A walk through the streets with CoCo the monkey – Internship at Kellogg’s

     All B-school students have a unique internship experience. They have different projects, locations, stipends and aspirations, but there is a common trend amongst all of us. We start noticing our company everywhere around us right after the SIP process and if we land up in an FMCG, people start asking for free gifts from our company. I can bet that HUL interns would have got a request for Dove and Mondelez folks were supposed to get lot of chocolates while coming back to the campus.  I was asked to get a truck loaded of Chocos.

     After two days of induction program at Kellogg’s Head Quarter at Hiranandani, Mumbai, I caught an early morning flight to Delhi to join the Regional Sales Office-North Zone. It was a modest setup with less than 20 people in office but it wasn’t a true indicator of the magnitude of business run from the small office in Gurgaon. The office covered the whole north region stretching upto Jammu as well as Nepal. The atmosphere was friendly and lunch generally extended longer than the eating time where I learnt much more than Kotler. Getting an XLRI alumnus, Geetha as my guide was a cherry on the cake. Not only did she assist me with the project, but also shared more valuable learnings from her career and cared for me like a true XLer. I will always remember that making a complicated model with big data and number crunching does not necessarily yield good result. What actually works is something simple which can be understood by the field force and the retailers as you can’t be present everywhere to educate them.

My project was based on the High end and Low end groceries across the Delhi-NCR region. Majority of days were spent in the market, understanding the retailers and interacting with them. Though it sounds like a great learning experience, it doesn’t reflect the hardship involved. Being a resident of Noida, my day used to start with a crowded Noida City Centre. I travelled to various market across the NCR region and because of all the free time in the crowded metro, I analyzed that I covered 4 out of 5 color lines and 97 out of 140 odd Delhi metro stations.  Talking of commuting, the fun didn’t end at the metro station. Covering 40 odd shops in a day generally meant riding around on salesman’s vehicle. One of the trips involved riding around on a Sunny Zip from the past century with no brakes. There were some other fun incidents but then it would involve public declaration of violating traffic rules.

     Conversations with shopkeepers were the best marketing lectures I have ever attended. Some treated me well with a glass of cold water in the scorching summer and even great discounts on cold beverages bought from their shop. Others questioned if I couldn’t get a better job and this is no work for a girl. But all of them taught me that no matter what we cook up in our air-conditioned offices, the reality is beyond our imagination unless we go and live it out there. I distinctly remember a jovial shopkeeper telling me that he was a pure Delhi paratha butter guy and had never tasted Kellogg’s products in his life. The concept of word of mouth and retailer’s recommendation just went for a toss.

     I tried to capture as much as I could from the market and validated the same with the numbers available from the sales figure. Quite a few surprising facts emerged out of the research which reinforced the fact that never make assumptions because we are, at individual level, just another customer in the market with a particular behavior. If it is taken to be the market behavior, it may result in catastrophic managerial decisions.

When I started my project, I was a naive marketer with two years of experience in software industry. On my first day of market visit, I was shy as a squirrel with no idea about how to initiate a conversation with a busy shopkeeper. Delhi heat wave taught me the art of FMCG and the compliment at the end of the project, “Your knowledge about the company and business in just 8 weeks reflects your hard work “ made me a happy intern at Kellogg’s India.

Mugdha --

Business Management 2014-16 XLRI, Jamshedpur