Getting "high" on Internship!

by Alolika Savant on Saturday 1 September 2012, 12:00 AM | Category: Summer Internship Contest| View: 2198 views
 
 
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 From thinking of internships as nothing but a “cheap source of labor” for companies, I travelled to the other end of the spectrum, thanks to my refreshingly overwhelming experience at SAB Miller. Of course, the “high” of working in an office that is housed in the same complex as a brewery had me on board even before joining! On a serious note, SAB Miller was a great, if not the best experience, I could have got as an aspiring marketer and strategist. Having worked in a research and consulting firm prior to IMT, this was my first direct interface with the industry. And to be mentored by the VP – Strategic Planning was a brilliant thrill all together. I got a chance to work right under his nose, quite literally, as I was made to sit in his cabin all day. The endless conversations about the company, strategic issues, and nitty-gritties not only broadened my perspective, but also placed me right into the minds of the guys who changed the face of the company over the last decade.

My project was very interesting, to say the least. I had to study various aspects of the firm – sales, trade marketing, branding, distribution, product portfolio, consumer preferences, profit pool – and suggest a top level strategy for the company in the state of Maharashtra. Being a market strategy project, my first steps were of course, market visits and interviews within and outside the company. These are usually dreaded by most, but turned out to be quite exciting for me. I felt empowered as the TSEs would address me as “Ma'am” and the ASMs would introduce me to the various stakeholders as “Madam aayi hai head office se”. Having said that, I must put a disclaimer that it wasn't the inflation of ego that was working on me, but the fact that each and every person in the office - right from the executives to the top level management – was taking me, a mere intern seriously, and this exponentially increased my enthusiasm to work. It seemed like they all genuinely wanted me to learn and were regularly looking for my feedback about what could be done better. Being an avid traveler, I was thrilled to travel across western Maharashtra by local trains, autos and buses. And it paid off, because I achieved a good understanding of the topic through this detailed level of research.

Talking about research, I was perplexed by different market patterns that co-existed in the same city / town (like they say, India is the epitome of cultural diversity), which made my project even more challenging. I was delighted by the different backgrounds of people I interacted with. My most memorable meeting was with a distributor based out of a small town in Maharashtra called Ulhasnagar. Quite contrary to what one would imagine after seeing his simplicity, he turned out to be of the wisest and the most astute person I've ever met. I was shocked to know that his total turnover from merely two districts in Maharashtra (that he operated in) was practically half the turnover of SAB Miller India as a whole.

Even within the company, the magnitude of information that came out from my interactions with the brand managers, key accounts managers, sales team, trade marketing team as well as the finance team fascinated me. I became aware of how they evolved over the years and learnt their way of working, their targets and achievements. Besides of course, helping me in my project, it gave me so much clarity on the exact career path that I should follow and what I should expect when I enter the industry after a year.

At the end, a thorough background study from the interviews along with all the company and industry data helped me put together a decent report with all my “analysis and recommendations”. I was extremely nervous on the day of the final presentation, not because I had to present to all the senior management executives (they were my mentors! I had already developed a rapport with them), but purely because of the fact that so much was expected out of me. It went on for over 1.5 hours, vis-à-vis 30 – 40 minutes for most of the others. The most encouraging part was that everyone present there was engaged in what I was saying at all times. They cross - questioned me, understood my flow of thought, appreciated all the new insights I brought in, pointed out the things that I could improve on, and actually considered the fresh ideas that I suggested.

Overall, the 2 months' internship was a great learning, not just for shaping my technical skills, but also at an innate level. A lot of adages that seemed like complete clichés when I used to hear them in classrooms or blabber in my interviews began to come back to me, the only difference being that they all made so much sense. I understood the depth of clichés like “all teams must work towards a common goal to attain synergy”, or “one must get his hands dirty in a sales profile and then transcend into branding / strategy”. The MBA race makes us think we are so much smarter than the rest. What we forget is to stay grounded and realize that there's a reason behind all the gyaan that is thrown at us by people way more experienced than us. I consider myself quite lucky to have understood this at such an early stage of my career, and I thank SAB Miller for that!

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