E-commerce is a rapidly growing business in India. With the advent of homegrown ‘unicorn’ firms like Flipkart and global giants like Amazon competing in India for market share, exciting times exist for anyone is associated with e-commerce industry these days. Naturally, it was quite exciting and joyous moment when I was selected for a summer internship in the e-commerce division of Shoppers Stop.
Shoppers Stop was the first multi-branded retailer to launch in India in 1991, and since then it has rapidly grown in size and stature to establish itself as a leader in Bridge to Luxury apparel segments. It is not uncommon to walk into a Shoppers Stop store, and meet a celebrity casually looking at the leather belt display alongside you. Such is the power of the brand Shoppers Stop.
We came to know that Shoppers Stop promoted a culture of openness, flat organisation structure, and the most importantly, people oriented policies. The senior managers shared a cubicle along with their team members. Even the CEO had his cubicle on the same floor, not a separate glass door corner office. To add to that each position in the company was preceded by Customer Care Associate. So the head of the company was foremost Customer Care Associate and Chief Executive Officer. Even for interns, our titles were Customer Care Associates and Management Interns. Every new joinee was mandatorily made to undergo training in a retail store for 2-3 days, as part of his induction pocess. This was done with the aim of understanding the store processes and knowing the customers. Right from CXOs to management interns, everyone had to undergo such a process in Shoppers Stop. The interns too, naturally, completed a store stint as part of induction. All this combined put people in focus of the organisation, be it customers or its employees. Working here I thought, would be fun and a great learning experience.
When I reported to my assigned mentor, his very first words were, ”So, are you ready to put on your Consultant hat?”, and proceeded to explain some of the problems facing the E-commerce Operations and what was expected of me at end of the internship. Needless to say, I felt like I had been thrown in the deep end of the pool. But what followed was a tremendous learning experience. I was not treated as an intern, but as a Consultant hired to solve a problem. Here are some of the things I learnt:-
The first step of solving problems is understanding the problem itself. This may seem obvious, but most of us have a tendency of jumping to conclusions and solutions when presented with a problem.If necessary, spend a day as a team member of the process. It will give you direct insights which will be very valuable in understanding and subsequently, solving the problem. A logical extension of this step would be to interview the team members. Each team member would have a different insight into what is wrong and what are the issues faced. Never assume anything at all. Get talking with people from all levels of hierarchy.
Keeping an open mind. It is unwise to jump to conclusions and solutions by mistaking the symptoms for problems. In my project, I kept on building the analysis by continuously analysing the information gathered, and reviewed it with the people I’d spoken with. This helped me to narrow down on the root cause of the problem. I had good guidance from my mentor in this regard, who pointed out the right way for things to be done.
Lots of time will have to be spent on information gathering. Since interviews are by no means enough to be proof of problem in the process, I had to analyse multiple records, reports in the systems to come up with figures which pointed to the flaws in the process. Numbers are your best friends here, people will listen to you only if you have the numbers to back up your statements. Thus the goal identification, finding the appropriate solution, came about through a continuous evolutionary process.
Apart from the project assigned I got to experience the many perks of working with Shoppers Stop. Be it meeting author Amish Tripathi, who’d been invited at Crosswords (A subsidiary of Shoppers Stop) or Mr. Sonam Wangchuk, the real life engineer on whom Aamir Khan’s character in 3 Idiots is based upon, there was never a dull moment. Along with work, we got to enjoy the life at Shoppers Stop, through the various events, brand launches organised by the company. And as a group of interns, we had our moments of fun too. Though it lasted for a couple of months, it was an enriching experience for all of us, and when it ended, it marked the beginning of something new.
Top: Photograph with Mr. Sonam Wangchuk, the real life Phunsukh Wangdu of 3 Idiots fame (Centre) with fellow interns. I am at the 2nd place from left.
Bottom: Photograph with Mr. Amish Tripathi, the author of the Shiva trilogy - Immortals of Meluha (Centre) with fellow interns. I am at the extreme right.