The Perfect Internship – Emami
With 31 % of FMCG value sales and high growth potential, Rural market is where everyone wants to go to, but perhaps, not as a summer intern. Not all summer internships are well planned and not all of the rest go as per the plan. My summer internship at Emami was one such experience, which was a balance of invaluable learning about the rural marketing and stark practicalities of field work.
To enjoy the summer internship, one either needs an awesome profile with a fat pay check or a cool mentor. I certainly had the later. When I called up Mr.Abhijan, my mentor and Manager at Navratna brand team, for the first time after receiving the offer letter, he took all the time to explain what could be our work as a summer intern at Emami. All that I understood was that I would be involved in a door to door campaign, a BTL activity to boost Navratna sales and awareness in rural markets. A lot of questions popped up, would I have to do the door to door sales? How rural would be the place I would visit?? A quick chat with my fellow interns and I realized that I wasn’t the only one confused. However, there was little time before we were to visit the HQ at Kolkata and I chose to rather to spend some quality family time than speculate on what was to come.
Lesson 1: Confusion isn’t uncommon!!!
The first impression is the best and thanks to the Indian railways, I was late to the first meeting at HQ. However, we were greeted with smiles by HR who led us to the meeting hall where the interns were being addressed by the Navratna Brand Manager. The meeting was near completion and to add to our awkwardness, there were no chairs left and we had to drag in a few, slightly disturbing the ongoing meeting. I couldn’t help but notice the DCP (Desperate Class Participation) by few of my fellow interns and soon realized that I missed out on the HR briefing part. The next session was postponed by 2 hrs.
Lesson 2: If anything can go wrong, it surely will!!!
Post lunch session was informative as Mr.Abhijan demystified the glorified rural markets and reminded us how hard it is to capture it. I could see it already as some of the interns were reluctant to work in the rural markets and insisted to shift their location. As of me, I wanted to explore the option and waited for my turn. Finally I was asked to measure the effectiveness of BTL campaigns in the rural areas of the Nellore District, AP. I was told that I would be guided by the Area Sales Officer (ASO) in Nellore, who would also run the campaign. I set out to Nellore on train, hoping that the campaign would be in place by the time I reach there and dozed off making plans of how to measure its effectiveness: Market research, sales figures, and a lot more.
Reaching Nellore, I was surprised to find that the ASO expected me to run the campaign instead and found that the campaign would also be delayed due to stock issues. I took this time to take market visits in the villages assigned to me in the jam-packed ordinary buses. So I was virtually left without a mentor in a Tier III city and was supposed to run campaign, measure its effectiveness and access the alternatives, coordinating with the third party agencies, in the rural parts of the district. Of course I could call up Mr.Abhijan for any queries.
Lesson 3: There will be surprises, unpleasant ones too. But Jobs was right, one can only connect the dots back to judge them.
The next one week went into arranging the stock, hiring the supervisors, training them and briefing the third party agency. Much effort also went into planning the day to day activity, the areas to be visited, the reporting formats and monitoring mechanism. When we just thought we were ready, we encountered a rather strange problem. Due to the ongoing election campaigns in the district, finding daily wagers for the job became difficult, as they earned more going to the political rallies and meetings, besides a pack of biryani and drinks. We had to realign the plan as per the available strength and start the activity.
Lesson 4: Non market forces aren’t as trivial as we thought in the classrooms.
Technology and timings were the next big problems. All the promoters (the daily wagers) were given tabs to work on and show a specially made commercial to the households, talk about the brand, take a few details (market research) and make a sales pitch, visiting about 60 houses per day. Though this is a common practise in the BTL campaigns of other FMCG biggies, there were problems in training the promoters. In some villages, promoters could not use the tabs at all. Finding the ideal time for the visits was also a problem as most households would be busy in the daily chores in the mornings and would take a nap in the afternoon. When we found that the ideal time was between 11:00 Am to 1:00 PM, we found that the sweltering summer took a toll on the promoters during the mid-day, which affected the campaign.
Working with the agencies is a different ball game altogether. While FMCGs generally spend a lot on BTL activities to promote awareness, the promoters only care about the sales targets and no matter how much effort one puts in, it’s nearly impossible to get properly filled reports. The data is mostly fudged and one cannot take a call based on it, unless the activity is closely monitored and motivated.
Lesson 5: The ideas made in the board room meet a lot of challenges on field.
I seemed to rather lose track of time as I realised that hardly two weeks were left before the internship ended. Hence I finally decided to dedicate time for what I was initially directed to do, measuring how effective the campaign was. Now that the campaign was still running, I couldn’t quantify how good or bad it is. Hence I decided to administer a questionnaire, visiting households in hot summer.
Bathing in sweat every time I went out, I managed to visit 30 houses in the first phase. This was however, the most exciting, though tiring part of the internship. I was greeted by the slum dwellers, who readily shared their experiences, some households were doubtful if I was a thief and a few even banged their doors on my face. Some felt pity saying what all mean jobs one has to do for survival and some even enquired what my political interests were.
Lesson 6: Meeting new people only broadens ones perspective.
As I dived deep into the replies, I found that the campaign was not as effective as expected and shared the same with the brand team. However, they insisted that my opinion would change if I had a bigger sample of responses. I visited another 30 houses and many more retailers but every other response only strengthened my opinion. To re check my findings, I conducted a Focus group session with 20 promoters in the slums of Nellore and checked their report sheets, cancelling all the fake entries and finding the genuine ones.
Lesson 7: Rural Marketing isn’t a cake walk. But it is the toughest experience that makes a sweet memory.
To my surprise, my report was welcomed with humble acknowledgment to the findings and the alternatives I suggested were thoroughly discussed. Mr. Abhijan also apprised us of a few possible future actions that could be taken. But looking back and connecting the dots, I believe that choosing to work in a rural market had been a right choice. Well it was tough, but I found that BOP concepts can fail in some rural markets, learnt management lessons from sales men who had two definitions for every marketing term : porter’s and theirs, sold Navratna in villages and realised that the buffalos do have some traffic sense but auto drivers do not.