60 days of e-xperience and e-xposure at an e-commerce giant – Internship at Mjunction

HR: If any of you have any question please feel free to ask me now.

Me: Do you have a PPO policy here?

HR: Sorry, what? PPO?

Other Interns: Looking expectantly at the HR and disapprovingly at me as if to say that’s too bold a question to ask on the very first day at office.

Me: (Startled at the awkwardness of the situation I gently place the term again) PPO ma’am. Pre-Placement Offer.

HR: (Smiling) Oh that! Unfortunately our company does not have a PPO policy.

A short episode towards the end of the one-day induction program at my company that pretty much set the mood, expectations and tone for the 2-month long journey.

A fresher interning in a city I love despite its shortcomings, or, perhaps, precisely for them, eating sumptuous home-cooked food and interning in a company backed by one of the mammoths of Indian conglomerates (Tata Group) I was excited to the hilt to set the ball rolling. An excitement, which, for the two months ahead would play out rather beautifully in the form of a sine curve (yes the negative axis too).

I was handed a project related to the Root Cause Analysis and Corrective Measures for a commodity pricing problem (mind the nebulous nature of my project description; blame the NDA clause for it). A problem, which the company had been grappling with for the past 10 years and the solution to which they were seeking from a ‘fresh’ mind like me. Ah, the perks of being a fresher! This was supposedly one of the two most difficult projects that the company handed out to 7 of us interns. Having learnt about the gravity and the history behind the problem statement I was more than eager to get going and complete successfully the first professional assignment of my career.

The nature of my project necessitated me to do a lot of background research on the various industries for which mjunction conducts e-auctions, the demand-supply scenario in those industries, the effects of forex fluctuations on the pricing of industry-specific commodities and the plethora of non-quantifiable factors which made the prices of commodities in these industries swing like a pendulum.

Armed with the necessary knowledge I decided to attack the problem head-on and it was then that my head hit against more wall than one. There were more constraints than variables and some of those constraints were not even visible, much like dark matter- you know they exist but have no clue how to observe them. Some of the constraints were in terms of sloppy data entry, incomplete data entry, half-hearted data entry, inconsistent data entry. Insight- There might be openings in the domain of data entry.

Other constraints presented themselves in the form of non-cooperative, and sometimes hostile, vendors (those who sell their industrial ware through mjunction), lack of industry intelligence reports on the production procedure and pricing of some niche industrial commodities and the rigid organizational structures of clients (those who buy the industrial commodities through mjunction) owing to the widely known PSU culture(almost all clients were PSUs), which prevented me from being able to contact them for their inputs.

But then I was not dogged down by the numerous roadblocks along my way of a successful project completion as I was reminded of a famous quote by John Keats “Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced”.

Had it not been for the hiccups I would not have met some wonderful people in the organization, among them two in-house consultants who had close to 80 years of industry experience between them. They were retired professionals from SAIL and Tata Steel and were stalwarts in their own rights. It was them that I had to run to in order to gain real world insights into how organizations actually worked and how human behaviour played out in the context of large value industrial buys. From recounting personal experiences to warning against over simplification and assumptions they were one of the bright spots of my internship journey.

Prior to my internship I had heard scores of tales from seniors regarding the arduous nature of internships and the arbitrary and overburdened work schedules. Now, either they grossly exaggerated or I found myself in an exceptionally lucky situation but my internship work load was pretty evenly spread without any abrupt office timings or overworking (keeping in tune with the famed work-culture of the City of Joy).

The internship was to end with a presentation before the CEO&MD of the company. This led to my mentor sitting with me overtime to fine tune my final presentation and guiding me on the dos and don’ts before the ‘Boss’. Alas the CEO had to go abroad on some crucial work and the presentation was taken instead by one of the Vice Presidents of the organization (a formidable man no less). A part of my deliverables was a process document, which was well-taken by my organization and while I may not have been able to provide a blanket solution to a decade-long problem there had certainly come up new avenues as a result of my suggestions and recommendations on which the organization decided to work further and curb the menace that has been troubling them for far too long.

P.S. As I write this article I still await my project completion certificate and the 2nd month stipend, but then what is an internship without a few ‘monetary’ glitches and shocking HR responses to look back upon and smile on a rainy afternoon 10 years down the line.