Since time immemorial, students from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune (SIBM Pune) have undertaken internships at corporates of international repute. The internship takes place between the first and the second year and provides students, who by this time are familiar with the theories behind Marketing, Finance, Human Resource management and Operations management, a chance to engage in fieldwork. It exposes them to corporate life and surroundings.
The internship lasts roughly two months. More than anything else, the internship experience acts as an enabler. Models that were taught in classrooms become the backbone for research. Case studies become precedents. There is little to no handholding and all of a sudden there is a whole lot of accountability as companies decide whether their projects have any intrinsic value.
One sees how this can be a life-altering experience for the students. One may even term the entire experience as a rite of passage.
What follows herein are the internship experiences of some of the brightest and best that SIBM Pune has to offer – experiences working and learning at a variety of corporates, each posing its own set of unique challenges.
“During the summer internship, the most important part is not how big the organisation is but how well they treat their interns, whether they take their suggestions seriously and the level of importance they give to the intern’s project. In all these aspects, Castrol scored. As an organisation that is beyond huge and highly reputed, it was indeed a dream company for an aspiring summer intern like myself. It gave me a project that was very pertinent to the present focus of the company – and that too in my home city, Delhi! My mentor was eagerly involved in the project happenings on a regular basis and always provided his valuable inputs. He gave me insights and learning that was not restricted to the project scope but was about the business and beyond. Overall this helped me understand the project better and how it would impact the organisation,” said Akanksha Inda, now a second year student specialising in Marketing.
Some don’t find it easy from the get-go but rather have to ease themselves into their internships. What’s more, along the way they discover something about themselves. “I sometimes consider myself to be a borderline misanthrope, and my project entailed me sitting for hours with each and every employee of the company to prepare their scorecards. And there were just so many! So it did come as a surprise to me that I actually enjoyed working with each individual there. Also, during the internship, I realised that I loved autonomy. I could work with ambiguity to an extent. The liberty to self-direct my project, eventually turned out to be my biggest strength,” said Vasundhara Singh, a second year student specialising in Human Resources, who interned at Madura Fashion & Lifestyle, a division of Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd.
For Dhruv Bhanot, a second year student specialising in Marketing who interned under The Group Management Cadre (GMC) programme run by the Mahindra Group, it was the opportunity of a lifetime as he got to utilise all the theoretical knowledge garnered in the first year and put it to great use. “My project required me to analyse the CSR-driven market for off-grid solar products and suggest a Go-to-Market approach for Mahindra ekoSol. Thus, I had to extensively study the CSR mandate laid down in the Companies Act, 2013, and examine various potential partnership avenues and finally come up with a final recommendation for a GTM strategy.”
Dhruv, like Vasundhara and Akanksha, believes that the curriculum of the first year should act as a reference point rather than a knowledge repository.
“I personally feel that the curriculum at college makes one equipped with the ability to give a preliminary structure to the project. It gives a general overview of the approach to be followed but beyond that you need to step out of your comfort zone and read up as much as possible during the internship. Interact with people in office and try to gain as much knowledge from around you as you can.”
Vasundhara chimed in as well: “I didn’t expect the coursework to help completely, either, because theoretical knowledge does have its limitations. It gave me a base I could build on, and that helped.”
The students also realised how tough the transition into full-time work is going to be, and are thankful for all the support they receive. “While working in the Credit Analysis division on a project that saw us performing comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research, I was so grateful to my mentor for being there for me every step of the way. He sat right next to me throughout and our work was carried out with ease. That’s the best part of working for a company of the calibre of JP Morgan. It’s a friendly yet professional environment where meritocracy is the only factor to growth within the organisation,” said Shama Rangnekar, a second year student specialising in Finance who interned at JP Morgan.
For some the internship experience goes above and beyond. Ankur Singh is a second year student specialising in Finance who interned at ICICI Bank, and reflects on the experience with great pleasure. “There is a reason that ICICI Bank is known for producing CEOs. They are known for their leadership programmes. After obtaining my Pre-Placement Offer (PPO) from ICICI Bank, I attended a Leadership & Mentoring session organised by them for Management Trainees and PPO holders, which emphasised the importance of good leadership. It helped us imbibe the values of a good leader. It was an eye-opening and vivid experience.”
For others, it is the learning that is paramount. Tarun Girdhar, who is a second year student specializing in Human Resource management, believes that there is much more to an internship than just completing the assigned project. “My greatest learning is that one should never restrict oneself just to the project at hand. There is always so much going on at any organisation. One should study the organisation itself, from the bottom up. Take care to understand its values and culture. There is so much to learn, always. Participate in every event that the organisation has to offer,” said Tarun, who interned at Cisco Systems.
Another person for whom the internship experience was an eye opener in terms of learning was Kungumaraj Mohan, a second year student pursuing Operations management, who interned at Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd. “It was truly a humbling experience. I primarily worked on stockouts and availability. It shocked me to see just how much business by volume Coca Cola does in India. Having visited one of their 59 plants, I can tell you that the volume is truly staggering. Before this experience, I really had very little idea about how the beverage industry really works. And for a company of that size to trust me to do something for them… it was the most enriching and rewarding experience.”
No matter what the agenda behind the internship is, all of the students agree that once you have worked for one of these behemoths of the corporate world, you are hooked. You can’t get enough of the corporate experience. However, some amount of preparation must take place beforehand. “There must be a willingness to learn. Read up carefully on the company you are going to work for. Understand every vertical and remember to absorb the corporate culture while you are there. For me, the internship was a great experience because I remembered to do these things,” said Dhruv Anand, a second year Marketing student who interned at ITC. “Since you have adequate time to prepare for the internship, create a Google Alert for the company so that you don’t miss any of the latest happenings,” suggested Tarun.
All of them have their own tips for first year students. “Having small aims on a weekly basis was the key to success. It taught me to be patient, as initially you don’t understand the full scope of your project and what the bigger picture is. It is only as you move ahead that things become clear and persistence pays off,” said Akanksha. “Be open minded, articulate and ready to learn from your peers at all times,” added Vasundhara.
Ultimately, you have to learn to take the challenges of the internship in your stride. “I believe that I am a sales guy through and through. However, my internship taught me how to be versatile and structure my approach towards any kind of problem solving,” said Dhruv Anand, summing it up. It’s not just what you learn about management that makes an internship special – it’s what you learn about yourself.
The internship process will continue to chug along, as students currently in their first year await with trepidation the challenges of being asked to do work that directly affects a company’s future. However, if this batch of final year students have taught us anything, it is that preparedness, dynamism and a positive approach go a long way towards being a part of these renowned organisations that dominate their respective fields.