Me and Mumbai… A story of an Intern

April 1st 2014.

“Pudhil Station-Malad… Agla Station-Malad… Next Station-Malad”, was repeatedly ringing in my ears as I was travelling in the Mumbai local for the first time. Looking at the rotating fan above my head, I was totally glued amidst many office going professionals akin to a small drop of honey attacked by a group of ants. Recollecting last night’s conversation with my Mumbai relative and his story of “Milne gaya Andheri… hua Laptop chori”, I was conscious about my office bag containing Sony Vaio laptop, about 2000 pages Operations & Supply management text book, Parle Lays packet, Haldiram’s Mixture packet and the Salt-Biscuits packet. Don’t mistake my concern for snack packets to me being a foodie but particularly I was concerned that my parents’ love is being crushed in such hustle environment. At that moment, I was also concerned about one more person’s love who actually packed my full luggage with all her heart. Then a small smile started at the tip of my lips and slowly passed onto my cheeks making my dimples visible on both the cheeks in the sultry busy Mumbai local. Yes. I was missing her at that moment. No sooner did I start relishing that special feeling than the train halted at the Malad station and I had to make no effort because the public made me to get down at the station in “the Mumbai Locals Royal way”.

Unlike every railway station, these Mumbai local stations resembled a busy corporate world with people around me rushing to reach their respective work places and here started my first learning of internship – To stand in the race, catch up the pace. While heading towards my work place in a sharing auto, I could see too many Vada-pav, Bhel puri, Falooda stalls. Controlling my temptation to taste them, I reached my internship work place, “A Bank”. As I was waiting at the reception desk to meet my mentor, I could sense the bank looking bright and beautiful with Dark blue and White combination all over, neatly maintained sofa and many young girls getting in. As it is basically a call centre for the Bank operations, I could realise most of them working there were female employees. Meanwhile, the receptionist introduced me to my Mentor, Mr. Raju, Senior Manager for the Alternate channels department. As he just arrived to the office, he took a few minutes to get back to me showing me the way to my cabin. While I started walking from the reception desk to my cabin I could see a Blue carpet laid down, with girls sitting on either side handling the customer calls with their sweet voices. Although I had two years of work experience in construction field, I never experienced a separate cabin with Blue star A/C, table, desktop, white board which helped me to learn – More colourful the work place, more interesting the work.

After 5 minutes, Mr. Raju entered my cabin and I immediately stood up to greet him just like a school student greeting his teacher.

Raju: It’s Ok. Sit sit.

Me: Thank you sir

Raju: So, your name?

Me: Sridhar Bathula

Raju: So… You are from IIM-???

Me: I am a student of IIM Trichy sir… Indian Institute of Management-Tiruchirappalli.

Raju: Do you know what role and work has been offered to you?

Me: Yes sir. I have been selected for operations role for forecasting and scheduling work. (But I had no clue on what to forecast and what to schedule)

Raju (grabbed the landline): Mr. Akhilesh can you come here once please.

Mr. Akhilesh, the Deputy Manager entered the cabin. He is dark & heavily built. Soon I started making assumptions and thinking, “What if Akhilesh is very strict and Raju asks me to work under his guidance”, then Mr. Raju started introducing him.

Raju: Akhilesh… he is Mr. Sridhar, an intern from IIM. He will be working here for 2 months on forecasting and scheduling. So, you please guide him.

Akhilesh (with confused face nodded his head): Ok…

Raju: Sridhar… you start knowing the work from Akhilesh and contact him for any requirement. He will guide you from here onwards. You submit the frame work of your ideas by the end of the day.

Me: Sure sir. Thank you.

Raju: And Sridhar… Do not call me “Sir”, you can call me “Raju”.

Mr. Raju left to his cabin and conversation started between me and Mr. Akhilesh. While I was expecting Mr. Akhilesh to explain me the process of forecasting and scheduling,

Akhilesh: What do you want from me?

Me (confused): Sir… actually…

Akhilesh: No formalities… you can call me Akhilesh.

Me (confused but maintaining a smile on my face): what tools does a bank use for forecasting and scheduling?

Akhilesh: We don’t use any software, rather we forecast for every day manually…

and he continued explaining about the bank’s call centre process etc., while I was totally in shock understanding the situation that I am not here to just learn but I have been selected to learn the process, analyse the case and develop the tool for forecasting and scheduling. Then I realised that during the internship the most important thing is – to know what your objective is, how shocking or how new the work may be. And my first day ended with knowledge sessions from Mr. Akhilesh about the whole process of department. The refreshing part of the day is that I could find a small cafeteria where I can get various types of tea and coffee.

Though Mr. Raju was not so much concerned about my project, I started reporting whatever minor progress I was able to visualise in my project to him at the end of every day. After a week, with some imaginary data, I was able to show some significant numbers in an excel sheet for the target of 1 week, which grabbed the attention of Mr. Raju and he started giving some inputs which helped me to slightly guess what actually they were expecting from me. With such little progress he agreed to provide me actual confidential data using which I had to improve the project to reach 1 month target. He started explaining his imaginations which actually had no clear destiny. It was a bit of a difficult task for me to understand his imagination and to get clarity on what he wants. When I prepared three different perspectives and reported to him at the end of 8th day, he could realise that one perspective matches his imagination to some extent.

Mr.Raju: I think… this should work Sridhar.

Me: You mean I am on the right track sir?

Mr. Raju: Not actually… but can you show me the results in this perspective.

Me: Definitely sir! But….

Mr.Raju: hmmm… but what?…

Me: Sir, I would need 1 year full data to develop this perspective and show you the results.

Raju: Well… its highly confidential data Sridhar. Even I have no permission to check that data. I have to check with my Boss.

Me: Please sir. If you can provide me 1 full year data, I can assure you desired results.

Raju: Ok Sridhar! Will let you know tomorrow.

Me: Thank you sir.

Next day, in the early office hours I was able to get access to 1 year data with restrictions to work in the company’s desktop, no access to internet and I was not allowed to transfer data. This gave me new energy and interest to work on the project. But I had to initially work on my laptop doing secondary research using my personal internet dongle. I was able to learn many new theories and concepts of forecasting and scheduling. With the help of IIM course knowledge and concepts from secondary research, I was able to develop a new model in excel within 15 days of my internship. I could realise that – Mentorship helps you to develop new ideas and achieve targets easily.

At the end of 15th day,

Me: Excuse me sir.

Raju: Yes Sridhar… Please come… Please come…

Me: Sorry sir I was not able to report to you since few days because I wanted to show you a concrete output instead of minor progress.

Raju: Hmmm… Even I was busy with my meetings and other commitments.

Me: If you allow me, I would like to show my work now.

Raju: Sure… Sure… shall we go to your cabin?

Me: Please sir…

After explaining him about how the model works and how the data has been used to get the output,

Raju: Great yaar… great… It is really interesting.

Me (bit excited but still sceptical): You mean… I am on the right track sir?

Raju (with confident voice): Yes… yes… you are.

I could realise my tensed and tired face turning slowly into a confident one with a little smile.

Me: Sir… if I can make a few left out improvements am I done with my project?

Raju: I think you are… but you first prepare a final model and if you can prepare a ppt by tomorrow, we can present it to Vice-President too.

Me (surprised): Are you sure sir?

Raju: Yes… he will be visiting the office tomorrow. I will make a 5 minute appointment for you. So be ready.

Me (excited): Definitely sir… sure sir… I will make it ready by tomorrow.

With a confident but tired mind I left to my guest house which is an air conditioned dormitory. After having my dinner at a nearby mess, I got a call from my mother.

Mother: Hi nana… how are you?

Me(fully tired): I’m good mummy.

Mother: What happened beta?… Is everything fine?

Me: Haan mummy… everything is fine but I am feeling a bit tired with head-ache.

Mother: Ayyoo… nana… take some medicine and sleep.

Me: Hmm… Nothing to worry, I will take tablets. But I have to make a ppt to present in front of the Vice President tomorrow.

Mother: You don’t worry… everything will be fine and you will do well. All the best.

Me(although tired but with a smile on my face): Ok mummy… thank you so much. J

I was unable to work inside the dormitory because of weak network. So I had to work outside the dormitory sitting on the steps of the guest house. I felt it would have been better if I had taken a separate single room instead of a dormitory. But then my learning experience of making ppts overnight at IIM helped me a lot and encouraged me to make the ppt. I could only make a rough ppt then and slept finally.

Next day after reaching office, I started making final make-ups to the ppt and was waiting for the call from Mr.Raju. I can realise the tiredness in me but then I was eagerly waiting till 6’O clock in the evening and as I did not want to miss the chance, went inside the cabin where Mr.Raju and Mr. Dharmender Agrawal, the Vice-President were having a talk.

April 16th, 6 pm.

Me: Excuse me sir?

Raju: Yes… yes Sridhar… please come in. Sir, he is Mr. Sridhar, a summer intern from IIM Trichy.

VP: Hello Sridhar.

Me: Hello Sir.

Raju: Sir, he has developed a brilliant model for forecasting and scheduling. If you allow him, he will present it to you in 5 minutes.

VP: Sure… go on.

Although a bit nervous, I was able to give the presentation and successfully got appreciation from the Vice-President.

VP: Brilliant Sridhar!… it is really very good work but if you can make a few changes, I think you are done with your project.

Me: Thank you sir. But sir, I am interested to take up another project in marketing field which helps me to diversify my opportunities. If you can allow me it will be a great learning experience for me.

VP: Definitely Sridhar. You can take up the 2nd project after finishing making these minor changes.

Me(hesitating): And Sirr….a small request.

VP: hmmm… go on.

Me: If you can post me at Hyderabad for my 2nd project it will be much more helpful for me.

VP (with no hesitation): Ok Sridhar. Anything else?

Me(fully elated): Nothing sir… It is nice meeting you and thank you… thank you so much sir. J

Mr.Raju guided me to make the left out changes. Now, I had no patience to make those changes because I was very much excited to go to Hyderabad-my home town to spend the rest of the month working from home. This justifies – Work Hard, Make a Difference & Have Fun

Next day… it was Wednesday.

Raju: Sridhar… the tool which you prepared works for one year. We have to replenish the data again after 1 year. Isn’t it?

Me: Yes sir.

Raju: But can you make this tool work in such a way that I should not replenish data till 5 years? will that be possible?

Initially the work started with 1 week which went up to 1 month and slowly extended to 1 year and now they are asking me make it for 5 years. I felt like saying a big NO. But controlled my emotions and said, “I will try sir”.

Raju: Good… but don’t you think the expectations are increasing?

Me: May be I am capable enough to reach your expectations Sir.

Raju: You are… well… come with a 5 year model and I will not be available till Monday.

Now slowly my dreams of going home soon started to drop. But then, working on forecasting concepts for about a month day and night continuously, I forecasted that Mr. Raju may ask me to develop a model for 15 years if I go with 5 years model. So, I did nothing except for just looking at the excel sheet all the time for 2 days and suddenly I could find a way between blocks of the excel sheet. This time the way is to prepare a model which works just not for a year or 5 years or 15 years but it works forever. Soon, I grabbed a cup of hot coffee from cafeteria and worked for one whole night at the office and was able to develop a model which works forever. It being the call centre block of Alternate channels banking, the office was opened 24X7 which allowed me to sit at office from 9am to 9pm during most of my internship days and helped me to complete my project in advance.

28th April 2014, Monday.

I reached office early and was waiting for Raju. As Raju arrived I conveyed him I am ready for final presentation. I had to wait all the day as he gave me time at 6pm. Finally, during my final presentation to Raju, I was able to meet all his requirements leaving him with no more questions.

Raju: Great Sridhar… So, when are you planning to leave to Hyderabad.

Me(exhausted): Tomorrow if you allow me sir.

Raju: Sure. But please explain the working of the model to our Deputy Manager and other call agents before you leave so that they have an idea of how to use it.

Me: Definitely sir. Thank you so much and I have learnt many things in your mentorship.

Raju: Nice meeting you too Sridhar. All the Best. J

Finally I could learn that – Patience takes advance payment before it pays you in return.

Thus I had completed my project successfully in one month which was supposed to be completed in 2 months. On the final day, as conversations going on with Deputy Manager regarding the working my project tool, he took a smoke break for some time. Sitting alone in my cabin, suddenly an idea struck into my mind.

Me: Prashant ji. Ek minute cabin mein aayenge? (Office boy)

Prashant(with a smile): Haan… Sir ji…

Me: Prashant ji… Aap har kisi ke birthday pe Dairy Milk baant the hai na… Woh Process kya hai…

Prashant: Sir jinka bhi birthday hota hai… woh log muhje paise de dete hai chocolates baantne k liye aur mein bant deta hun. Bas! J

Me: Toh Prashant ji… Yelo paise… floor mein sab ko chocolates baant dena…

Prashant: Aap ka birthday hai sir?

Me: Nahi… aaj mera aakhri din hai internship ka yaha par. J

I asked Prashant to give them a slip along with chocolates, on which I have written,

“It is pleasure to be a part of Bank and happy working with you. Thank you. Keep in touch”.

This small attempt fetched me a lot of help from the employees in completing my second project in next month at Hyderabad. This led me to understand – “Employee relationship helps in Future references”

Now, after completing my demonstration to Deputy Manager, with a relaxing mind and happy heart I was travelling back to my guest house to pack bags for Hyderabad to take up another project in my favourite field “Marketing”. I was excited to work from home being with my parents, loved ones and a special person who brings a smile on my face. Meanwhile an automated voice continuously ringing in my ears, “Pudhil station Goregaon… Agla station Goregaon… Next station Goregaon”.


Note: Names of characters of Banks’ personnel in the story have been changed.