The summer placement process is the most gruelling experience any B-school grad would face. After several months of hard work and sleepless nights, I finally got placed in one of the most coveted FMCG companies in India. The sense of relief that ensues once the rigour is over is beyond measure. Just when I thought the grilling was finally over, 7 months later, another battle started in an entirely different setting – new turf, new rules!
The KITES Summer Internship in ITC kicked off with a grand induction at ITC Windsor, Bengaluru. It was a 2-day event where all the interns got acquainted with the internship process and were briefed on the things to look forward to in the coming 2 months. Previous year’s PPO holders shared their internship experience and ITC stalwarts from the top echelons gave invaluable insights on branding and strategy. This was followed by a sumptuous dinner where I interacted with fellow interns. Immediately the next morning, even before the first rays of the sun hit the Earth, I was at the airport lounge waiting for my flight to Chennai. It was time to get back to work. I had to report to the office at 10 am that morning.
In the next 10 days, I did a series of market visits in Chennai to gain an understanding of the project, supply chain and market. It was a tale of ‘riches to rags’ – from the opulence of a 5-star hotel, a week before, I was now teetering in the narrow cramped bylanes of Chennai surveying the stores in the simmering heat. In the subsequent 40 days, I travelled to many cities in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and executed a pilot in one of the cities. The amount of freedom given to the interns by ITC is unrivalled. Innovative ideas are encouraged and looked on as potential opportunities to invest. At the same time, I also had my fair share of hiccups. The scorching heat would sap all the energy within the first 3 hours of hitting the market. There were many instances when I simply wanted to give up and return to the comfort of the cosy bed in my hotel room. The travelling took a toll on my sleep as I used to travel between cities during the night or at dawn to save the day time for market visits. Time had always been a constraint as I spent only a few days in a single city. Every day was a race against time and even the weekends were used to survey the consumers. Speaking to strangers had become a commonplace, be it shopkeepers, consumers or salesmen. Initiating a conversation used to be awkward at the start, but gradually I shed my inhibitions and started enjoying the random interactions.
When I first entered the gates of IIM Kozhikode, there was a euphoria in the air and an excitement about the things that are going to unfold in the next 2 years. At that time, some of my friends remarked that I would go places. Fast forward 10 months, the prophecy did come true, but only too literally. Indeed, I was going places – 7 cities in 2 months. Nevertheless, the internship experience was an enriching one and the learnings were aplenty. Apart from the functional aspects of marketing and supply chain, I learnt to plan my itinerary on short notice taking zillion things into consideration. Conceptualising a pilot plan and implementing it put my organising, negotiation and people management skills to test. I realised that patience is the most valuable asset a person can have. I had waited for hours together to have a few minutes of conversation with my mentor. Even though the time allotted was short, it structured my thought process and streamlined my focus on the important deliverables. Last but not the least, travelling to places such diverse in culture exposed me to a different way of life and practices. From the pristine beaches of Kerala to the grandeur of Dravidian temples in Tamil Nadu, I caught a glimpse of all. As I look back now, I savour every bit of the grilling and the takeaways are countless.
As my internship drew to a close, I realised that – ‘Marketing internship isn’t about burning the candle at both ends to get the job done; it’s about generating one spark of brilliance that opens the gateway to a world of unexplored opportunities’.