Mumbai Local – Internship Experience at Birla Sun Life
This is an entry to the Summer Saga Contest 2014
The story of my endeavor in the city of people
“It’s not so much what you learn about Mumbai, it’s what you learn about yourself, really. It’s a funny old hippie thing, but it’s true as well. You find out a lot about yourself and your tolerance, and about your inclusiveness.”
“Welcome to Chattrapati Shivaji Airport. The local time is 10:30 AM and the outside temperature…..” The rest of the announcement was drowned out by the clamoring of over-eager passengers reaching for their luggage and the frantic pleads of aircraft attendants trying to stop them. Ah, Mumbai. “Taxi! Worli.” The intern has arrived.
6 AM. The air buzzed with excited chatter as 52 interns wait to board the bus to Mandwa. “A lot of water sports have been arranged. Someone is bound to get hurt.” – I heard one of the girls proclaim as she nervously read the day’s itinerary in the soft light. Mandwa reminded me of Agneepath – the poem, not the movie.
तू न थकेगा कभी, तू न थमेगा कभी, तू न मुड़ेगा कभी
कर शपथ! कर शपथ! कर शपथ!
अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ!
Contrary to the dire prophesy foretold by our far-seer, the day turned out to be a lot of fun. Refreshed and energized, everyone returned home whilst setting mental milestones to be achieved over the coming months. Time to gear up. Day 1 is only a few hours away.
Birla Sun Life Asset Management Company (BSLAMC), One Indiabulls Centre
Desperately trying to avoid creasing my crisp, black suit in the morning rush, I reached the office – only to find it deserted. Was I in the wrong building? No. Just too early. Slowly, the trickle of employees began. I received quite a few glances which seemed to be asking “What’s this overly dressed lady doing here?” By 10 AM, the office was abuzz with the telephone rings and mutual fund discussions. I navigated my way to my manager’s corner office. Pleasantries were exchanged and details about my project were fleshed out. I received a veritable pile of online reports to read and was allocated a cubicle to sit in. I gazed out the window at the traffic below – hundreds of tiny ants scurrying about. So it begins.
I settled into a routine. Office at 9:30. Cup of coffee in the cafeteria. Research on the mutual fund industry till lunch. Lunch was a team affair with discussions on topics ranging from financial markets to the office gossip. At 3, I would have a meeting with my manager. During one such meeting, the COO happened to visit. Upon hearing the project details, he decided to up the ante. In addition to setting up an alternate distribution channel for mutual funds, I was to financially model the fee structure to be paid to the distributors. As I took notes, I imagined myself being surrounded by infinite rows and columns. Was Microsoft Excel going to be my universe for the coming months?
“Next station Churchgate. Agla station Churchgate. Pudhil station Churhgate.”
Nostalgia hit me. Nothing had changed. The huge arches, the distinct smell, the juice shop in the plaza, the cobbler by the entrance. It was as if I had travelled through time, back to when I came here to purchase books. What a great place to kick-start my branch visit from. Located in an archaic building, the office was packed with irate customers and grim faced customer service representatives. I smiled – must be the complaints section. Armed with a cup of coffee and my trustee notebook, I sat down to observe the flow of customers. I met a few people to get their thoughts about the existing distribution network. After work, the entire team went out for Pani Puri. I was impressed at the way t these individuals left the stress of their jobs behind when stepping out of the office. I scribbled down – Be a good actor, separate your roles.
Conference Room. I nervously adjusted the lights and switched on the projector. The who’s who of the company were seated in front of me. The idle banter slowly died down as I started the presentation. The next hour seemed to stretch on forever. The flurry of questions came at such a pace that I barely had time to answer one query before the next one was shot at me. Not exactly the way I had pictured it. Towards the end, I could see the tiniest hints of smile and the faintest of nods. Was I imagining things? The pats on my shoulder assured me I was not. I was halfway to the finish line.
Market research. Customer surveys. Sound boring? Not if you do it like I did it. After trying unsuccessfully in malls, I asked myself, “What’s the one place in Mumbai where people are densely packed and can’t simply walk away from you?” The answer came in a flash – The Mumbai Local! I hopped on a CST-Thane local and asked away. 150+ passengers queried. Survey complete.
The financial model was finally ready. With an hour to go before my scheduled meeting, I decided to take in a walk in the nearby garden. The soothing breeze and the gentle murmuring of water spouting from the fountain captivated me. I thought to myself, “Why don’t I create something as enchanting as this?” I presented the model but my thoughts kept going back to the garden. Nature teaches us so many things in a simple, elegant way. I didn’t sleep that night. By morning, I had designed danglers, standees and investor education documents. I was exhausted, but happy.
Time does fly. Two months. Gone. Tucking my shirt in for the ninth time, I glanced at the mirror. The memories flashed past in a blur. This was it. Judgment Day. The room was packed. All eyes on me. Dead silence. The lights dimmed. I went through the presentation professionally, having had practiced it a million times the night before, and ended with a demonstration of my self-developed mobile application. The lights brightened. Claps all around. A standing ovation! I could sense tears forming in the corner of my eyes. I quickly brushed them away and joined everyone for the farewell party.
– Sayali Patil
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