In the Back of Beyond : Summer Internship at Mahindra Finance

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As I landed in Mumbai on 30 March 2014 for my summer internship with Mahindra, I was hungry for a flavoursome experience in the City of Dreams. The hustle bustle of the city soaked me in right away as I spent 2 enervating days hunting for an affordable, air-conditioned Paying Guest accommodation in South Bombay near Mahindra Towers, Worli. I had never lived in a PG before, and 2 months later I pledged never to do it again. The internship commenced with a 4-day long Induction Programme, which included consecutive interactive sessions conducted by the Group management of Mahindra, including Mr Anand Mahindra. I was left reverential by the humility and wisdom of such renowned speakers.

Group Management Cadre, the coveted internship program by Mahindra offers the sought after General Management profile, which to my understanding could never be defined before I landed there. I was given a Marketing function in Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services Limited, and my Project Title was to ‘Design Customer Retention Strategies for Mahindra Finance’. Back in October when I was offered the profile I was incredibly delighted to believe I wouldn’t have to be on the field. Well, destiny had other plans and my project demanded just that. I was required to spend 3 weeks on field across 3 zones of the country to understand the customers to save myself from giving extraterrestrial recommendations.

I spent the initial week to define the scope of the project and develop a roadmap with key deliverable for the following 7 weeks. Designing this approach note was a crucial part of the project for it served as a Bible to me during the course of the internship. The subsequent couple of weeks were spent doing landscape scanning and secondary research to design an appropriate questionnaire for the research. The first sample of questionnaire I confidently took to Nasik for a pilot was brutally discarded for it lacked the empathy a customer desires. Lesson learnt, don’t go by the books when you are doing Market Research. The questionnaire was revised, bags were packed and flights were booked and the 3-week long field visit was under way.

First Stop, Nasik. Since Mahindra Finance is primarily a vehicle finance company generating maximum business from rural and semi-urban areas, my research wasn’t confined to the fancy. I ventured into the nearby villages of Lasalgaon and Dindori, which are popular for the grapes and the wines. Accompanied by a company executive, I went door-to-door in search of different types of customers to achieve a target of 60 for the week. While some customers were hand-to-mouth, the others owning a fleet of trucks resided in a mansion. But the place made me feel at home for the warmth and humility of people who would see me off with a packet of grapes as a token of their gratitude towards the company.

Next stop, the City of Nawabs, Lucknow. The royal wave instantly hits you as realize you can’t bid adieu to a customer without having a refreshment, else they would take offence. I explored the murky streets of Barabanki and Haidergarh and encountered a customer taking pride unveiling his pistol. Although I achieved my target, I left the city disheartened, as work left me no time to try the local food and the Chikan suits.

Last stop, the Holkars City of Indore alias Mini Mumbai. The stay was rather gratifying as I was residing in the posh area of Vijay Nagar, surrounded by the best food joints. Poha, jalebi and kachori became a staple, and thanks to the foodie executives, not once did I skip lunch during that week. The city was also special for the weather gods showed pity and poured out love after I was scorched by the Sun at other places.

The field visit was the most challenging, yet enjoyable aspect of my internship. Constant travelling off the beaten tracks during the Indian summer, to places bereft of a living soul for miles and miles, I had to immerse myself into the mindset of the customers belonging to a different section of the society altogether. But the experience was highly enriching and the employee friendly company made it comfortable by accommodating me in the best hotels and having an executive accompany me in an air-conditioned Bolero.

I returned to Mumbai for the final leg of the internship, which necessitated me to play with the collected data on SPSS and generate insights in order to suggest strategies. I was baffled to see how market research can totally invalidate your conjectures, bringing to light the unforeseen.

The sector level presentation was scheduled for 27 May 2014, and I felt like a cat on a hot tin roof as the panel included Mr Ramesh Iyer, Managing Director of MMFSL along with the entire Steering Committee. Post the presentation I felt highly satisfied for being acknowledged by such an esteemed panel. What they appreciated about my project was how my recommendations were grounded and reflected the depth of business understanding gained in a short span of time.

Having qualified for the final group level presentation round, we were taken to Mahindra Management Development Centre, Nasik, which is an exotic training facility sprawling across 4 acres of beautifully landscaped terrain. The final presentation went just as well, and the conclusion of the internship was celebrated by a visit to Sula Vineyard for wine tasting, followed by a corporate party at the facility.

Now I’m back in college, awaiting the PPO/PPI results, which I feel can never be as significant as the exhilarating experience of the summer internship that has helped me develop as a person.

Sanjoli Jain

Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Delhi

Domain – General Management