Diaries of A Market Researcher – Summer Internship at Berger Paints
“You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame; how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
A summer in a sultry tropical city is an exceedingly effective way to test out Nietzsche’s hypothesis. More so, if one adds an internship into the mix. One’s education is only half complete when the powers that be, decide to send one out into the world and fend for oneself. The journey is meant to teach important life lessons and usually lasts no more than two months. Time, of course, is a relative phenomenon. It could pass by in the blink of an eye or feel like an eternity. How long, one must ask, does it take for one to burn and be rebuilt anew?
Through the heat and the haze, one is sent everyday to a world which hardly makes sense. One watches the people of this new world, the colleagues, the superiors, the corporate professionals in wide eyed wonder. Confusion envelops the conscious mind. Is this what one has been taught all year? What of those lessons in ethics and economics, or those big books of finance and marketing? Who will account for the inefficiencies in operations? The age old battle between published literature and reality haunts one throughout the summer. An internship is rich in lessons but one never expects to be teaching oneself. One wonders if this is what the rest of one’s life looks like.
One watches quietly from a corner, present yet invisible to the regulars. A part of their world, but not destined to stay for long, one is a ghost in transit. It takes a while, the realization comes late. The voyage is such by design. One is not meant to find one’s feet in this alien world. Rather, one is meant to fly. One is inside the organization, but an outsider all the same. As a result one has all the pieces of the puzzle without the skewed vision of the denizens. One can choose to wither away in the heat. Or one can burn brighter than the summer sun and do something for this new world.
Just some of the cool designs I was working on
For the first half of my summer internship, my mind was a constant turmoil of such confusing thoughts. I kept recalling my OB and HR lessons from first year about Organizational Culture and Role Fitness, though my project was a core marketing one. Berger was a highly sought after company offering great exposure in Sales in Marketing. Despite being a fresher I was awarded a project in Branding on the most premium product range the company had to offer. My friends and batch-mates, green with envy, were dying for my project. Yet I was dying in my project.
The issue was Market Research, an integral component of my internship. I was required to compare the brand image of the luxury range of the company with its competitors. Thus I had to design multiple surveys for different stake-holders in the paint industry’s value chain, visit them individually, run statistical analytics modules, compare the company with its competitors and provide recommendations for increasing brand equity. Now what did this mean? Two words – ‘market visits’.
Now there are a few Empirical Rules of Market Visits which every Market Researchers will know:
1) If you do not have the precise address of the location you are planning to visit, you will get lost.
2) If you have the precise address yet you fail to check it on Google maps, you will get lost.
3) Even if you check Google maps you will still get lost. Geography is not your friend.
4) After hours of roaming the streets in the heat, if by some miracle you actually manage to find the place, the person you are supposed to be visiting will be out on business.
5) Hence fix an appointment before-hand. (This should be Rule 1)
6) Despite fixing an appointment your target responder will forget it and be absent anyway.
7) Be on the phone with the target responder continuously till you reach his address and meet him face to face. DO NOT let him out of your sight till he fills your stupid survey!
8) Be nice to people. (You need them to fill your survey with the least amount of bias possible)
9) Get your own vehicle. Learn to ride a scooty for God’s sake! (This should be Rule 2)
10) And last but not the least, looking good helps. i.e., pick appropriate disguises for the target a udience. (I am not kidding here :P)
In short, the odds are stacked against you. More so if you are,
a) Geographically challenged
b) An introvert by nature
c) A fresher
d) Using public transport
e) All of the above (Tick here)
People who are disposed in a certain way would add ‘female’ to the above list. But honestly speaking this is not a deterrent. Rather, this variable actually helped me in Market Research. (P.S. – This is an article written by a Market Researcher. Only dry unbiased facts are quoted here. No sarcasm.)
Minor glitches aside, let’s look at some of the positives of Market Research. It puts you through a wide spectrum of life experiences. You learn soft skills. You learn to navigate, prioritise and execute. You learn how to optimize time critical resources (read day-light hours). You learn the practical application of high-level computer science algorithms (the Travelling Salesman Problem, I kid you not). But most importantly, and this is the critical part for MBA students, you learn consumer behaviour. An MR job will actually teach you how to blend into the background and simply observe organisms (consumers) in their natural habitat (at the shop, in their homes, haggling over every single transaction). A dissatisfied consumer is a force to be reckoned with. In an industry which relies so heavily on word of mouth, an irate customer can play havoc with your brand equity. It does not matter if you work in the paint industry or FMCG. The experience unlocks dimensions in your mind that you probably didn’t expect to exist before. You will never look at a family shopping trip in the same way again!
Looking back over those two months, I did assimilate a tremendous amount of new insights in my internship. To understand the industry, to understand the company, to understand the specific business problem, I interviewed various stakeholders and employees in the company, ranging from field Sales Executives to the Product Brand Manager. I read up 4 books on Branding. I got to apply statistical tools on my collected dataset. I performed industry benchmarking and came up with a list of recommendations that the VP, Marketing seemed quite pleased with. Cherry on the cake, I lost around 5 kilos in the entire process. I mean, that should count as a success right?
By- Oindrila Mandal
Institute: IIM Ranchi Internship
Organization: Berger Paints India Ltd.
Industry: Paints, Luxury Interior Emulsions
Category: Sales and Marketing and General Management
Project Domain: Marketing – Market Research and Brand Salience Study
—- (This is an official entry to the Summer Saga 2015 Competition. If you have an internship story that could compete against the best in India, give it a shot! Read the instructions here and start writing!)