Strategizing With India’s Fastest Sports Brand – Summer Internship At PUMA
I vividly remember my first PUMA shoe which my dad gifted me way back in 2008 and since then PUMA has become a part of my life. The brand never stops to excite me. I was super thrilled on seeing the internship application opening for PUMA and be a part of the organization.
The process for the selection started with writing an SOP, where they focused on one’s interests towards sports fashion, differential capabilities and one high point in life. Be true to the core. Believe me, nothing is easier to distinguish between a made-up answer and an honest one. Candidates were shortlisted based on their CV and SOP, followed by two rounds of interviews.
The first round was an elimination one which included a question on guesstimate where your approach matters more than the final answer, then there was a simple probability question and finally, they asked me what I liked the most about PUMA. I had researched about the company well in advance and was sent to the final round of interview which was taken by the Head HR. She gave me a case study on opening a PUMA store in Ranchi since I hail from Jharkhand. And then she asked me questions related to my SOP. I was very honest and confident throughout. I very well anticipated the results after leaving the interview room.
And here I was, making a strategy for a company I had admired since childhood. Our first day at PUMA was more about knowing the company and its culture. We were informed to come in fitness clothes. After the ice-breaking session with co-interns, we were introduced to our mentors. I had to work directly under the Head of Strategic Initiatives of Puma (India). We had a meeting of around an hour. She introduced me to the project. Make sure you are clear about the purpose of the project and the expectations from your mentor.
After the meeting, we were asked to gather at the auditorium for a fitness session where we had to do burpees, push-ups and few other exercises. It was not to test our physical stamina, but to reiterate the importance of fitness in our lives, an important part of PUMA’s culture.
My project was to prepare a B2C E-commerce strategy for PUMA for the coming 5 years. B2C E-commerce is a high potential hotspot of growth for any fashion retail company. I had always wanted to work in something impactful and I knew that I could have never asked for more. During the first week, I went through the rough outline my mentor had prepared on how she wanted the strategy should unfold. I also quickly brushed up my project on Strategic Management course in the 3rd trimester, where we had done an analysis (internal & external) on Zara and fashion retail industry it operated in. It always helps to know in depth about the industry your company engages in and if you are in a strategy role, it is indispensable.
I had to map the future landscape of PUMA for the initial part of my project. One of the most challenging tasks in this was future customer profiling. There were tonnes of data to analyze and sometimes it varied across sources. Always invest your effort in referring to reliable sources. Also keep your mentor or project head in the loop and discuss your approach with him/her on a regular basis. I made sure I had a checkout session with the mentor at the EOD. If she was busy, I used to mail her my findings of the day.
I also had to do a lot of primary research for the latter part of my project work, where I had to make projections in the P&L to reach our aspirational target in 5 years. I had to talk to the business head of e-commerce and many employees in charge of certain departments in the company. This helped me in understanding the operations of the company and also most importantly, in networking. Make sure you take a prior appointment with the employees instead of barging in at the end moment and asking for help. Be professional.
I really wanted to complete the project I had started but could not due to lack of time. The project was planned to be completed in 4 months. At the final review, I got the opportunity to present in front of the MD. Make sure there is a key insight or takeaway on every slide you present. Also, start preparing your presentation from the first few weeks itself rather than leaving it for the last moment.
My mentor had been quite supportive of me throughout and she guided me immensely. Parties, sports, fitness sessions and warehouse visits made this journey more memorable. Also, people in PUMA are full of energy. Work and fun go hand in hand here, and there is a reason PUMA is Forever Faster.
There would be times when things would go above your head, and if they don’t, then there is something wrong. These are the times where your attitude matters in tackling the problem.
Nobody expects you to give the perfect answer to your project. Don’t ever work with the mentality that you are just an intern. Take full responsibility for whatever you do. That’s what I did.