The days of placements, the auditorium, the shortlists, all of them – as nostalgic as they might sound- were also some of the most anxious and nerve-breaking days of the first year of MBA at JBIMS. For a fresher, nonetheless- an engineer, I was hoping for a finance breakthrough and it finally happened! All thanks to JBIMS for bringing in such opportunities.
Hours of meticulous work went into the preparation for summers. Each minute counted. Resumes were revised and re-revised. Honing the “right” set of skills before the placements was a TOP priority-even more than sleeping and eating. As the day of placements approached, I started hyperventilating – FYI not exaggerating! I required a chill-pill, which in my case was talking to my seniors. The D-day finally arrived. The auditorium was filled with hope and extreme anxiety. With each name being shortlisted, with each group discussion and each personal interview, we learnt something new. And boom! Got placed in one of the best bank. Staying confident, innovative and tactical were what made my interview smooth. The interview experience was intensely refreshing for the main reason being that - all the questions asked were very much connected to the culture of the bank (core of innovation). It was like a match made in the corporate world. For a finance enthusiast, landing an internship at a bank is a dream-come-true.
Gawking at my first ever workplace, with slight nervousness and tremendous excitement, I was all set and ready for the first day of induction at DBS. The HR gave us some introductions and icebreaking sessions. She said “Trust me on my word, this internship would be something different and something that each one of you would recollect down the memory lane” and we were all holding to that. Everything turned out really well, in fact a little too well, that I almost started doubting the reality. And the first of all strange things took place. The management of the bank decided to make the internship a tad different this time and that is by making the internship a group exercise. The deliverables are expected from the whole group! That’s not the end of it. We were to choose our own project from a given list of problem statements. This pushed us to a state of confusion and unrest.
Choosing the problem statement proved to be much more difficult than we thought it would. All of them looked equally enticing and different at the same time. But to our demise, none of them was targeted to core finance as we were expecting from a bank. I picked up one that was slightly associated to finance. Groups were formed, discussions made and mentors allotted.
Highly apprehensive of the problem statement given, we started analysing the problem statement. Realization struck us, that this project wasn’t related to finance or marketing or HR. It was related to strategy. The project was associated to the SME segment of the business which was a very new domain to each one of us. We started off with secondary research, which did not lead us to any strategy or conclusion. Luckily, our mentors and guides were extremely helpful and patient with us and gave us a head-start.
And that’s how we landed on streets to take up interviews of the SMEs. The scorching heat of Mumbai streets, the unforgettable train journeys, the unwelcome looks passed on by the SME owners and the constant rejections to spare even a minute for the survey became part of our daily routine. Once, it so happened that we were escorted out of the industrial estate premises by a guard for wanting to interact with one SME and trust me, I can now count that incident as one of the most embarrassing ones! But this did not stop us one bit and we reached an astonishing count of reaching out 100 SMEs. The insights from each one of them and the connections we made through this, is definitely something to hold on to.
The last two weeks were dedicated completely to come up with some strategies associated with the problem statement. Each insight valued. We looked at the project from the eyes of the SME. What we learnt throughout the project was the fact that, we must never discard even a single data point- irrespective of how crazy and unimaginable it was. Our mentors and guides pushed us to think out of the box! I can clearly say from the interactions of the seniors of the bank that, the management always likes fresh and new perspectives- yes, we have to resort to a strategy that is viable for the bank to apply, but as an intern, the management always expects different strategies. Holding on to these insights and strategies, our team won the best presentation award- and that my friends, was a moment to cherish. Definitely the project wasn’t associated to finance, it was much more beyond that.
But it made me answer some questions like: how the business operates at various domains, how a bank chooses a particular segment to target to, the right mix of strategies and the when, why and how a project might or might not be successful. It was more than what I bargained for. The cherry on the top would be the fact that I could build up my network through interactions in the bank including the division heads and DBS India CEO. Students from various colleges share their experience and it’s always fun to know what’s cooking in other campuses. Our initial perspective of group internship took another turn and ended up being an enriching experience. And I came to a realization that my HR was actually true. I would hold on to the learning, connections and the experience at DBS.
These two months of the internship is literally like a playground in the corporate world. The ball would be in our hands, it’s ultimately our responsibility on scoring and winning the game. Make as many connections as you can, build your network, learn from your mistakes, collect every insight, record it, re-read and brainstorm to make the best of the two months!