Just Hold On – The Incomplete Story Of My Internship At National Innovation Foundation – Soumit Banerjee – FORE School Of Management
You could work at any large corporate house, you could work at the biggest one of all of them, but none of it would prepare you for the ground realities of working in close proximity to the government machinery and get sales.
Of course it’s dramatically stated, and of course, it’s an assumption, given that I’ve never had a job, or even an internship, in sales before, but I think it’s a safe assumption.
In India, we always find people blaming “the system” for being sluggish and unresponsive. It’s an average Indian’s staple conversation starter. But what the average Indian doesn’t realise is that there is a lot to do for it to continue to be called “the system” and not “the mafia”. A lot of effort goes into maintaining a clean image and keeping everything above board.
I joined the NIF because I feel strongly about Indians working for India. The NIF assists grassroots innovators from all across the country to be recognised and get paid for their accomplishments so that they don’t get lost in the crowd of foreign companies invading India with all that’s trendy and fancy. This must sound like one of Baba Ramdev’s spirited rants on Swadeshi this-and-that, but for me it is important that I do something good and significant for the country that has allowed me to live freely and make something of myself, and working for the NIF is the closest I’ve come to make my dream even remotely palpable.
So I oh-so-graciously accept NIF’s offer, go to Ahmedabad, and a week later I find myself spiralling into an abyss of utter confusion.
What struck me before all else was the amount of paperwork my colleagues were generating, and that I couldn’t generate any. Thank God the computer was invented, or else the trees would want revenge.
And why we generated all that paperwork, I couldn’t fathom. There I was, supposed to be “working for my country”, and all I could think was “How?”
In addition, the innovator I was assigned to seemed hell bent on getting rid of the very USP of his innovation. The NIF doesn’t have any control over whatever the innovator might decide to do with his innovation; it must support the innovation in any way possible. So there was not much NIF could do. What a great support system we are!
And finally, why in-the-name-of-all-that-can-be-classified-as-an-innovation were we being asked to do sales? The job description clearly said “business development”. Were we being punked?
Whatever the Indian government might be, it can be trusted to keep records. Although NIF is an autonomous body, it lives by the same rules. All government organisations are audited by the CAG, so absolute transparency and accurate traceability must be ensured. One might think, as I did earlier, that it wastes precious time, but the paperwork is about as precious as the time is, so I donned my thinking hat and started typing.
The rest of my concerns were soon addressed.
Our mentor at NIF told us that while NIF officially isn’t required to do sales, it is just a way to “gain the trust of the innovator”. At this point, it is important to reiterate that NIF can only support whatever the innovator decides to do with the innovation. The innovator needs to trust the NIF for him to allow the NIF to steer him in the right direction. And the way that happens is sales.
And so we start calling up and/or emailing an unbelievably huge number of organisations engaged in the different fields of work. I have a thing for the weird ones, so here goes: cowsheds, jails, the forest department… those definitely top the list.
And this is where you can draw parallels with a sales job in any large corporate house: how you keep emailing people without knowing when it ends, how you hold your breath waiting for people to reply, and how you release it all at once when you get a lead.
I hate cliffhangers, I honestly do. But it’s what keeps the audience on the edge of their seats before the next episode.
A month into the internship, I got a huge lead, which, if it pans out, could result in a very large order. After the initial woo-hooing, the moment was over, and I continued sending mails to other potential clients. Because it’s just a lead, maybe the motherlode of all leads, but still, just a lead.
We are still having negotiations with the interested party, and… Umm, hmmm, that’s all you’re gonna get.
Because that’s all that has happened till now. Which is why my story is incomplete.
Just pray for me, pray that it goes through,
Just pray that it happens, pray for me and you.
And with this cringeworthy piece of can-you-even-call-it-poetry, I leave you. Until next time, just hold on.
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About the Author:
Batch 0f 2018
FORE School of Management
[Disclaimer: This write-up was prepared by the author in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the National Innovation Foundation or the Government of India.]