For someone who likes to call herself an "accidental MBA", little did I know that I will get the opportunity to work as a Summer Intern with not only one of the largest FMCG companies in the world but also one of the most prestigious Summer Internship Programs in the world of B-schools. As soon as I entered Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, I had no idea about what domain I would want to intern in and eventually, probably build a career upon it!
How it all began!
As time passed by, with the Summer Placements process just a few months away, I realized my interest and inclination towards Sales and Marketing (S&M) and from that moment, there was no looking back. With more and more interactions with seniors, alumni, mock GDs and PIs with my peers, I had one goal in my mind- to land an S&M internship at HUL. I started my preparation by reading more and more about HUL, its myriad portfolio of brands, its marketing campaigns and their analyses, CXO insights about the company, brand stories, and so on. Everything about my Summers preparation revolved around HUL.
Journey to the Personal Interview Round
After the shortlisting process, there was a Group Discussion round, post which there were two rounds of Personal Interviews. The first round was with the HR team and it was one of the most enjoyable interview experiences I'd had so far. The second and the final round of PI was with a gentleman from the senior leadership at HUL and contrary to my expectations, it was more like a free-flowing conversation than like a QnA session.
Key takeaways from both the PIs:
- When asked the popular question, "So, tell me something about yourself", try to talk about the story behind all your experiences so that it does not look like that you're simply reciting your CV.
- Maintain a calm and composed demeanour while answering and always, always maintain a smile on your face during the PI.
- Try to form a link between your experiences and your interest in the role offered and how it aligns with the company's vision and values.
- Do prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the PI. Going through CXO interviews are a great help in this regard.
- Be grounded and genuine in your approach. Be true to yourself.
It's Still Day 1- When it all began!
Come 31st March, and I was all set to begin my journey as an S&M intern at HUL. Though our dreams of being present at the magnanimous HUL campus were shattered, the entire Employer Brand Team left no stone unturned to ensure that all the interns are smoothly onboarded to the organization and feel even more at home (for our batch, quite literally!). The various sessions that were held not only gave us the opportunity to know about HUL as an organization but also about consumer insights, marketing, and various other management lessons.
The Dream Internship Project at ULIP 2020
I got the opportunity to unlock two business problems as a part of my two projects with the eCommerce team of HUL, particularly with the Amazon team. I had to craft a deployment strategy for the Make-Up category for Lakme and Elle 18 on Amazon. My other project involved around utilizing offtakes data that come at a daily level to create actionable insights on an everyday basis.
My first ten days were all about learning about eCommerce as a channel and Amazon as a platform. My tutor made sure that I interact with as many people as possible so that I'm extremely well-versed with the eCommerce channel. I got to interact with people across Shopper marketing, Capabilities, Accounts as well as Analytics teams. I also interacted with the Cloudtail and the Amazon teams to further strengthen my understanding of eCommerce.
Since it was a virtual internship, one of my major apprehensions was that I will not get a chance to imbibe and understand the culture at HUL, and that I will get minimal opportunities with the team that I was working with as well as with my fellow interns. However, my tutor made sure that I get the chance to interact with everybody, and he would always ask me to join their work calls so that I get to experience the dynamics shared among the eCommerce team members. He also made sure to interact with me at least once every day, without fail and such dedicated efforts from his end further encouraged me to put in my best. His feedback was very balanced, he was generous with his appreciation but was also extremely honest in case he felt there was scope for improvement.
The Employer Brand team would also organize fun, learning-based sessions so that we all get a chance to know our fellow interns despite working remotely.
The most enriching part of my ULIP journey was when I got to virtually interact with various online shoppers as a part of my project. I tried to understand the shopper journey and their barriers and triggers while browsing through an eCommerce platform which helped me in unlocking key insights for my project. Now, whenever I browse through any online platform, I put myself in the shoes of various kinds of shoppers in order to truly appreciate the platform.
My Key Takeaways and Learnings
- Important to Learn but More Important to UnLearn- Being a Make-Up shopper myself, throughout the internship, I had to let go of my biases to ensure that I do not let them influence my findings. Therefore, it was very important for me to unlearn these biases in order to truly appreciate the insights from customer immersions.
- Structure, Structure, Structure- It was my constant endeavour to structure my thoughts and work well. My tutor helped me immensely in this regard as he worked with me regularly on context-setting before jumping into the problem directly. His golden advice on the art of story-telling through my PPTs is something I will always try to implement in all my professional and academic endeavours.
- Customer Centricity- As mentioned before, while solving a problem statement, it is essential to think from the customer's perspective and to not let your own biases interfere with your findings. This was something that was not only critical to my project but is also a principle that Unilever swears by.
- Drive- It is extremely important to display rigour with the utmost integrity and to complete all your milestones within the timelines. My tutor appreciated me for displaying ownership towards the project and he provided me with ample freedom to apply my sensibilities towards the problem at hand.
For someone with no past professional experience, I could not have asked for a better start to my professional journey. It is almost poetic how my B-school journey began with me learning about Lakme as a brand, its history, and campaigns, and then my PI round consisting of questions related to why Lakme is my favourite brand and then how I finally got to work for the brand during my 2 months at HUL. It was indeed the most enriching and heartening experience of my life.
My lack of articulation and nervousness led me to not be able to convert my PPI into a PPO, however, I shall never forget the invaluable lessons that I gained during the 2-month stint. It definitely made me more confident and helped me to understand my strengths and weaknesses and left me with lessons for a lifetime- both professional and personal.