Marketing & Chemicals – My Summer Story at Reliance
As a chemical engineering graduate, I had always wanted to work in Reliance Industries during my engineering. A dream that never worked out, since I could not clear the interviews when they came to my campus in 2013. But who knew that life would come a full circle, and that too within two years? Here I was in April 2015, in Mumbai with my bags packed, looking forward to a 2-month long stint with the country’s largest private conglomerate.
The rosy start:
This would be my first time in Mumbai, and coming from the mundane night life of Indore, more so, with strict entry times of our campus, I was really looking forward to experiencing the city of dreams. Hence I was more than a little disappointed to find that Reliance was offering us accommodation in Navi Mumbai, which is nowhere close to Bombay, if you know what I mean. Hence, I chose to stay in NITIE, Powai with two of my best friends who were interning within the city. This meant every day I had to travel for 20 km to and fro in the peak office hours. But then everything comes for a price, right?
So on April 6th, I took my first local ever and huffed and puffed my way to RCP, Ghansoli. The 3-day long induction took place with much fun and frolic. I discovered that people at Reliance accept their shortcomings and improve on it – the culture is not as bureaucratic as people say it is. The HR team is working hard to change that image and that showed clearly in the induction talks.
Ups and downs:
My project title read: Evaluate the market opportunities of Propylene Oxide(PO) and its derivatives in India. Not the most interesting title, as anybody would agree since, I was hoping for a meatier marketing role in Reliance Jio and be a part of the 4G wave. Braced up for the challenge, I met my mentor: A chemical engineer himself and an IIFT grad, he seemed to be pretty approachable even though he was high up the ladder (Marketing VP-Polymer & Crackers, Petrochemicals)
“Your project would probably require a lot of travelling in and around Mumbai. And, there is nobody in RCP who is looking at this now so we don’t have much information to start with. You have to search on your own, and I am ready to help”
So, a seemingly mundane topic with no leads, and no seniors to ask for prior information- I was pretty disappointed. Only travelling psyched me up a little bit. Nevertheless, I started my first week at RIL with secondary research on propylene oxide industry in India and the world.
Hitting the mental block:
Almost two weeks had gone by, and I had made little head start. The heaps on information that I had collated- I did not know how to apply them to my project. I had to calculate the demand for PO, which was largely based on guesstimates. With most of PO being imported, and a fragmented industry I was not sure where to begin. Also, nobody in RCP had any idea about the project. The daily travels by local, the searing Mumbai heat, the meandering internship project: I needed a break.
Of trips and brainstorming:
Life in Mumbai wasn’t going as planned, and I had to do something about it. 15 days into April, my friends and I took a late night flight to Goa for a weekend getaway. After two insane days,(details of which are totally irrelevant here), we got back to Mumbai- refreshed and recharged.
I made some calls to PO users and decided that it’s time I start my field visits: sitting in office and reading reports won’t help much. For the next couple of days, I prepared my questionnaire for my exploratory research. My mentor provided me with some contacts and I set up appointments.
Field visits 101:
The next one month I spent visiting users, importers and producers of propylene oxide and its derivatives in and around Mumbai. The use of propylene oxide was diverse- so I had to visit paint companies, adhesive manufactures, tire manufacturers, refrigeration industries to name a few.
This one month was a gruelling, enlightening experience. I would like to share a few lessons that I learnt on field:
1.It will never go on as planned – You make a list of questions, create a mental map of the interview and go there smiling and prepared for an hour long interaction. It might end in 10 minutes because the person on the other side is too busy, or worse, forgot that you had to come and left office.
2.I.S.T –Indian Stretchable Time – You make an appointment at 10 a.m. You start from your place at 8, because, Mumbai traffic. You reach at 9:50 and tip the auto driver who got you there before time. Then you end up waiting till 12 p.m because, nobody cares about the intern.
3.Memorise the city by heart – One field visit at Andheri, the next one at Churchgate and the third in Navi Mumbai- all on the same day. You won’t make it on time if you don’t know the fastest and shortest routes. And for that, you need a lot of experience and M-Indicator (my biggest saviour)
4.The learning curve– Each interview will get better than the last as you will have more grip and knowledge. My first interaction with a chemical importer lasted for 8 minutes while the last one with the COO of a chemical company lasted for 1 hour 15 minutes- go figure.
5.Make conversations – Going straight to the questionnaire doesn’t always help. In B2B, people are usually more wary about sharing information within the same industry. So make some small talk, find a common ground and start the interview, make it more like a conversation.
6.Record instead of recall– Always document your interviews; don’t try to remember later what the other person said; you might miss out on many points. What I did was record them on my Lumia so that I could listen to them later and include the pertinent parts.
Thus one month and several trips later, I had a direction, an understanding of the industry and knew what to recommend to the senior leadership team who would be visiting the next week.
A trip to Jamnagar and lots of work:
All of us had our presentations scheduled in the beginning of June so we were busy preparing our reports and presentations. Amidst all this, we got a break of a couple of days- thanks to the Talent Management team who planned a trip to the Jamnagar refinery. What we saw there was beyond our imagination- the scale, the technology used in the refinery was truly world class and lived up to its name.
Coming back from Jamnagar, I barely had a day before I gave my final presentation. To calculate the demand for propylene oxide, I used a guesstimate and computed the potential demand till 2020. This included all the derivatives of propylene oxide as well and gave a robust growth rate of 10-11%. My mentor was happy with my work and I was all set for the final day.
Reliance has a PPO policy which is based on the evaluation by the senior leadership team on the presentation and a recommendation by the mentor. Hence, this was a big day for all of us.
I had to present my report to a panel of 3 followed by an interview. I was a little nervous, as this project was more or less entirely prepared by me without much supervision. What followed turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The panel was greatly impressed by the demand and the market scenario that I had presented. In fact, that they told me to present again it to the Petrochemical Business Development team so that they could get some ideas and start working on this project.
Then I realised, that despite being a big organization with layers of hierarchy, the culture at RIL is quite entrepreneurial: people are open to new ideas, and you can directly walk over to a senior’s office and present your opinions for a healthy discussion. People at RIL are open to innovation and growth, and maybe, that’s why it is among the largest organizations in the country.
Thus with 2 presentations and a farewell party later, I ended my stint at Reliance Industries Limited.
My internship experience had a lot of troughs and peaks. What I realised in the journey is:
1.Be open to new experiences: What seemed like a boring project at first turned out to be so interesting that I actually wanted to dig deeper and develop my business case. I learnt to think like a manager and applied my learnings at IIM Indore practically in real time business situations. I discovered new places, met people from different walks of life and that has enriched me as a person.
2.It is a big world out there: Internship actually made me more grounded and patient. All of us IIM grads, we tend to think high of ourselves within the walls of our campus. But going out into the real world, I realised that there’s a lot to learn and I have just started.
3.Never give up: At many points during my internship, I did not get the results that I expected. It was not a cakewalk always, and I had to go out of my way and persuade people to help me on my project. But, the key was in never losing patience and go up the learning curve till you reach the pinnacle.
Here I end my internship story. Hope it has been a good read.
IIM Indore (PGP 2014-16)