Viplav Singh Shares The Story Of His Inning At Puma That Made Him #ForeverFaster
The glassy facade of a building with a vibrant red tint contrasted against a glowing white silhouette of a mountain cat leaping upwards. A larger-than-life image of Virat Kohli looked onto the entrance as I read the words “Come Out and Play!” This was the setting of what was going to be a game-changing event in the life of an aspiring marketer whose life has been revolving around sports. This is the story of my inning that made me #ForeverFaster.
Let’s see how it all started. The entire buzz surrounding summer internships in the college was about big brands that could decorate one’s CV. I vividly remember opening an e-mail with a glimmer in my eyes and a sudden rush of blood in my heart. The e-mail said that PUMA was hiring summer interns. The entire college was abuzz with discussions on the brilliant marketing strategies adopted by the brand and names like Virat Kohli, Usain Bolt, Rihanna and many more. The marketer in me was looking forward to being a part of the world’s leading sports brand but it was the sports-lover in me who was excited to imbibe the energy that is associated with the name!
The rigorous selection process began with an aptitude test which was the first screening of the candidates. It tested a candidate’s ability to think logically, his/her time management along with uncompromised accuracy with speed. I was a little anxious at first about getting into the next round but after the results were announced, I gained a little confidence. I had cleared the test. The next round was the submission of a one-minute video with a brief introduction of mine and my idea of my first day at PUMA. The video tested creative thinking and out-of-the-box mode of presentation of the content. This was followed by an array of interviews. The process went on parallel to my semester exams taking the rigour a notch higher. The target was huge and time ran quicker than usual, much like the famous Commonwealth Bank Series in Hobart in 2012. The game was India versus Sri Lanka and the men in blue needed to chase a mammoth 321 under 40 overs wherein Virat Kohli, who happens to be a brand ambassador for PUMA, played a pivotal role in India’s win scoring his ninth ODI ton (133 Not Out). In the post-match interview, Virat spoke about his strategy during the match – “Chasing 321 under 40 overs was tough if you look at it from the outset. We just took it as playing two T20 games, chasing 160 in each, which is not that difficult.” The sport has the answer to every problem in the world, isn’t it? It was all about planning and how you look at the problem and keep yourself motivated. After a set of multiple interviews and a period of interchangeable anticipations and apprehensions, the results were announced. I had made the cut and was ready for my hustle at PUMA.
One of the largest sports brands in the world, PUMA has essentials of sport deeply embedded in its work culture. This was evident even before the internship began. A team of 16 interns from premier B-schools of the country was on its way to experiencing corporate life the PUMA way. The interns have gifted a coupon each to buy their fitness gear before embarking upon their pursuits as they were to be greeted with a heavy-duty workout session as the first thing when they join. That set the tone of what was going to be an amazing journey as it had us pushing our limits on the very first day. The HR team of PUMA broke the ice with a ‘Bring Your Own Talent’ event wherein the interns got to know a lot about one another. The event left us a lot closer than we were before we walked into the organisation.
Throughout the course of my internship, I saw how things become easy when you do what you love. PUMA is a place where meetings happen over a game of ‘passage football’ (a football game played inside the office in the passage between desks), people hustle to make the brand what it is with upbeat music playing in the background and you don’t just work when/because the boss is watching. PUMA is an epitome of how an organisation with a very flat organisational structure makes you your own boss.
I got an opportunity to be mentored by Mr Rishi Arora, the National Key Accounts Manager for PUMA India. The project that was assigned to me was Competitor Analysis and Product Strategy Recommendations for PUMA’s Running, Training and Fitness footwear which boast of quite a huge market in the country. The project tested almost all of the core competencies a manager needs to have – right from interaction with various sales personnel to a detailed study of markets and sales channels. The project gave me an idea of how things work in the real world and more importantly, how do you make it work when they don’t. The challenges that it threw towards me were varied – from learning certain statistical techniques from scratch to gauging customer perception of the brand. It was testing, it was challenging but it was never dull. That is the most peculiar thing about PUMA, if I had to define it in one word, I would say ‘Energy’. The energy that propels you forward in those late nights when you burn the midnight oil, those days when nothing goes your way and during those weekends when you don’t go out with your friends but are paying your dues to make it big. The undying, unrelenting spirit of getting the job done, of realising what we dream of, forms the DNA of the organisation.
The Summer Internship Program is a peephole into the corporate right before the future managers take the bull by the horns in the real world. My two-month stint at Puma Sports India Pvt. Ltd. did just that. It was as challenging as it was fun. The professional learning and the personal growth, both competed for equal proportions as the internship drew to a close with one key takeaway for all of us – The Art of Getting The Job Done!