An Indian Summer

Lucy Mair finds out how you could learn new skills and win a trip to Mumbai with RBS next summer - and speaks to some of this year's finalists about their experiences

Are you keen to combine your interest in helping the local community with opportunities to volunteer overseas and gain valuable work experience in finance? RBS's "An Indian Summer" could be the competition for you...

What is "An Indian Summer"?

The scheme offers 50 students from ten universities in England the chance to develop their skills by participating in a team fundraising challenge, and to build valuable connections at the bank. The winning team jets off to Mumbai in September to spend three weeks working with street children and visiting the bank's Indian head office in the city.

How the competition works

Eligible students are asked to register online, or with RBS's on-campus representative at their university. This year, everyone who signed up was invited to an Indian restaurant near their university to deliver a five-minute presentation explaining why they wanted to go to Mumbai. Five students from each of the bank's ten target universities were then selected to form a team and challenged to use their entrepreneurial skills to raise as much money as possible in a single day for The Prince's Trust - the UK charity which helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

After the challenge, all of the teams were invited to RBS's London offices to present the results of their fundraising to a panel of high-profile judges, who chose the winning team. "The teams are judged not just on how much money they raise, but also on how they approach the project, their entrepreneurial flair, how they overcome problems, and their presentation skills," explains Emily Bryant, Head of Campus Attraction at RBS.

Next year, RBS will set exciting new challenges for the teams to complete, but the objectives of the competition will remain the same. Emily says: "Whatever stage of the competition students are involved in, we want them to develop their employability skills, have some fun and gain some worthwhile experience."

Behind the initiative

RBS has a longstanding commitment to giving back to the communities in which it operates by supporting economic growth, social prosperity and education. Through the bank's extensive corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, fundraising for the bank's partner charities and volunteering with children are two of the initiatives that summer interns and graduate recruits can get involved in at RBS - whether it's in East Mumbai or East London.

How to apply

The competition is open to full-time students from all degree disciplines. To find out if you're eligible and to pre-register to be the first to receive updates and information on the 2012 competition, visit

The challenge

UCL team member Calum Bardsley didn't get to go to India, but explains what he gained from participating in the fundraising challenge...

Why did you decide to apply for An Indian Summer?

I saw a poster for An Indian Summer, and was attracted to it because it seemed different to the other recruitment events happening on campus. It wasn't just an employer information session; by participating I could help people, develop my skills, potentially win a trip to India, and learn more about the banking industry - so I signed up!

How did your team raise money for The Prince's Trust?

We organised several events, and we were fundraising from 6am until midnight! Our biggest event was a meal at a local Indian restaurant - we negotiated a price for a set menu and then sold tickets to students, academic staff and friends, which raised £1,000. We gained permission to collect money during the day at tube stations and at two London shopping centres. As campus events, we organised a "UCL Mile", where students were sponsored to do a mile on a rowing machine, and held a raffle to win university-donated gym memberships. Our costs were just £30, but we managed to raise £2,000!

Did you face any challenges, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge we faced was communicating. We had spread ourselves out across five different locations in London, which made it difficult for everybody to keep in touch throughout the day. If I were to plan a similar event again, I think I'd consider the locations more carefully.

Some members of the public had misconceptions about who we were fundraising for. People don't want to give money to a bank, and as we were collecting money we had to explain to them that we were raising money for charity. But after we told people about The Prince's Trust, most of them were happy to donate.

Finally, the weather was really miserable on the day. We had planned to hold the rowing challenge outdoors in the middle of the UCL campus, so we didn't expect to have to market it very much. But, because of the weather, we had to move the event indoors, which meant that we had to send someone outside to distribute flyers and get people's attention. Luckily, we could call on some friends to help!

On the morning of our day of fundraising we were given a presentation by The Prince's Trust. I was inspired by the stories of disadvantaged young people who'd received help from them, and that kept me going when I was tired and had been standing outside for hours in the cold and rain.

What skills did you develop during the fundraising challenge?

I think I improved my interpersonal skills, and learnt how to communicate effectively in a business-like way to get results. I developed my project-management and planning skills. I also gained a sense of self-awareness, and within the team we learnt a lot about our individual strengths and weaknesses, and how we could work together to use them to our advantage. I found that I was the calming influence on the team, and also the one who would step in and support someone if they were struggling with something. Finally, I improved my presentation skills and learnt how to engage people, make them smile, and stay cool under pressure.

What did you enjoy most about the competition?

I'm a big fan of The Apprentice, and from start to finish this challenge was very similar! There was a lot of mystery in the beginning, and then we had to plan something from scratch, make as much money as possible, and present our results. I met some great people in my team, and we achieved so much in just one day.

What are the most important things you gained from participating in the challenge?

I've gained much more confidence in my abilities. Participating in the challenge has also opened the door to lots of opportunities. Few people can say they've met and presented to the CEO of an investment bank, but now I can quote John Hourican on my cover letter. I've gained strong connections at RBS and built personal relationships with graduate recruiters there, which is a huge advantage when making applications. I've also become a campus brand ambassador for RBS, and have been offered a series of insight days to learn more about the bank. Not everyone goes to India, but on An Indian Summer everyone gains experience, contacts and opportunities.

The prize

Louise Mewett and Ben Kinet, members of the winning team from Warwick University, share their experiences of Mumbai...

How did your team win the competition?

LM: We hired a Formula 1 simulator, managing to negotiate the price down from a hefty £1,600 to £700. We set it up in Spitalfields Market, and charged people for short rides. We also sold cupcakes donated by the Hummingbird Bakery, organised an auction, and held a charity club night for Warwick students. All in all, we managed to make a profit of £2,800 for The Prince's Trust!

BK: We faced a number of challenges along the way, including our planned location falling through, and some of our sponsors backing out. There was a point when we considered dropping out, but as a team we decided to fully commit to the challenge, which was the best decision we could have made.

What were your first impressions of Mumbai?

LM: Mumbai is incredible. The noise, the hustle and bustle, the traffic - it's organised chaos! There's a big difference between the rich and poor, and you're reminded of it everywhere you go.

BK: The first couple of days were really difficult because we felt like outsiders. The locals would stare at us which made me feel quite self-conscious, although it was just down to cultural difference.

Can you tell us about the work you did with Indian charity, Support?

LM: Support is a drug rehabilitation centre for homeless children in Mumbai, which takes children off the streets and helps them to overcome their problems. Most of the children were aged between six and 18, and had addictions to substances including alcohol and heroin.

We ran English classes for the children, and we also played games, organised activities, and talked to them both about their experiences and our lives in the UK. It was emotionally and physically difficult because we were working with groups of 60 children at a time, and dealing with a language barrier and the fact that many of the children were suffering from withdrawal symptoms. But I think we adjusted quickly, and all the employees at the centre guided us on how to approach and respond to the children.

What did the insight week at the RBS's Mumbai office involve?

LM: We were given endless opportunities to explore our particular areas of interest within the bank and to do work shadowing on different desks. All the people I sat with were more than happy to take time out of their day to talk to us about living and working in Mumbai. It was quite a culture shock to go from working with street children in the slums to being in a corporate environment in my suit and heels.

How did the RBS offices in Mumbai compare to those in London?

LM: I was very impressed by the level of technology in Mumbai, which in some cases was more advanced than I've seen in London. The dress code and the food in the office were very different, but the attitude of the people working there was the same: they were all very hard-working, dedicated, interesting and happy to help.

What did you learn from your experience in Mumbai?

BK: The most important thing I learnt was how to see street kids as individuals and understand their difficulties. My time in Mumbai has inspired me to continue working to help Support by fundraising on campus.

The insight week gave me a good idea of what it's like to work at a bank. I learnt about the different departments, and it furthered my interest in working in sales.

LM: I realised that I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was. Emotionally, it was very challenging and being with the children was heartbreaking at times. I also learnt how to adapt to new surroundings and discovered that living in another country and immersing myself in a different culture is something I'd like to do in the future. And I really learnt the importance of teamwork. By doing the fundraising challenge we thought we had teamwork nailed, but when we were taken out of our comfort zone we had to work even harder to pull together to fulfil our responsibilities.

What was the best moment of your trip?

BK: Support is divided into three areas: one for children, one for teenage girls, and one for teenage boys. It was very challenging for us to connect with the boys, but the most powerful moment was when they started to trust us and open up. One of them apologised to us for pickpocketing people like us in the street. But I felt he had nothing to apologise for. These were kids who'd run away from home, been addicted to drugs for many years, and become excluded from mainstream society - it wasn't their fault.

LM: When we were saying goodbye to the children at the centre, I started to cry. The kids came up to me and said: "Don't be sad - you don't need to cry. You've had a good time here." These children had faced more turmoil in their lives than I could ever imagine, and yet they were comforting me. It was incredible. It shows the strength of these children, and was a testament to the charity.