paving itself and there are so many people and strangers who come to help.”

Particularly those who have come from far and wide to offer internship opportunities, were what made this work, with Saha and her team just assisting to coordinate.

That said, with the global Covid-19 lockdown things had quite slowed down, with internships being unlikely to start on time and to be postponed, though the process was continuing and offers were still coming in, with the majority of the 28 confirmed offers having materialise in the last month alone.

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