How would you react if you were to navigate a Sales & Marketing internship from home? Now imagine that internship being part of the alternate vehicle sector, in the midst of a country-wide lockdown. 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.
For today's article, we spoke to Somen Kundu, a Sales & Marketing intern who worked in the Mobility Services Sector at Mahindra First Choice Wheels. He gave us a glimpse into his internship experience and being part of Mahindra’s GMC program. Read the full interview below!
Hi Somen, Tell us about a little yourself!
I am Somen Kundu. I was born in Ranchi but have lived across cities in eastern India. I completed my B.E. in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, and worked at Oracle India as a Senior Application Developer for almost 3 years, before joining IIM Ahmedabad in 2019. I have been passionate about singing and playing music since the age of 7 and can play 10+ musical instruments. Sketching portraits is a hobby that I try to pursue whenever I get sufficient time to complete one.
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?
My core interests are in the areas of marketing and technology. With 3 years’ work experience in the field of technology, my interview was mostly around the impact that I can bring through my knowledge of technology. Since I worked with an NGO - DRISTI (Directing Rural India towards Social and Technological Integration) during my college days, social impact was the core of any project I took up. I worked for the upliftment of the rural population in the region to integrate them into the mainstream of technologically advancing society. I think portraying my real self and making use of the world-first technologies that Mahindra is present in like Blockchain-as-a-service is what resonated with the core values and work ethics of Mahindra, and in turn, with the interviewers.
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?
As the country came to a standstill because of COVID, many firms were trying their best to figure out alternate modes of internship to provide the best experience that they could in these times. It was at this time of panic when Mahindra did not delay the internship start date even by a day, sending out the updated project details tailored for the virtual mode and virtual desktop setup with all necessary software installed.
The virtual-friendly project structure did reduce our contention around a virtual internship by a bit, but I was still worried about stakeholder interactions. It was only after talking to my company’s CEO, Mr. Ashutosh Pandey, my Manager, and Marketing Head, Mr. Abhishek Agarwal, and my buddy and Product Management Head, Mr. Karan Malhotra that I got to know about the details of the project and ways that they have thought about to have maximum stakeholder interaction and take the project to the stage of delivery by the end of 2 months. I started off by building a make-shift office space in my room to work from and adhered to strict office timings to get the feel of an on-premise internship.
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?
The project seemed overwhelming in the beginning due to the high expectations that were set for us but we felt empowered at the same time as Mahindra entrusted us with the required decision-making freedom.
One of the major learnings from my internship at Mahindra was to structure an unstructured problem statement. I had multiple ideas and insights in different areas of the project which I used to constantly brainstorm with my manager. This gave me the uncanny feeling of being all over the place. This was when Abhishek suggested to pick up the pieces and sew them together into major heads by relating them to the problem statements that the ideas were solving for. My project got split into 5-6 sub-projects and I accordingly prioritized my work for the upcoming weeks of the internship with the goal of delivery by the end of it in my mind.
Were there any initiatives to help enhance your internship experience and learning?
Even being at home we never felt out of touch with the reputed name of Mahindra. All thanks to Anisha, Prachi, and the whole GMC team that conducted frequent connections with business leaders from all the sectors of Mahindra, including a 2-hour session with Mr. Anand Mahindra himself. I personally had never been exposed to the hospitality industry and getting to know about the Club Mahindra business was one of the most interesting leadership sessions for me.
What was your project about how you managed to complete it successfully? (ensure you do not reveal any confidential/sensitive information)
The problem statement of my project was to set up a marketing technology stack for Mahindra First Choice Wheels. Understanding the customer needs in the modern digital world and amalgamating the digital experience with the physical world for a ‘phygital’ presence was the goal that I was looking at. I tried never to deviate from the customer-centric approach and even during the benchmarking of the available marketing technology solutions in the market my key criteria for comparison was maximum customer satisfaction from the implementation of it.
One of the initial challenges I faced was stakeholder interaction in the lockdown period, as the customer pain points were to set the context and problem statement for my project. I was quick to point this problem out and was immediately connected to the customers and Customer Relationship Executives by the marketing team at MFCWL.
One of the major pushes that I got from the team, which also helped me achieve the goal of real-world delivery by the end of the internship, was “implementation based ideation”. My ideation was geared towards the practicality of final implementation and hence I never had to go back to the drawing board during the implementation of the project.
Tell us a little about your evaluation process. What do you think helped you get that coveted PPO?
The evaluations were at 2 stages - Sector Level Assessment and Group Level Assessment. I had to prove the merit of my project to the CEO of my company in the sector level assessment, and then give a 5 min elevator pitch to the board in the group level assessment.
I was always connected with my fellow-interns and learned more about the entire project that the three of us were delivering. This was very important so that I stay aware of where my work fits as a piece in the puzzle and also there is no duplication of work. This helped me answer the final question in my group-level assessment as well, where the board asked about an aspect that I could have touched upon in my project. Knowing about the industry and communicating with people around to know more can be attributed to converting the chance given by Mahindra to a PPO.
What was the biggest learning from your Mahindra GMC Summer Internship?
The biggest learning that I will take home from the internship is the work approach of “implementation based ideation” that I imbibed from Abhishek and Ashutosh. Practicality and simplicity are the two key aspects of any idea and if the idea checks these two boxes then there will be no need to go back to the drawing board once the implementation starts.
Which is the most memorable moment/experience of your internship journey?
One of the most memorable moments in my internship was when I was benchmarking the tools of the marketing technology stack and was taking feedback from the stakeholders regarding the ease of use of the platform and one of the employees exclaimed that this system will reduce his day to day work by a significant amount and will help him in focusing towards the more creative aspect of his job. This was the moment when I realized the impact that my work is going to bring when implemented. This resonated with the core that always motivates me towards the work I do, i.e., touching the lives of as many people as possible with the work I do.
With a PPO in hand, how are you approaching your second year at B-school?
Life at B-school always stays learning-packed with academics, competitions, and extra-curricular activities. However, like most of us, I am missing campus life due to the COVID-19 pandemic and wish everyone a safe and healthy stay at home. I am eagerly waiting for the college to re-open so that I can go back to my dorm room, friends, and the coveted red brick walls.
Is there any advice you would like to give to your juniors, who want to intern in a top company like Mahindra?
The only constant thing that stays with you and makes you unique is your personality and your values. Stay true to yourself, stay focused, pursue your interests, work towards a set goal and you will achieve what you set out to. A B-school teaches not only academics but also perseverance and persistence.
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.