September 04, 2020, 3:00AM: A message from PlaceCom! I got up from bed immediately when I saw that I was asked to report to the PlaceCom office. Despite being tired from the 5-hour long Prep session that our seniors had just conducted, I immediately ran to the PlaceCom office in my fastest sprint possible with my heart beating really fast. After all, I had just given the HUL interview 2 days back, at their corporate office in Mumbai. Then when I got to know that I had been selected for the Sales & Marketing summer internship in HUL, the first thing I felt: relief! I had finally made it to my dream company.
When HUL’s applications first opened up on campus, I remember being confused about whether to apply or not. I knew it was a dream company to work for, but the role that they were offering was ‘Sales and Marketing’. Being a Chartered Accountant and having worked in audit and tax advisory prior to MBA, I just wasn’t sure whether I would be the right fit for the role! I took advice from my peers, mentors and parents who were all very certain that this is an opportunity that I shouldn’t miss out on. In my heart, I also knew that this is what I actually wanted and was just looking for external validation to confirm this.
This was the first time that HUL was opening applications in MDI, and although our seniors trained us on the various marketing concepts that could be tested during the interview process, there was a lot of ambiguity on what was going to happen.
HUL also had a very unique selection process:
First, they conducted a psychometric evaluation test online, which would evaluate whether or not you are a culture fit for the company. The test had behavioural and value related questions, where I thought the best strategy was ‘To be yourself’.
Second, they shortlisted candidates based on this psychometric evaluation and asked them to appear for a video interview (which was approx. 40 minutes). Having a good understanding of the company through the research I had done and the help I received from seniors, is what helped me at this stage. The video interview conducted by the system, where they tested marketing concepts and sustainability practices (which is something HUL strongly believes in!).
The third round was by far the most exciting! HUL had asked us to book tickets and come and meet them at their corporate office in Mumbai. Being the city of dreams, neither the city nor HUL disappointed any of us. The hospitable environment and the way the entire process was structured made us feel at ease. It was a pooled campus recruitment drive, where we also got to interact with peers from other B-schools! The day was filled with exciting tasks ranging from a role play, case presentation and finally, a short interview. The evaluation metric at this stage was to assess whether you are a culture fit for the company. Also, the entire selection process gave very minimal importance to the CV. The interviewer barely glanced at my CV during the interview process.
We all left with a smile when it was time to finally go back to our campuses!
Overall internship experience:
I was assigned to work with the Customer Marketing team of HUL, and to be honest, I had no idea about the work that they did! But thankfully, I was blessed with two great mentors – Nisha Sahlot, Senior Trade Category manager and Shivek Dhar, Assistant Channel Manager. My project was on Gap analysis of the Health and Beauty Channel, through competitor benchmarking, global benchmarking and understanding of retailer preferences. The end objective was to derive actionable recommendations on retailer engagement models in this channel, based on the insights obtained.
The entire experience was of great learning! I got to understand how the entire value chain in an FMCG conglomerate like HUL operates, and even the Sales function of the firm. I even understood the intricacies and the working of the Health and Beauty channel. The sales interventions that are involved at the retailer level is something that I was unaware of earlier.
I was also fascinated about the inclusive culture within the company - of accepting people from all backgrounds, without any biases or preconceived notions. I have had the chance to interact with people at different levels of the organisation (from sales officers to global managers). Even though it was a tough time for all of us, it was quite humbling to observe how everyone took out time to help in my internship project, while also being really patient to the questions of a novice at Sales.
Although the internship was entirely virtual, HUL kept it’s promise of giving us a memorable summer internship experience that we would never forget! They kept us engaged through organising fun activities, contests and even hosted a virtual party just before our internship ended (I can definitely say that the virtual party was the best evening I’ve spent in the entire lockdown!)
On completing my internship, I can already see the changes in my personality. I have stepped out of my comfort zone to push myself beyond the mental blocks instilled in me. HUL helped me believe that the work we do makes a difference and inspires change, which has inspired more confidence to explore new ideas, take initiatives, tackle challenges, and take complete ownership of my work.
Key learnings and takeaways:
· It’s really important to have a POV! You may think that your opinion doesn’t matter while you’re interacting with senior leaders who are veterans in the industry, but I realized this is completely not true. The reason that you have a seat at the table is because they want to hear a fresh perspective – something that they wouldn’t have thought of!
· Drawing from the above point, it’s also okay to disagree with your mentors. Your mentors truly want you to have a great learning experience and which is why they would guide you on the right path, but will not micromanage or tell you what to do!
· Complete ownership of the project – You have to invest everything into those two months to take complete ownership of whatever work you have been assigned. Make sure that you go in and out, so that you are able to understand the A to Z of the project. Do whatever it takes to get there!
I was completely new to Sales and Marketing, and a few things that worked for me:
· Compendiums and other marketing material prepared by the Marketing club of my college
· Doing complete research and getting an in-depth understanding of HUL (latest campaigns, sustainability initiatives, CSR activities, latest press releases, etc.)
· Being prepared with my CV and the basic behavioural questions that could be asked in any interview
· Networking! This is important both prior to and even during the internship journey. As it was a virtual internship, this become even more important in my case. Talk to as many people as you can – seniors who interned in HUL, seniors who interned in S&M, or even the people currently employed in HUL or other FMCGs, if you have any in your network.
Overall, just be confident and just be you! :)