Summer Internship At SnapDeal : Where Passion Meets Chaos – Sharath Kumar’s Story

“Now do a sales pitch in Hindi”, The HR told me and leaned back in his chair. I was dumbfounded because I had already told him that I didn’t speak much Hindi. Being from the south of the equator, I am not used to conversing in Hindi and doing a sales pitch in Hindi was definitely not my thing. However, determined to nail the interview, I gave it my best shot. The end result was a pitch that barely qualified, one that was dotted with English and gratuitous use of hand gestures. I was dejected, I’m sure it showed on my face. After working tooth and nail to get into an e-commerce company, my lack of proficiency in a language was to stop me. It did not though. I was offered the internship after two more interview rounds and accepted it with a beaming smile. Later on, at Snapdeal in Gurgaon, I asked the HR personnel who interviewed me how my sales pitch was.

“It was complete garbage”, he said. Seeing the confusion on my face, he continued, “It was also why I put you through to the next round”

“I don’t follow?” I replied, still very much confused.

“You didn’t give up. We value that here, you were faced with a problem and tried your best to solve it. It wasn’t a test of your language proficiency but a test of what you would do when faced with a problem”

This was the first of many lessons that Snapdeal would teach me over the course of the summer of 2016. Never give up, give it your best shot and if you then fail, it’s alright. What is important is that you tried. This approach was clearly visible throughout the organisation. Facing impossible problems was commonplace and the people that worked there took it in their stride. One of the beautifully decorated walls on my floor had a quote on it that said, “It does not matter whether the seed grows into a plant or not, what matters is how well you nurtured it”.  That to me, is an amazing attitude towards life.

Upon our first day arriving, we were allotted rooms at MDI, Gurgaon. Two people per room and about fifty rooms in total. I already knew a lot of the people, we had bonded over the previous month thanks to WhatsApp. We spent our first evening getting to know each other better and getting a hang of the place. Excitement hung in the air like a dense fog. We could not wait to go to work the next day. The next day was the on boarding or induction process. We got through a few inspiring speeches by some of the top guys at the company followed by the administrative procedures. We were also briefed on our projects and got to meet the project managers. Mine was a project in the partnerships and strategic initiatives vertical and my manager seemed quite warm and friendly. “We’ll start tomorrow, come in at eleven and I’ll introduce you to the team”, he said as he crushed his coffee cup and walked away. I left that day feeling utterly exhausted and barely able to contain myself. This place was good. The people were good and I felt like I fit right in.

Work started in all earnest the next day. It was not gradual, we started on the project right away. Zero miles per hour on day one and about to breach the speed of sound on day 2. The hectic pace was hard to keep up with at first. I felt lost a lot of the time but there was always someone ready to take time out of his or her busy schedule to help me out. The people at Snapdeal didn’t come in at nine and check out at six. They came in when they could and left only after they finished work for the day. I usually went in at about ten am and oftentimes stayed till well past nine pm. Even at that hour, the place was abuzz with activity. A lot of the time I took my work home and worked well into the night. The only gripe I have is that I didn’t get to interact much with my manager. I guess at his position, free time came rarely and fleetingly at best. To give you an idea of how things worked there, as part of my summer project I was to come up with a solution to an existing problem. I figured that the best way to go about it would be to build a new software, a simple one, which would link up two discrete processes and reduce the need for constant communication between two teams. I took this proposal to my manager and presented it to him, a few members of the team were present too.

“… All we need right now is to find someone to build this software and it’ll be good to go” I finished, proud of my work.

“Good job, by when can you have it ready?” my manager replied, sipping his coffee.

“Ohh! I don’t know how to program sir, I was hoping you’d assign someone to this”

“It’s your project, figure it out” coffee sip.

I thought a while and asked him for a week’s time to finish it. He smiled, granted the time and left. I followed the rest of the team out, feeling a little unsure of how to proceed. I spent the rest of the day googling solutions to my problems but turned up with nothing. The next day, I spoke to people around the office and asked them if they would be able to help me out. The ones that knew how to program were either too busy or unavailable and the ones that didn’t, suggested google. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I sat down at my desk and put on some music. At about song three it struck me that someone from the internship team might know and so I asked on the WhatsApp group. Silence greeted me. Dejected, I went back to my manager and told him that I didn’t think I could do it. He thought a while and said, “You asked me for a week’s time, it’s only been two days. You clearly haven’t tried enough.” Sip coffee. Frankly, at this point I was a little annoyed and irritated. I felt like my skillset was being wasted. I was a marketer damnit! Not a coder! I felt like this was a problem that could have been solved easily by a coder and given Snapdeal’s vast array of tech guys, that should not have been a problem. With these feelings in my mind, I left work that day and went to grab myself a beer. What woke me out of my angry reverie was that after about a couple, maybe more beers, I got a call. It was from one of the interns.

“Hey Sharath, Anil here” He said.

“Hey dude, what’s up?”

“I know a bit of coding, I can help”

I sat up, “that would be amazing man! When can we meet?”

“Lunch tomorrow?”

“Done!” There was still hope it seemed.

I went to lunch a little early the next day and grabbed myself a sub. Anil arrived shortly after, he ordered a masala dosa and sat down opposite me. I explained my predicament to him and he smiled. He told me how it could be done and suggested I install a new software to go about it. He also gave me a set of codes and asked me to use google to figure out how they worked. After about three days of googling and facing walls, then getting over them. Facing more walls and finally figuring things out, I had my software good to go. The process was frustrating at best and mind numbing at worst. I still don’t know how to code but by God I know how to write that one piece of code now. I took the code to my manager and showed it to him.

“This is great” he said, coffee sip. (I swear he had a cup of coffee in his hand every single time I met him) “What’s next?”

“Just gotta figure out how to integrate this into the back end system here sir”, I said and before he could start, I continued “I’ll figure it out, give me two days”

“You’re learning” He said and turned away to continue his work.

I didn’t stumble much this time around and did figure it out eventually. I was appreciated for the work and it felt great. This also taught me to persevere no matter what, Snapdeal took that attitude very seriously. That place was like a melting pot of talent and passion. It was chaotic and yet everything made sense. The rest of my internship was just as topsy turvy and taught me a lot. On the penultimate day of the internship, a brilliant lunch was hosted for us. We got to hear from the man, Kunal Bahl, himself. He exuberated passion and charm. The guy was a living embodiment of the company and I could see a little bit of him reflected in the employees there. The Indian Ecommerce market is looking shaky lately and a lot of people are talking about consolidation and what not. I would have agreed with their views before this internship but now I am sure that this little boat called Snapdeal is hardy enough to brave the rough seas. Chaos, passion and perseverance. A mantra for life.

Sharath Kumar

Nothing much to say about me, I'm your usual marketing strategy grad from IIM L. I love the subjects I did.