‘Summer Internship Is Not Just About Doing The Correct Thing’ – Nikeeta Variava’s Internship Experience At Abbott India Limited – JBIMS

“Girl, you have bagged one of the most difficult marketing internships – Pharma Marketing!” – this is what one of my JBIMS colleagues had exclaimed when the final result of Abbott Summer Internship was announced. Well, I now realize what my colleague really meant then. And this realization meandered in my mind as soon as I embarked on this internship and you will know why as you go through my summer internship journey. Along with this, I will be also going to share some of my key learnings (tidbits) from this internship which will double up as an advice for future MBA internship students, especially the ones who wish to pursue internships in the marketing domain.

Abbott is one of the leading and most trusted pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in India. Its philosophy – ‘Life to the fullest’- is what it follows everywhere and every time. I was thrilled back then when I had got to know that I had bagged the much coveted marketing internship at Abbott India Limited (AIL).

AIL internship is one of the most structured MBA internships consisting of 2 months exhilarating journey where interns get to work on live projects! AIL expects their interns to do a bit of homework (read: background research) on their internship projects and this explains why they mail all the details about your project title, mentor, and guide in advance. This is one of the things that I appreciated the most in AIL internship. I had ample time to gain basic knowledge about my project.


Learning tidbit 1: Well begun is half done!
Never embark on your internship without doing basic research on your company and project. If you know about your internship project well in advance, then research and gain basic knowledge on all important aspects related to your project. This will help you build your confidence and hence, will make you look less ‘out of place’ on the first day of internship. Contact your seniors who had interned with the company in case you are not aware of your internship project. Ask the seniors about their internship projects and work culture; in this way you will get a fair idea on what your internship project is going to be like. Read recent articles and trends related to your project topic.

My internship project was on understanding the market dynamics of a therapy area in order to refine marketing strategy for one of their brands. Before the internship started, I read and gained basic knowledge on the therapy area that my internship was based on. I read a bit about different Abbott brands that this therapy area deals with. I also constructed step-by-step methodology on how I will go about completing this project. Since my project heavily relied on Market Research, I brushed up my knowledge on Marketing Research subject that I had studied during my second semester. As I had to provide insights to refine marketing strategy for AIL therapy brands, gaining knowledge on Product Life Cycle was vital. Reading HBR articles on Pharmaceuticals also helped me tremendously in gaining insights in the pharmaceutical sector.


Learning tidbit 2: Making theoretical knowledge applicable in your project
Always try to link your project with the theoretical aspect that you have studied in your college. For example, I applied my theoretical knowledge on Market Research and Data Analysis into practical use during my project. Take help from your professors if needed.
Prepare a step-by-step methodology on how you will be proceeding through the project. It does not matter whether you are right or wrong. You can discuss your bit of background research knowledge with your project mentor/guide in the first few meetings and ask for his opinion on the same. Your guide will appreciate your enthusiasm and initiative.
Summer internship is not just about doing the correct thing. It is about taking initiatives and learning from your mistake too.

On the first day of the internship, orientation program was held in Chembur office of Abbott wherein leading managers of all Abbott Divisions – Abbott India, Abbott Nutrition, and Abbott Healthcare – gave an introduction on their respective divisions and also stressed on what their expectations from the interns was. This was followed by an informal HR ‘meet and greet’ and FAQ session which acted as an ice-breaker between interns from different colleges. Then we were made to sign few confidential documents and were informed to report at our respective offices the next day wherein an introductory session with guide will be held.

I reached AIL office in Goregaon at the scheduled time and met my project guide. It was a short and formal introductory meeting elucidating on my project details. On my second meeting with my project guide, I discussed with him – what I had read and researched about the therapy area and brands and what my knowledge was regarding the project and how I had charted out a step-by-step methodology to proceed through it. He gave me valuable tips on how I can improvise on this aspect and how I can proceed towards it.


Learning tidbit 3: Meetings with your project guide/mentor.
Persistence is the key when it comes to meeting your project guide/mentor. Remember that they are loaded with many responsibilities themselves and hence, cannot be available to you as per your convenience. You need to be persistent and schedule your meetings with your guide in accordance to your guide’s schedule. I used to meet my guide twice a week and rest of the days I maintained contact with him via mails. On setting meetings with your guide/mentor, follow the hygiene factors and make sure that you schedule the meeting well in advance. For example, I used to send a meeting request to my mentor via email or used to message him well in advance about the meeting schedule.

My first 2 weeks at AIL was spent on gaining more in-depth knowledge about the therapy area and the brands it dealt with. I also prepared a project charter listing key objectives and timelines about the project. My next meeting with the guide was spent in refining the key objectives of my project and also in fine tuning the project timeline as it had to be in sync with the field visits and the project stakeholder’s availability.


Learning tidbit 4: Complexity in Pharmaceutical Marketing
Pharmaceutical Marketing is a bit different from the commercial marketing of FMCG products. For an engineering graduate like me, getting accustomed with the medicine/drug/therapy terms related to my project was not a cakewalk. However, I strived to gain basic knowledge on medical jargons and terms related to my project. For example, I was provided with some in-house Abbott project manuals in order to get well-versed with these terms. Reading these manuals became a part of my routine for the first two weeks. The logic was simple: without knowing the meaning of medical terms related to my project therapy, I will not be able to understand the finer nuances of the therapy area and will not be able to extract correct information from the project stakeholders who were doctors. Thus, it became imperative for me that I get accustomed to medical jargons specifically related to my project therapy area.

Next step of my project included formulating hypotheses and setting up appropriate data collection tool/technique. I had to undergo field surveys/field visits and collect data from stakeholders, visit hospitals, and clinics and interview doctors in Mumbai. Visiting chemist stores and retail outlets stocking the therapy brand also formed part of the field survey. Before embarking on field study, I spent one week on creating a questionnaire which was reviewed by my project team and finalized after some edits. I covered various areas in Mumbai for three weeks for my field survey and as per the locality, I was accompanied by one Abbott Therapy Business Manager (TBM) assigned to that area.

Field visits required a lot of patience and determination as not all stakeholders were willing to give time and answer the questions and in the initial few days, I struggled in the process of ‘how’ to ask the right questions. Later, I tried amalgamating a ‘body language analysis’ technique (which I had learnt last year) with the questioning and data collection process. For example, I used to analyze the stakeholder’s (doctor’s) body language/speech/response and in accordance to that, I used to tweak my questions in order to gain a positive response.


Learning tidbit 5: Dealing with your clients/stakeholders
My field visit experiences taught me that ‘one size fits all’ attitude does not work in marketing when you are dealing with your stakeholders or client. This aspect is very subjective and this is where your experiences, life skills, and presence of mind will be helpful.

Last 2 weeks in AIL were most crucial as they involved collating and analyzing all data (information) that I had collected during my field visits (primary research) and online search. I was very fortunate that my project team at AIL was quick to acknowledge my queries and was extremely helpful. I made sure that I send a weekly mail to everyone in my team. This mail included my weekly project updates and field visit details.

One of the aspects that I cherish during my internship is peer learning. AIL had assigned an optimum seating arrangement for all interns from different colleges. We were all seated together in one bay of the office and this made our interaction even more interesting. There was a healthy competition between all interns. We even reviewed each other’s work and gave valuable inputs on the same. Apart from work, we also shared our views on other topics and hobbies.

After data analysis and hypothesis testing, it was time to gear up for the final showdown –presentation. I started preparing for the final presentation one week in advance and ensured that my presentation content was in sync with my guide’s expectations. I was supposed to create the final presentation in a standard template that was mailed by Abbott HR along with clear instructions on the usage of font type, font size, and colors. I presented my insights on the therapy area in front of an esteemed 3 member panel that consisted of Abbott’s different business unit heads. I was asked few relevant and interesting questions which I managed to answer well.

AIL follows a PPI policy and the final results will be out in August. Best intern across all divisions of Abbott gets awarded with a ‘Star Intern’ award. Once a student gets placed in AIL, he/she undergoes a Management Trainee Program for two years. On successful completion of this program, he/she gets promoted as a Product Manager.




About the Author:

Nikeeta Variava

Marketing Internship at Abbott India Limited