Internships are meant to give students real life experiences of working in an organization and to help them in the application of their knowledge to solve some real life problems. I had the same experience when I did my summer internship with ITC Ltd in Guwahati. I had to go through a group discussion and personal interview before finally getting selected to intern in the same organization. ITC Ltd. (Indian Tobacco Company Limited) is a great place to learn the basics for any marketing individual like me. Anyone interested in the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) market gets to learn a lot in ITC. It is one organization which provides its interns the ground level knowledge of marketing.
Before going through this experience of internship I was kind of happy and contented with myself because of all those marketing fundas, techniques, and concepts I had learnt from the marketing book of Philip Kotler and some You Tube videos. I thought I was industry ready and only needed a chance to apply this knowledge. Well my internship changed my opinion about myself. There is so much to learn in the field which can never be summed up in a book. Concepts in book seem so easy to understand that you feel like you have got it all, but believe me you got to get down there in the field if you really want to know the implications and intricacies of these concepts and techniques.
I was assigned a real project at ITC. By real here, I mean it was essential for ITC to carry on with the project and they needed it. For this project I had to perform a market survey of the retailers and wholesalers in Guwahati city. The day I got the project, I thought ‘What an easy task! Why do you need two months for this project?' As I continued with my survey I realized just how wrong I was. For the next week I was busy preparing the questionnaire for the survey and also conveying and getting it approved by my two guides (organizational and institutional) with whom we were strictly instructed by our department to remain in touch. I was happy with my pace of work but the real trouble occurred once I was in the market, surveying the retailers and wholesalers.
It was Monday and my first day on the field. I wanted to cover as many retailers as I could and had set my target to 30. I entered the first shop and started explaining to the owner what I was doing and asked for his cooperation. To my surprise the owner was not even looking at me and spoke very little. I thought okay he is busy but let me ask him only a few questions. That way I wouldn't neither be wasting much of his time nor mine. I could not even imagine what happened next. As I started asking him questions the owner got irritated with only two questions and started firing questions at me. He started asking me “How much are you getting paid ha?” “Don't you have any other work to do?” I was surprised and shocked at the same time. Later he started abusing me and calling me names. I was the laughing stock standing out there in front of his shop. I was embarrassed and so, left the place in anger and confusion. I mean he could have answered a few questions at least. What was the problem?
I was discouraged and wanted to go back to my room instantly, but one of my friends out there in the market who was also doing a market survey for AMUL encouraged me to visit at least one more retail outlet. So I went to another one after much coaxing from my friend. There I was standing outside a second retail outlet thinking how should I go about this. How should I start? What should I ask so that I attract the owner's attention and encourage him to answer what I wanted to know? I took a different approach this time but unfortunately I failed again. I could not get much information though I had succeeded in coming out of the outlet without getting abused this time. I went for one more retailer and this time I could get a little more information than the previous one. I was happy and got encouraged to continue until finally till evening I had visited 20 retail outlets. Gradually I learnt how to talk to the shop owners, exactly what to say and how to say or ask if you want to know something from them. I was doing well with my survey but it was not the same always. Sometimes I returned home visiting less than 10 outlets and sometimes the numbers rose to 25 retail outlets.
On the field I learnt a lot of things while I conversed with the retailers. At times I felt like I was learning a lot more than I could handle or remember. All that I learned in the last two semesters seemed nowhere applicable sometimes. It was a completely different place than what you imagine while studying those Philip Kotler's Marketing books. I got to learn a lot of new things about the way a company maintained its distribution of products in the market, new ways of how they keep a check on its competitors, how they keep their customers happy and a lot more which I never got to learn from books. I had an exceptionally brilliant guide who knew the market very well. At times he would also scold me but overall it was like gathering pearls of wisdom from him. Two months passed by fast and I completed my work well on time.
The entire summer internship experience changed my expectations from the market. The world as described in the books seem so simple and easy but it's a lot difficult in reality. There are problems to face and solve, people to please, some inevitable office politics to face; but one needs to persevere and toil hard if they want to learn. My patience, perseverance and confidence have grown a lot more after this experience. It was really a great learning experience. I would say it's a must training for anyone in a professional course who would like to learn a little more and gain hands on experience of the way businesses work and on a different note; how the world works. I would like to sum up my experience by just one sentence ‘If you want to clean the drain, you got to get down there and get your hands dirty.'