Avishkar Wagh’s Internship Experience At Abbott Healthcare – JBIMS
It was the first day of the month, but no one had the time to make April Fool pranks. The beginning of the month had also announced the end of the semester exams in our college and the approaching internships of the students. People were busy making plans of moving to the city where they were posted. I started preparing for my first day. Everything needed to be in order; formals, blazer, documents… everything. I was going to intern with Abbott Healthcare in the sales and marketing division. Come first day and our orientation was done with us getting to know the company and its different verticals. Later we were introduced to our guides who shared with us what we were going to do in the two months of our internship. My project was primary research based where I had to meet and talk to important stakeholders and find out patterns of sale and factors affecting the same.
This meant travelling, meeting and interviewing new people from different places. I began by preparing a thorough questionnaire for the doctors, patients and retailers whom I was going to interview. When I was assigned a particular city, I was supposed to visit doctors there and then retailers around to find out sales pattern and customer perception. One of the biggest challenges was interviewing the retailers. The task at hand being, asking the retailer questions about the sale of our product, brand awareness and customer perception etc. Sounds easy, right? Well, it’s not. Let me tell you why. The retailer is the least interested person in listening to you, let alone in answering questions of any sort. Reason – we are eating up his precious time, in which he can earn. On top of that retailers tend to be rude to the sales rep as they see them as just another nuisance from the posh air conditioned offices who don’t know what real sweating out on the ground means. And mind you, you are facing all these things, as in this case you are not just a manager but also the sales rep who is trying to get the answers.
So what to do when you meet a stubborn shopkeeper? Linger around in the shop, wait for the customers to buy what they want and leave, try asking again with a polite “Please bhaiya” and of course not forgetting the pleasant smile. And if that also doesn’t work, buy a bottle of water, a pack of glucose biscuits, give him some “business” yourself but don’t give up on him, he’ll come around. And as fate would have it, I was able to get some information at least if not a lot.
I realised field work is indeed vital for business as it helps the manager stay connected to his/her customer. And it was also important to have good relations with the retailers as they were the direct link between us and the customer. I could almost hear my notes from my marketing lectures calling out to me saying “Told you so!”
The field work was something I was ready for, rather looking forward to. Thanks to the amazing Marketing Prof I have back in JBIMS who made us visit markets to know what happens in the field, and how to play it. There were several things that I learnt in college which I applied during my internship, like never to give up on the field, being stubborn about getting information and loving what you do. Something that even my guide taught me, “Patience is a virtue………..patience, perseverance and passion can make a manager bring great victory home”. I guess my teacher was right after all, and I was indeed being prepared for this.
If that was done, interviewing the doctor was not easy either. You had to wait for your turn to meet him/her, you had limited time to talk, and you had to get maximum information in minimum time. But after my first city, I had got the knack of talking to them. Like if the doctor has less time for you, ask only those questions which give you the important information. On the other hand, if a doctor wishes to talk to you, you patiently listen to him for as long as he wants. Following up with all the stakeholders regularly is equally important. Again, patience and polite conversation are what made it possible. Sometimes you missed an appointment because you were made to wait too long in one clinic or in some place the retailer closed shops in the noon. An unpredictable marketplace is what made the work even more exciting.
Further, the work of analysing the data from field work began. It was necessary to understand what were the views of all the stakeholders interviewed to find out how the brand was performing in different regions of the country. This meant penning down the findings and studying them (or as my prof would say “don’t just use your खोपडी also use your चोपडी 😉 ”). I had to sit in office making graphs, excel sheets and perceptual maps. Sitting in office and working also had advantages of itself. Everyone there was very helpful. Not just my guide but even other leaders were easily approachable. No one hesitated in sharing their thoughts and inputs on my queries.I remember my experience with one of the seniors – while explaining to me the big picture and how to overcome various challenges, he told me how important it is to talk to the retailers and to make sure that they also have proper product knowledge.
The other advantage of working in an office was that, at Abbott, interns from all other institutes would sit together while working in office. Thus giving us an opportunity to interact with fellow interns and share knowledge. It is said that life is too short to learn everything with your own experiences – knowledge sharing with interns was really very helpful. I learnt quite a few things from their experiences as well. My experience in the internship, findings and insights on my project culminated in the final presentation which I delivered to senior leaders.
Overall my two months internship experience with Abbott was one of the best experiences of my b-school life. This was a golden opportunity to put my learning from classrooms to task out there in the field. The chance to learn and absorb all you can will remain as one of the best memories of my internship. I am confident that lessons learnt will stay with me for the rest of my life.