Summer Internship with RIL: On an uncharted path to a new beginning
If it’s easy & simple that doesn’t stretch you to the core;
If it’s impersonal, objective & that doesn’t land you to the shore;
If it isn’t a thing that you can die for
Stop waiting and move on
For life is a beautiful voyage lasting not so long
Your every single action, awaits a response!
The above lines truly indicate the learning that I had in the past two months of my intern-ship at Reliance Industries Limited. Neither it was easy nor it was objective and thus it was a journey that made me learn the reality of life and gave me an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people. I did not do anything that was great, extra-ordinary or exceptional but I firmly believe that a small effort of mine would definitely bring an impact on the lives of people. I got an opportunity to work in the Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability division of Reliance Industries in Mumbai.
A road less travelled…!
By opting to work in CSR and Sustainability, I took a road less travelled and initially, I had mixed feelings about working in this division. Questions like “CSR, Why didn’t you take up an internship in a core FMCG Company?” were thrown at me. While though these questions kept perturbing me for some time, but at the same time I also remembered HUL Chairman Harish Manwani’s AGM speech on “Leadership in the VUCA world” according to which sustainability was the third biggest megatrend across the world. Sustainability and social responsibility were increasingly becoming an important part of businesses and I believe that large corporate organizations are increasingly in need to manage this aspect of business more systematically, just as they manage their core business operations. Leaving so many opportunities to work in the most sought after marketing function, I chose strategy for innovative & sustainable growth. I wasn’t sure of the worthiness of my path. However, I wanted to ideate and I believed in myself & the excitement, newness and challenge that I saw in this strategic function which perhaps pulled me towards it. I was given a chance to work in the Chairman’s Office in the strategy function under the direct guidance of one of the most senior personages in RIL. The project was about planning an innovative business model that integrates the value chain from production to marketing and selling so as to benefit the village communities. A strategic framework had to be created to establish a business model that would benefit both Reliance and the farmer community. It also involved optimization of current programs in order to improve the efficiency of service delivery by Reliance Foundation. Reliance has helped in creating small village farmer associations in most marginalized sections of the society. The farmers belonging to these associations are given help in the form of training, provision of input seed material, etc. In order to make their retail business sustainable, the idea was to explore the most innovative strategies implemented across the world and design the best ones which could be implemented for the company and that could leverage the produce of the village communities.
But before the project work actually began, RIL gave us a wonderful opportunity to familiarize ourselves with one another by organizing a two day trip to Jamnagar, Gujarat.
“Gigantic” – This is what I could describe RIL just after 2 days of my internship induction program. It all started with an interaction with business heads and then rounds of dinner with the senior most people from the company. The visit to the “Largest Refinery in the world” at Jamnagar, Gujarat and our stay at one of the finest places in the Reliance Campus at Jamnagar not only gave us a feel of the scale of operations but also gave us an opportunity to appreciate the endurance a company builds to come up with such a mammoth business. It is one thing to learn about operations of such large plants in theory but actually seeing the plant in operation on-site lends a very different perspective. Though two days were definitely not enough to see the entire gamut of businesses that RIL is into, however, at the end of two days the “King Size” feeling did sunk in our minds. It was also a great opportunity to interact with other interns and learn about life in their colleges. After this, all of us were given our respective projects and then the real work began.
I was introduced to the business head and to all the employees working in the function allotted to me. We exchanged thoughts, got to know each other and worked together as a single unit. At no point of time I felt as if I am an intern or someone not from the company. Reliance was the main sponsor of the Mumbai Indians match and being an intern I also got the opportunity to watch the players play live. The match was a great fun and even more exciting part of it was my informal interaction with the entire strategy and Reliance Foundation team. The feeling of belongingness that I experienced at Reliance is something I still treasure.
For the initial first month I had to work in the office and perform detailed secondary research and analyze the reports and performance of programs. I was given full freedom to access any material that I wanted to and to meet any business/functional manager to get my doubts cleared. Though the guide was usually busy with her work, she made sure that I get all the support that I needed to proceed with my project. Working in the office for long hours that too while concentrating on intricacies of the reports followed by the analyses used to suck all my energy.
Mumbai’s Local- An indelible imprint on mind
I stayed with my family in Mumbai, but my home was quite far from the office, hence I had to catch a local train early morning every day. Travelling in Mumbai’s “local” was again a very compulsive though challenging part of my internship. A mélange of cultures and religions clad in motley of colors, all representing the true Indian diversity elevated me to the core. I interacted with a number of people from all walks of life and from different parts of the country. For many it was an everyday struggle while for most it was a fun-filled journey that brought excitement to their life. Initially, travelling in Locals made me anxious and uneasy but eventually as the days passed by it became a part of my life.
Working day-in and out, I didn’t realize when all those days passed by and there I was heading to the next part of my project which was more about interactions, knowledge sharing, concept discussions and field visits. All this was intended to assess the viability of my business model and discuss the possible implementation issues with the people working on the ground. This was the most interesting as well the most challenging part of my job. Every time when I came up with a new business idea, a follow up discussion with the guide or the team members would help me trace several inadequacies in the idea making it either not implementable or uncertain in term of expected benefits. None of my suggestions were actually working while on paper they looked fantastically great because they were supported by theory and research. Many a times my entire reports on suggestions used to get rejected by the guide due to inconceivability of solutions. While preparing these reports I also learnt to pay a lot more attention to detail and particulars of report writing. I couldn’t afford to make even a simple grammatical or editing mistake. Such was the clarity, precision and exactness required to prepare and present a formal report to the business head. A single line here & there could invite displeasure from your boss!
Eventually I could make a case for my business model which was based on integration of e-commerce with local sales in Mandi and this was made possible due to my field visits in the most marginalized sections of the society in Mumbai. It was scorching hot and the sun wasn’t merciful. But the zeal in my heart to give the best shot surpassed the externalities leading me to places I hadn’t discovered before. My interaction with the poorest of poor people gave me ideas about small and simple things that if implemented could actually change their lives on a large scale. I thought about all those Ideas and penned them down on a piece of paper. Then I interacted with program heads and discussed the viability of my ideas and their strength to actually create a vertically integrated sustainable business, which was also a major objective of my project.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. Every bit of learning I had at RIL was a result of my involvement with every single aspect of my project. Right from long hours of office sitting, analyzing reports and reading papers on strategy making, to moving on the field to gather practical information, internship at RIL was nothing short of an eventful journey. The interactions I had with my seniors, the free flowing conversations with colleagues and the experiences I garnered during field visits made me learn more than what I expected in a span of just two months.
At the end of two months I came up with a business model, driven by innovation and inspired by sustainability measures taken by giant multi-nationals across the world. My efforts were appreciated and recognized in the entire division and later I also developed a research paper on the same (which I am yet to publish).
Strategy- It’s not about laying a wall, but a brick, but as perfectly as you can!
Throughout the project I learnt that strategy is not just about making large scale changes to a model of working in a businesses, it can also be about assembling small incremental changes that can affect the lives or performance of your project it much large way. And sometimes it is important to look beyond what the theory says and peep into the real world to see what actually works on ground. Every strategy that a company makes for its business may not be evident to a layman but for all of us, as Business students it is critical to understand the sheer hard work, endeavors and efforts of every single unit of the organization to make a simple strategy successful.
Was the decision right?
I shall cherish these two months of my internship at RIL throughout my life. Today I can surely say that decisions are by themselves not right or wrong, because with the right attitude and conduct every decision gives an opportunity to learn and grow. In the similar tone, the decision to intern with CSR and sustainability division in RIL was a pathway to assimilate the most. As I said in the beginning, “Every action awaits a response”, I believe I did get the response in the experience I had with RIL. A response clad in challenges, fun, learning and LIFE!