IIMK Internship ‘K’ronicles- Shubham Sharma, HUL Summer Internship 2015 (Marketing)

Shubham Sharma, PGP student at IIMK, had the opportunity to work in the Unilever Headquarters (100VE) in London as part of HUL‘s coveted Unilever Leaders Internship Programme (ULIP). Shubham is an Engineering (Electronics and Instrumentation) graduate from BITS, Pilani and worked with Texas Instruments for 23 months prior to joining IIMK. He currently serves as a Coordinator for the ‘Entrepreneurship and Innovation Cell’ or E-Cell at IIMK, which is responsible for the round-the-year nurturing of entrepreneurial talent at IIMK and for hosting their flagship event ‘Start-o-Sphere’ at IIM Kozhikode.

 

Q1. Which division of HUL did you work with and what role did you work in?

I worked with the Oral Care division of HUL. My role was akin to that of an Assistant Brand Manager. In order to understand this, one must realize that work at Unilever is divided into units as Brand Building (global strategy) and Brand Development (regional profit centres). Working with the Brand Building team, I was involved with developing a strategy of ‘the ideal launch’ for its premium brands.

Q2. Describe the project assigned to you in brief?

My project was on understanding ‘premium-ization’ of brands and how to launch/re-launch them. For this purpose, I actually spent almost the entire of my 8 weeks in the London HQ (100VE building or ‘the Mecca for Marketing’). One of the launches would take place during my internship and the remaining shall be evaluated on a strategic basis.

Q3.  What was the most interesting aspect about your internship?

Keeping aside the fun parts of being abroad, one of the best bits about my internship was the change in outlook it lent me to. Before the beginning of the internship, I would have to say that numbers made more sense to me than aesthetics. Also, I was not fully aware of the work cultures that presided in different countries and regions.

Q4. What challenges did you face over the course of your internship?

Unlike most places, the Brand Building division cannot ‘enforce’ a strategy onto the Regional Profit Centres, thus by design giving the regional centres the greater decision making power in any strategic change. Hence, each time the Brand Building had to “sell” its strategy to the Brand Development team and this internal competitiveness was crucial to getting the best of ideas go through. This was a completely new environment for me.

Q5. Having worked for Texas Instruments, how different or similar was your experience in terms of the work environment in HUL?

Let me first analyse the similarities between TI and HUL. Both, being heavily focused on innovation, allowed employees to assume a certain sense of power while working. In terms of difference, I would have to say the working hours and the nature of job was largely different between the two roles. As an R&D engineer in TI, I was largely restricted to the laboratory and my simulation machine for my work – a job that I do revere till this day. However, at HUL, I was given the additional liberty to interact and hire agencies to outsource parts of the work that cannot be handled internally and needed expert knowledge to complete. This also meant that travelling to-and-from agency presentations and conventions became a part of the work. Just a cue for future managers, these are serious and, in many cases, make-or-break events.

Q6. How did you prepare for the summer internship process?

I would start with preparing for the summer internship recruitment process, for which I would recommend all aspiring students to go through their marketing basics – especially a revision of Kotler’s “Marketing Management”.

Q7. What is your most significant takeaway from your internship?

My two most memorable takeaways from this internship would be (A) my mentor’s marketing deep-dives on branding and subliminal communication, and (B) my interactions with a diverse set of cultural backgrounds. For the latter, I was dealing in multiple time zones and working with teams from the Middle East, South America and Eastern Europe. Global managers must respect these differences and communicate their strategies in a manner deemed mutually beneficial to both sides.

Q8. What advice would you like to give to the incoming PGP batch of IIMK regarding the summer internship?

The best advice I can give the incoming PGP batch is that, while there are many temptations for going out and enjoying with your stipends, the on-the-job learning you receive goes a long way. My role required me to travel to luxurious malls and streets, but as a researcher trying to analyse consumer patterns. Had I not been attentive, key insights could have been missed. Such differences make your project deliverables go from “acceptable” to “exceeding expectations”. I am reminded of my undergraduate Professor telling me “a Nobel Prize worthy research is usually accepted at 3:00am. Either wake up early or don’t sleep till then”.

Q9. Describe your stint in HUL in 3 words.

The three that pop up are ‘Marketing’, ‘Cultures’ and ‘Branding’

 

Interview conducted by:

Navam Gupta – Media Cell, IIM Kozhikode

This article has been complied by the Media Cell of IIM Kozhikode as part of the ‘Internship Kronicles’ series. For further information please contact us at media@iimk.ac.in

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