Nitya’s Internship Experience With FMCG Marketing At ITC – XLRI Jamshedpur
Summer Internships are the culmination of a lot of things, expectations from the corporate world, application of all the theory we have learnt during sleepless nights and a test of fit if the company and the individual form a good fit.
Summers for me started when I got an E-mail from the HR department at ITC, regarding my project brief and a few readings, I googled everything related to the brief and nothing related to the reading.
After all the glamour of the initial two days at Bengaluru (My Internship location), I settled down and met my mentor and the first thing he asked me was about the reading. There were two of us working under him and the other guy was completely prepared. I was given an hour to come up with the summary of the book. Google has always been a good friend, but that day it became a saviour as I frantically googled for a synopsis. My work was shoddy and I felt bad but, I decided to let go and start afresh (My solution to almost every problem in the world).
Tip 1: Get hold of any or all kinds of data plans, go for the fastest one, it will be totally worth it.
My mentor held a key position in the company and as such he had very little time for interns. Two of us would struggle to get his time. I remember I waited for five hours one day, for a meeting which lasted for two minutes. At times I would stay up late in the night only to be told that I would meet my mentor the next day. But all said and done a meeting of five minutes with my mentor would give me valuable inputs and work for a week, the wait was always worth it.
Tip 2: Get ready for long waits, your project may not be the first priority for your mentor, he has a zillion other things to do.
Within two weeks I learned how to deal with everything at the office. There were people who went out of their way to help me with information, without their help I would have been lost. But I had to constantly let people know that I was working on a project. People have so much work to do, that they forget about interns. My persistence levels (Pest like qualities) and follow-up skills (Badgering people for data) improved by the day.
Tip 3: Any and all kinds of Ego will be squashed, so better leave it at home where it will be safe and sound
My project involved a thorough understanding of consumers and their needs, I would often go to supermarkets and talk to consumers, initially I felt very strange because I am not used to talking to strangers, but as time went on I realised the importance of consumer insights and did not shy away from meeting people and asking them questions. I remember one day I had asked a lady if I could interview her, she suddenly started walking away and said, “I don’t want it”. I asked her, “What don’t you want?“ She said, “Whatever you are selling “. People jump to conclusions and quickly at that, anyone who approached them in a store is a sales women. I told her that I was a student. After I interviewed her, she interviewed me and said that she felt sorry for me that this is what I had to do after an MBA. I take pride in what I do and I think saleswomen do a great job at stores, they are the actual voice of the brand and without their help brands would lose their human touch, it is sad that some people do not understand this and think that rudeness is what they deserve
Tip 4: Do not get hassled by what people say (Unless they are consumer insights), a thick skin is essential for marketing.
There will be days when there will be long waits, hours of waiting just to get a go-ahead on the project or get the right resources. Maybe it is the way some organisations are structured or maybe it is a deliberate practice to give the interns a taste of real corporate life. Whatever it is, it is one of the testing times, if your idea is rejected you start work from scratch, you just wish the waiting period is over and you can get started on whatever it is, that will take you closer to your end result. Sales and Marketing is a tough field, it is not for the faint-hearted, cuss words and anger are the occupational hazards of a sales job. When the stakes are high and mistakes happen, people lose their cool. In both my previous organisation and my internship I have seen people lose it. They give into the mounting pressure. It is up to us whether we give in to the pressure or manage to keep our cool
Tip 5: Patience is not just a virtue it is a deal breaker in organisations.
After two months of hard-work, I put all my work into a presentation. It was very detailed (In-fact it had all the details) and I presented it to my mentor and his assistant. That day was the high-light of my internship. I always knew I was bad at PPTs but I never knew how bad until that day, when I looked at the presentation through the eyes of my mentor I could see how shoddy it was. It was everything at once, all my work. What made sense to me was an absolute mess for someone new, it was too much information, too much text and a lot of data. Letting go is an art, which I mastered overnight, when I came with a crisper and shorter presentation the next day, which told the story of how one thing led to the other and finally how I arrived at the final recommendations. My mentor explained how business presentations had to be structured and how different they were from academic presentations, thanks to him when I presented my work at the final review it looked structured and logical. My mentor’s help that day helped in bringing out my work in a much better way.
Tip 6: Always ask two questions when you are making a PPT
1) Is this information crucial?
2) Does this continue the logical flow of my story?
My internship was an amazing experience, it was more than just about work, I found amazing friends in my fellow interns, they were my support system when I was low, we share an amazing bond, something I am sure will last even after the internship. I met brilliant people and saw how things quickly changed in FMCG from ideas to actions. It is a job that will keep you on your toes and will teach valuable lessons, introduce you to brilliant people, it will also be tough and challenging and make you question everything you ever believe. To summarise in my mentor’s own words, something which is true for life as well.
“Always go with a null hypothesis, but be open to the idea of it getting rejected“