The Curious Case of the Digital World! – Internship Experience at Mahindra & Mahindra

Come March 31st, 2014 and Mumbai, the city of dreams was calling! As I boarded my flight with a glint in my eyes ,looking forward to a coveted internship with Mahindra & Mahindra, deep down nervousness had begun to set in. After all, it was my return to the office. (I have a prior work experience of 20 months with an IT major and as happens with freshers  at large IT organizations, there are seniors always there to your rescue.)But this time around, there were added responsibilities –the challenge of completing a project within 2 months, a new fire within me and the legacy of IIFT.

 The project:

The sector assigned was Mahindra Partners. The business assigned to me was a premium women’s fashion & lifestyle magazine, edited and published by Mrs. Anuradha Mahindra- an industry completely unknown to me and highly creative. I had to conduct a comparative study and carve out a content and digital marketing for the business as the magazine would soon appear online. Not many women know this premium magazine, their clientele being highly-affluent women in metro cities.

The beginning:

The first week at their office in Worli was overwhelming as I saw before me the CEOs of the various sectors and Mr. Anand Mahindra- leaders with inspiring stories, whom I had only watched on TV before ,  answer our curious minds patiently. I also introduced myself to the other interns –Here I must mention- summer internship is also about interaction with like-minds. Your peers help you relieve the stress of work with fun moments and also form an important chunk of the memories of the internship.

Settling down:

Week 2: I was studying leading fashion & lifestyle magazines and looking up their websites-sites which I used to look at in my leisure time. Life can be such an irony! I thank my stars I had made that first report as I could come up with a few interesting things on the first meeting with my guide.( I had been assigned a guide who was a veteran with the magazine and a mentor, a senior person with  Mahindra Partners.)

Week 3: I deep dived into the project, conducting in-depth interviews and surveys to know women’s preferences while browsing online. As I waited by bookstores at luxury malls, stopped women and requested for 5 minutes from them, some simply refused to speak, sniggering “Market Research waale”. Nevertheless, undaunted, I continued building up insights on the premium as well as the mainstream audience.

Week 4: I met up people from the digital marketing and advertising field. I put down all my ideas to powerpoint, with relevant facts and figures. I re-read my presentation around 20 times to check for any points missed or any mistakes that could pull me down during the mid-term review.

The mid-term review: Ahoy! My heart skipped a beat whenever the online editor raised a question. Though I was confident that I was on the right track, I was glad when I was assured by my mentor about the same. And to my surprise, I was asked to move ahead with a new project which was the current concern of my mentor as they were happy with the roadmap presented by me for digital marketing.

This new project was a Go-To-Market Strategy for a new vertical- Custom Publishing wherein they would design customized magazines/coffee table books for four sectors- Malls/Realty/Banks/Tourism. I had to analyze the current market, competition, pricing and find out targets, then ultimately pitch for projects.

The challenges:

1)      The digital world is very fast-paced. Every website, including its social media footprint is practically updated multiple times a day. One day a site is up and running, a few days later, it is pulled off. One day you think of a unique differentiating content, next day it is on the competitor’s website.

2)      The lifestyle publishing industry was completely new to me. Then again, this would be true for every intern. But this particular industry thrives on creativity. Not only was acumen for business opportunity tested, but also the knack for creativity.

3)      Second project. Four sectors. Dwindling time. It required me to speak to almost 25-30 people per day but to my dismay, either the stakeholders refused to provide any information or they kept very busy. I had to follow up with the same person for around a week till I was given 5-6 minutes for shooting out my queries.

4)      And, of course the Mumbai locals. I also had to withstand the crowd and their sweat. Along with a small share of missing-my-stoppage days. However, had it not been for the locals, travelling to office would have been more challenging.

The learning(s):

Rising up to the challenge. Studying a whole new industry. Rich interactions. Race against time. Letting the heat and the sweat not bother me. Letting go of numerous calls for parties from old friends. Looking at earlier leisure activity as work. Need I say more?

The end:

 A sector level preview, where I was grilled, followed by a final presentation at Nashik,followed by a visit to the Sula Vineyards, followed by an awesome official “The End” party.Phew! However,my internship story would be incomplete without a mention about my guide who before leaving for abroad, told me that she would be waiting to receive my final presentation over the mail, with a smile in her eyes. Her generous praise on my efforts and at the same time, my mentor’s favourable comments after the sector level preview made my internship a very rewarding experience. Even now,I religiously open up the website on my browser, and I feel proud to see some of my recommendations incorporated.

Sreeja Bhowal,

2nd year MBA student at IIFT, Delhi