How businesses can rely on entrepreneurial interns to innovate and go global | e27

With the unpredictable economic climate, constantly shifting market, and new trends in commerce sprouting up, businesses are hot on their heels with not only trying to adapt and survive but more importantly, to grow and expand. Rapidly changing consumer behaviour, online and offline shopping patterns, as well as dynamic product-market fits, are only some of the key factors that are rewriting the business world as we know it amidst the pandemic. With all the changes and challenges, businesses have to maximise every opportunity to innovate and scale.

With the right approach, agility, and, most importantly, a skilled workforce, companies can look beyond surviving this crisis and into exploring non-conventional markets. To succeed, businesses need a diverse and innovative workforce that thinks globally to navigate the challenges and identify opportunities.

At the onset of the decade, Forbes launched its “Global Diversity And Inclusion” study, conducted with over 300 executive representatives from an array of companies across the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, with participating companies raking in revenues of at least $500 million to $20 billion. One of the key findings was that diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale. The report also suggested that a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial for companies that are keen and committed to attracting and retaining top talent. It helps broaden the pool of talent a company can recruit from, while also establishing an inclusive company image. “If you want to attract the best talent, you need to be reflective of the talent in that market,” said Eileen Taylor, Deutsche Bank’s global head of diversity.

As such, SMU offers Global Innovation Immersion (GII) internship programme, organised by Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) where GII interns provide that much-needed diversity in terms of age, nationality, as well as the social and academic background to businesses.

Fostering innovation through diversity is the key to global success

A global company cannot be built and sustained with a local mindset. Only a diverse team that brings a wide variety of experiences, understanding, and knowledge, can richly contribute and innovate to attain that.

It is also important for companies to understand that the fundamental meaning of diversity is rapidly evolving and is no longer limited to simply creating a heterogeneous workforce. Today, having a diverse workforce entails leveraging on innovative talents with complex web differences, ranging across backgrounds to academic disciplines, and experiences to skillsets– a talent pool equipped with boldness, a healthy skepticism towards failure and capabilities to iterate innovative products, services, and business practices. As companies compete on a global scale in these uncertain times, the concepts of diversity and inclusion in a high-performing team must also keep up.

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This is where young, forward-thinking interns can help break the often uniform and monolithic company culture by bringing in fresh perspectives and insights particularly of the company’s changing customers. A pool of interns with innovation and entrepreneurship at their core can contribute towards differentiating a company, strengthen its competitive advantage and take the business forward.

A win-win arrangement between SMU and businesses to imbue the global perspective

In line with the current business climate and the dire need for innovative ideas, SMU’s Global Innovation Immersion (GII), a three-month overseas internship programme, was first started to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the SMU community and beyond. Tailored to create a robust and agile talent pool suited for the fast-paced startup-environment, this programme was specifically designed for students who possess an entrepreneurial mindset and are passionate about innovation as well as digital transformation — two of the most important elements needed for success in a post-pandemic world. With rapidly growing interest from students and companies alike, the programme had gained steady momentum over the years.

“The company tasked me to compare and analyze their business processes and proposed and implemented improvements. The main bulk of my time was devoted to the company’s financial modelling for pitching to investors during the company’s Series A fundraising,” shared Razzaq Reyal who joined Health at Home as a Business Analyst Intern during his time at GII Thailand in 2019.

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Another factor that makes this internship programme stand out is its mutually-beneficial arrangement: leading companies can sleep soundly knowing that GII interns undergo a rigorous recruitment process while these young and energetic GII interns get an opportunity of their lifetimes to work at some of the most promising co-working spaces and startups worldwide. These invaluable experiences that interns had gained under SMU’s GII programme ready the next generation for the real world, at times, even bagging their dream jobs.

“GII allow[ed]s me to formally enter the Venture Capital (VC) field and this experience indeed help[ed]s me get my subsequent 2 VC internships. The experience of working in Indonesia plus my bi-cultural background of Singapore and China differentiates me from other candidates,” explained Zhao Yunyi who joined Kejora Ventures as an Investment Analyst Intern as part of GII Indonesia in 2019.

A shifting global market brings in opportunities for scalability and growth

Singapore is the technology hub of the region, which means opportunities abound for startups in the island-nation to explore innovations. GII hires can help startups by marrying up-to-date research and perspectives with open mindsets, helping companies come up with new ways of looking at business problems. Given the robust pre-internship training that the students attend, GII hires will bring in coveted skills in fields such as digital transformation, online marketing, business development, and data analytics, allowing them to make significant contributions to companies. Where relevant, they also attend language classes like Mandarin, Bahasa, Thai, Vietnamese, and Tagalog among others.

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Founders and business leaders are well aware of the unique opportunities that the pandemic has brought despite its struggles and challenges — opportunities such as growth and scaling.

It is important for startups to take this chance and build a team that helps them emerge successful on a regional and even global level. And for that, they can rely on well-trained GII interns.

If you are looking for talented interns to help you build a diverse and innovative team for your global business dreams, just fill this form or contact the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

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This article is produced by the e27 team, sponsored by the Singapore Management University

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