My tryst with TAS started somewhat early. I had heard about it for the first time from a teacher at one of the CAT coaching centres. Listening to him go on and on about it left quite an impression on me. I went back and googled all about it. Some of the most renowned names had started their careers with TAS. Be it the former RBI Governor Dr. Raghuram Rajan, former director of IIM Ahmedabad, Mr. Ashish Nanda or various other MDs and CEOs of Tata Companies. The list of successful TAS managers was indeed long and illustrious. I was amazed at the legacy this premiere leadership program of the Tata group had created. That day itself, I had hoped to join TAS one day.
Fast forward a year, I landed a seat at IIM Lucknow, and soon preparation for summer placements began. While others were busy figuring out their dream companies, I had TAS at the top of my list. What followed was a month of preparations, mock interviews and attending company presentations. I remember being slightly relieved when I saw my name in the TAS shortlist. TAS has an interesting selection process. I had a late night Chairman’s GD followed by an hour long early morning interview, and I aced both of them. The months of preparation and hard work had all paid off. I could not believe my stars. I had made it to TAS for the summers!
The rest of the year went by like a breeze in college. And finally, on the 3rd of April along with seven other interns from Lucknow, I landed in Mumbai. Our stay and induction were planned at one of the finest hotels in Mumbai. I could go on and on talking about the fine food and the super comfortable rooms but to keep it crisp – I can only say that it was exquisite! At the induction, we were lucky to interact with some very senior people from the TATA group including an hour long discussion with the CEO of Tata Global Beverages, Mr. Harish Bhat. That entire day was simply phenomenal. We got to learn a lot about the Tata group and most importantly what it takes to be a successful TAS manager.
The next day we had to report to our respective group companies where we would be spending the next two months. When I got to learn that I would be interning with Tata Communications, honestly I was slightly disappointed. I had preconceived notions that it would be a ‘sarkari’ sort of a company; after all, it was formerly VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited). And to top it all I had a B2B marketing project of which I had no clue. Reading the project brief only added to the woes as I barely managed to understand the project or my role. Needless to say, all my enthusiasm had come crashing down. But as they say, “Confusion is only the beginning of clarity.”
So as I reported for work on day one, I was greeted by my manager, and we got down to work. He explained parts of my project, and we set targets for the first three weeks. I did a brief research on the company before starting my work, and as it turns out, it is one of the hidden gems of the Tata group. You will be amazed to know that Tata Communications enables 25% of the world internet. Some of the biggest companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, etc. are its clients. Over the course of next two months, all my preconceived notions were destroyed. In spite of being a huge company, it is highly entrepreneurial in nature and has an amazing culture. It’s a place that values your ideas and provides ample opportunities. The next two months were challenging but provided a great experience. In the interest of the future interns, I am sharing some realisations that I had along the way. I sincerely hope they help -
1. Marketing isn’t all gas
For all the jokes that I had heard and the memes I had seen, I soon realised that marketing was anything but gas. All decisions were backed by data, and all campaigns were astutely measured by multiple parameters. My myths about marketing were shattered in week one itself.
2. Listen more, Talk less
Well, I learned it the hard way (Describing the entire incident merits a separate article :P). Long story short, keep your ears opened when in a meeting or talking to your manager. Ask as many questions as you want but do not make any assumptions.
3. Explore as much as possible
It may be the most clichéd thing to say, but it’s true. Initially, I was a bit reluctant to interact with others, but once I came out of my shell, it helped me immensely. I had discussions with global marketing agencies, sales reps who had more than 20 years of experience and multiple people who had absolutely nothing to do with my project. You may think that I spent a lot of time chit chatting but trust me it was an amazing experience talking to such a diverse set of people.
4. IIMs just give a fancy degree
Well yes, this was the biggest realisation! I was surrounded by people who did not come from the so-called elite backgrounds but were masters in their field. They would come up with campaigns and ideas that would put any of us to shame. And to put things in perspective, my company’s CEO didn’t even have an MBA degree.
And last but not the least,
5. Being slightly cocky helps
Being an intern is challenging. You want to prove yourself when others are thinking, “Oh! He’s just an intern.” Do not let such quips dishearten you. If you have an idea you think will help the company, then make sure your voice is heard. Either you’ll make amaze them and make yourself proud, or you’ll end up looking like a fool. In the worst case, you can always say, “Óh! I am just an intern.”
To sum up, the internship wasn’t always easy going. Things were confusing and challenging at times. But if I look back from where I began, all I can say is that the TAS internship may have been for only two months, but the experience was certainly of a lifetime.