A Dream Experience Called Africa - With Olam International

by Raveesh Mayya on Tuesday 21 August 2012, 11:49 PM | Category: Summer Internship Contest| View: 3746 views


My Dream Internship with Olam Tanzania


I had a dream, a dream to be the part of the global growth story and make my mark in the global arena. So, when I left my previous job (decent paying, core technology firm) to enroll in an MBA, I vowed to make the best use of next 2 years and take few steps in realizing the dreams. Sure, I understood and learnt the global scenario through the induction activities, my classroom lectures, group discussions, guest lectures, newspapers and articles online. But MBA is more an experiential course than theoretical. I wanted to experience the global experience, first hand. Perhaps, I thought, there would be no better way of gaining global exposure than experiencing it first hand as an intern.


As and when the first month of my MBA unfurled, I came across various profiles offered by companies coming down to my institute for summers. Matching the profile with my personality, I narrowed down on few profiles that I wanted to try first. I wanted a General Management profile and it should hopefully be in a truly global firm working on grassroot levels of production, procurement, processing and marketing of commodities/brands. Three months later when FMS wrapped up its summer placement process with style, I was one of the happiest souls. Along with my friends' congratulatory messages, there was a common statement, “Its time to Waka Waka in Africa”. Yes, I had secured an international internship with Olam International.


Think Unconventional – Think Africa


After the Europe, the Americas and Asia, its now Africa's turn to tap on its latent growth potential. What used to be the “Dark Continent” 2 centuries back is now a ground of plethora of developmental activities. The Multi-Nationals have long understood this fact and are making their presence felt in African countries. Thanks to my friends, I was always reminded of the possible “tough/challenging times” that I might have to go-through in Africa. But like any other bold person, I'd say, “Lets See, I'm anyways mentally ready for the worst”.


When my offer letter finally reached me, I had more reasons to smile than a lot others. Amidst the political turmoils and military coups (that we read in newspapers) plagueing Africa, I was supposed to intern in this beautiful, picturesque and peaceful country of Tanzania, which welcomed the Eastern and Western world to explore, expand and be mutually beneficial. I was housed in Dar Es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania.  

With the Native Masai

Pic 1 : With the Native Masai Warrior


Tanzania – The Land of Kilimanjaro


Before I describe the internship experience, it becomes imperative that I mention few of the international destinations in Tanzania.


  1. The Largest single mountain on Earth – Mt. Kilimanjaro
  2. Africa's Largest Game Reserve – Selous Game Reserve
  3. One of Africa's most visited national park – Serengeti National Park
  4. The Largest Volcanic Crater, now with rich wild life – Ngorongoro Crater
  5. Zanzibar Island – A Beautiful Island

Of course, 2 months were not enough to visit all these places, but I was lucky to have visited a couple of them atleast. Plus there are a lot more places that aren't in the “Global Tourist Map” but are equally beautiful and I visited quite a few of them.

 Mtwara Beach

Pic 2 : I clicked this pic in Mtwara, from my seaview hotel.  


Dream Projects:  Supply Chain, Market Entry Strategy and Finance Projects

The key strength of Olam is in empowering its employees in every business decision and encouraging them to be entrepreneurial. Every manager runs his unit in his style and drives the profitability purely on his strengths. I was the only intern from India in Olam Tanzania. You can now imagine the empowerment that an intern like me would get in this company!

The project execution started on the very first day of my internship as soon as I got my deliverables explained from the Cluster Head of East Africa. “What is General Management?” he asked me. “We want you to execute one each live-projects in Supply Chain, Finance and Market Entry Strategy. Are you up for it?” Ofcourse I wasn't sure whether I could do the projects or not. But the answer came from me had a “Yes” in it.  

Three challenging projects, one each under a General Manager, an Assistant General Manager (Financial Controller of Olam Tanzania) and a Branch coordinator. In spite of their tight schedules, they could make time to discuss the project and to gauge its completion level on a regular basis. What's best, the Cluster head of East Africa, reviewed my project and gave input on a bi-weekly basis.


The Brief Description of the three projects were:  

A Market Entry Strategy project for certain imported commodities

There were few imported commodities/products for which I was expected to create a market entry strategy. The work involved Primary and Secondary Information collection on these products, establish the market size of these commodities, do a Competitor Analysis (local and imported), Government regulations and restrictions (licenses, permissions etc). The project also expected me to find out the future market potential and minimum cost per KG of these commodities, which the company expected, for a profitable business in Tanzania.


A Treasury Bill project with the Bank of Tanzania

I worked with the Financial Controller of Olam Tanzania for this project. I got an opportunity to interact with the Treasury heads of 2 prominent banks in Tanzania and get their thoughts on the existing and future Treasury Bill rates. The project deliverable also included the risk analysis of the Treasury Bills auctioned by Bank of Tanzania, the central bank of Tanzania.


A Local Market Discovery/Creation for an exportable commodity, procured and processed in Tanzania

Close to 85% of the exports of the processed version of this commodity is by Olam Tanzania. The wide scope of the project was to discover the local market for this processed commodity. That involved local market discovery/creation for that commodity, establish the market size and analyse the existing supply chain to determine the most profitable entry strategy: Retail, Wholesale or market as an ingredient. This project let me interact with the local wholesalers, distributors, purchasing managers of super market etc for inputs, deals and recommendations.


My “Waka Waka” Take Aways

There was indeed an expectation mismatch, only that it was a positive. My expectations were a good global exposure and a decent insight into a general management role. I got them all, plus a lot more in Dar Es Salaam, the harbor of peace (its literal translation)


1) Interactions

Desi : Oh yes, there are a LOT of Indians/People of Indian Origin in Dar Es Salaam. There is an India Street, an Indira Gandhi Street and about 5-6 temples/ashrams that I spotted in Dar Es Salaam. They are a closely-knit community there.

Bottom-line :  I never missed Indian food in Tanzania 

Videsi : My best experience there was communicating with the natives, a few of whom (fortunately) knew English and the rest, only Swahili. My driver doubled up as my translator and I had amazing time conversing with them. It was these interactions that helped me sneak a peak at the business, behaviors and culture of Tanzania. My projects needed me to sometimes propose business deals and I truly had fun negotiating. I was sometimes so much persistent a negotiator that my driver would get frustrated translating my statements 


2) Travelling 

My projects needed me to travel to up-country locations within Tanzania (e.g. To Mtwara, where Olam has a factory). I had to take the 10-15 Seater aircrafts to these places, an altogether different experience for me.

I also had to travel extensively within Dar Es Salaam when I was assigned a company car and a bike, both with drivers to reach various people.  

Apart from my workdays, I got a chance to travel on Sundays to locations such as Mikumi National Park (close to Selous Game Reserve), Old Bagomoyo City (Sub-Saharan Africa's oldest church is present here), Kaole Ruins (one of Africa's oldest mosques) etc.


Kaole Ruins

 Pic 3 : With my colleague and the driver in Kaole Ruins


3) Fun and Parties 

“Absolute Seriousness while working, Absolute Fun otherwise” was the mantra that all my colleagues believed in. Along with visiting tourist destinations, we had regular outings to exotic dinner locations in Dar Es Salaam, Casinos, Private Beaches etc. Lots of these mentioned were my first-time/best experiences. For example, my visit to the casino was my first-time experience in life; my best 3-D movie experience till date was in a mall in Tanzania.


Private Beach - Photo 

Pic 4 : I clicked this picture from one of the private beach resorts I visited


To Summarize :

I didn't just have an internship with Olam; I truly had an experience of my lifetime there, an experience called Tanzania.

Will it be evergreen in my memory?? Hell Yeah.. 

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