Imagine doing a Sales & Marketing internship from home. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But that’s what you have to do when there’s a global pandemic disrupting the world. This year, many companies took the difficult decision of deferring/canceling internships promised to students. However, many others like Mahindra kept their promises, allowing their interns to join them albeit virtually. It was a situation no one had foreseen, but Mahindra quickly modified the projects that were given to their interns back in January, so that they could be completed within a virtual setup.
In today's article, we spoke to Sasi Kumar Veluchamy, a Sales & Marketing intern who worked in the Auto & Farm Sector at Mahindra. He gave us a glimpse into his internship experience and being part of Mahindra’s GMC Internship Program. Read the full interview below!
Hi Sasi, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Sasi Kumar Veluchamy, an automobile engineer from PSG Tech, Coimbatore hailing from the industrial town of Hosur. I have three years of work experience in Global Product Development with Ford Motor Company, where I worked extensively on Total Value Management and Cost Reduction Projects for the Asia Pacific and African markets. American sitcoms and cricket glued me to the couch and got this recent fascination towards gardening. I’m also an avid trekker and a backpack traveler.
Tell us about your experience during the Mahindra GMC Internship Recruitment Process. What was that one question during your interview that you think helped you bag your internship?
Before the final Personal Interview (PI), I had to get through a lot of preliminary rounds. First, we need to submit a comprehensive profile form, which helps recruiters understand the candidate as a person. Then we completed a psychometric test. Based on the results of these two, we were shortlisted for the Chairman Group Discussion (GD), which is different from a normal GD. This is a simulated leadership dilemma, where we need to discuss with the team and take a final decision, putting us in the shoes of a leader. Based on our performance in the Chairman’s GD, we were shortlisted for the final PI. I was interviewed by the CEO of Mahindra Electric and the GM of Group Strategy Office (GSO). Most of the questions were based on my resume and work experience.
During the interview, the CEO asked out of the blue, “What/whom do you want to be in life?” I gave an honest answer and explained about my aspirations in life. I think Mahindra gives high weightage to cultural fit. My philosophy of life matched with their strong culture of Rise. I think that one question helped me bag my internship.
Tell us about the moment when you found out that your internship will be completely virtual. What was your immediate reaction? How did you prepare yourself for this unusual setting?
We were told about our project two months ahead of the internship, and it was mentioned that the project involves traveling between Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi. I was so excited and had made up my mind for that. When I learned that the internship was going to be completely virtual, I was a little disappointed at first. However, I accepted reality and tried to think of ways that will help me perform better in this virtual setup. The GMC team was very supportive, understanding, and constantly updated us with the changes.
Tell us about your virtual internship experience. What were some of the challenges you faced? How did your project guide & team help you overcome these challenges?
I missed greeting people on a Monday morning like I used to do at my previous job. I constructed a virtual office in my mind and directed a plot for myself on how my team used to operate normally and their functions through the facts I got through the virtual onboarding sessions.
The demarcation between my personal and work timings did get a little ambiguous within a few weeks. Thanks to Mahindra’s employee-friendly policies, we were allowed flexible work hours in this virtual mode of working. Lack of physical connect and non-verbal clues make human minds strain a lot to stay focused and build relationships at work.
The GMC team had a weekly connect with all the interns to make sure we all were doing good. My project mentor was the National Fleet Sales Head. Despite his busy schedule, we were in touch constantly discussing the project improvements. He helped me understand the nature of the work, organizational structure, and how to approach my project.
Were there any initiatives to help enhance your internship experience and learning?
Yes, there were a lot of initiatives from the GMC team. They had this one goal in mind, GMC interns shouldn’t miss out on anything, learnings, and overall experience if we had done this internship personally. Starting from the welcoming post for every intern on social media to numerous leadership sessions, as well as one-on-one leadership connect with CEOs, a lot of efforts have been put by the GMC team and business HRs to make our internship experience enriching. We even had an unofficial trivia quizzes and so on to improve the bonding between the interns. There was a session with senior GMCs in the company to clarify our doubts, get to know them, and their internship experiences with the project.
What was your project about how you managed to complete it successfully?
My project was to give disruptive go-to-market strategies to increase automotive sales in the Alternate Vehicle Ownership Space. My mentor was instrumental in helping me successfully complete the project. I divided my internship tenure into four phases:
- Secondary Research - I started two weeks before my official internship began to better understand the Indian and international market conditions, trends, etc.
- Primary Research - Did an online survey with more than 300+ people across different demographics, telephonic interviews with potential stakeholders, partner companies, etc.
- Analysis - I analyzed the data collected.
- Proposed New Business Models - On-boarded stakeholders and future roadmap for the proposed disruptive models.
Constant support from my mentor, guide, GMC team, GMC seniors, and representatives from partner companies helped me to be on track for the whole tenure and deliver a successful project.
Tell us a little about your evaluation process. What do you think helped you get that coveted PPO?
The Mahindra GMC internship evaluation process is meticulously designed to select the best of the best. I had three rounds to get the coveted PPO.
The first round was with my Mentor (National Fleet Sales Head) and project guide (Senior GM, National Fleet, and Institutional Sales Head). This was a non-elimination round.
The second round was Sector Level Assessment (M&M Auto & Farm Sectors) which was an elimination round. My project was reviewed by Commercial Vehicles - Business Head and M&M Auto - SVP & CHRO, it was a very tough round.
The third round was Group Level Assessment (GLA) where I had two sections, one was ‘Brand Me’, and the second was to explain the project to the panel of topmost seniors leaders like Group CSO, Club Mahindra CHRO, Strategy SVP, M&M CPO.
I was a bit nervous, but the leaders made me comfortable and the review went really well. What helped me get the coveted PPO was my curiosity, which helped me push boundaries during my project. I was honest and genuine with my answers in all the rounds and showed my true self to the leaders. Also, my profile and my attitude about life matched with Mahindra Values.
What was the biggest learning from your Mahindra GMC Summer Internship?
I learned how to navigate across functions & businesses in a complex organization like Mahindra by working remotely. The next two learnings are from my mentor and these are very close to me, “Never sell products, sell solutions”, and “A real sale happens when you marry the right demand and supply”. Lastly, help will be given to people who ask for it.
Which is the most memorable moment/experience of your internship journey?
My interaction with Mr. Anand Mahindra was the most memorable one, as my question (“Does having a federation of companies in group business affect synergies between group companies?) was selected by him as one among the seven questions he chose to answer. He was very down-to-earth and explained it patiently.
With a PPO in hand, how are you approaching your second year at B-school?
The PPO really took the pressure off my mind on grades and is helping me focus more on the learnings and holistic development from extracurricular activities. Actually, I’m getting better grades in the second year than in the first year, because of a peaceful mind now. I’ve started to look at subjects in a different way after my internship. Whatever concepts I learn, I subconsciously apply them to the real business world and I am able to absorb the concepts better.
The PPO also gave me the freedom to experiment with the elective subjects of my liking instead of taking conservative electives and playing a safe game.
Is there any advice you would like to give to your juniors, who want to intern in a top company like Mahindra?
Introspect deeply and get to know you better, only then you will be able to express yourself when the interviewer tries to understand you as a person. Understand company values and culture, before filling the forms and personal interview. Cultural fit is more important than competence fit.
Finally, enjoy the internship experience, be passionate about your project, make connections, maximize your learnings, and make a positive impact in the organization, instead of seeing it only as a potential job opportunity.
About Mahindra GMC:
The Group Management Cadre (GMC) program recruits highly talented MBA graduates, empowering them to jumpstart their careers in key positions at Mahindra. Mahindra hires from the best b schools, and currently has over 150+ GMCs within the Group. The GMC is a fast-paced, challenging program that grooms high potential managers for leadership positions over a 10 to 15 years’ time horizon.