Why only Sex or Sharukh Khan Sells! – Summer Internship in Branding at Mahindra

The title of my story, notwithstanding its embarrassing nature, is inspired by an off-hand remark by one lesser known member of the tinsel town which gained overwhelming popularity by the sheer juxtaposition of two such poignant terms – Sex and Shahrukh Khan. A few years back when I had first heard it, I perhaps laughed it off, found it lame or could have even fount it witty – I really don’t recall. Today, somehow the significance of the statement is screaming out to me. I owe it to the two months exercise in ‘Branding and Positioning’.

Positioning

PROLOGUE

A well-known American tv series, through its popular slogan ‘Winter is Coming’, has rendered a sense of awe to the term ‘Winter’. Same is the spot held by ‘Summer’ in the Indian b-schools. Now that summer has come and gone, and I sit to write this article, I find myself amidst a whirlwind of memories – not just those two months of summers but almost a year preceding it.

To be precise, the summer frenzy started at the very end of the first day of college with a simple statement by a fellow senior, ‘Report in the Audi at 05:59:59 in Full Formals or you are Signed out of Summers’. Before our minds could interpret the full significance of the ‘alien phrases’ mentioned above, we were at the thick of things (If you thought you have been through your share of GD/PIs preparing to get into a b-school, then perhaps you should hold that opinion till you get in one). 3 months of rigour followed by one fateful week and our destinies were decided.  For me, it was Mahindra & Mahindra.

ACT I

SCENE 1

It was an afternoon lecture. I was struggling to pay attention to the various ‘sigma’ signs the professor drew on the board but mostly dozing off (naturally). I was awakened by the vibration of my phone signalling an incoming mail followed by the scornful looks of the neighbours sitting beside me. ‘Gmail’ had adorned the mail with the yellow star identifying it as an important one. And important it was. It contained my project details.

Project Title: Re-establishment/ Re-positioning of select Mahindra Partner Portfolio Companies
Project Sector: Mahindra Partner
Project Location: Mumbai

My reaction: Thank the good lord (or Larry Page and Sergey Brin) for Google!

SCENE 2

Air India 774 landed in Mumbai at 11:25 a.m., 31st March with me in it. The announcement said the outside temperature was 37 degrees Celsius, and here I was thinking that the internship was going to be the toughest part of this summer. After a day of house-hunting with 3 different brokers, losing my Pan Card in a cab and being chased by two street dogs, I finally found an accommodation. Not the most desirable start but I was enjoying it. My grandfather always insisted that one should enjoy adversities more than successes, they make greater stories.

SCENE 3

Mahindra & Mahindra – a federation of many companies. A 4 day induction process was conducted to welcome the 66 GMC interns to the Mahindra family. Sessions were held by industry big-wigs like Rajiv Dubey, Pawan Goenka and Anand Mahindra himself. Healthy interaction was encouraged with the speakers as well as the 66 interns from the best business schools of the country. I was thoroughly awed by the collective IQ around me. Work started from the following week.

ACT 2

SCENE 1

I met my mentor along with 5 other interns who would work in the same department. A brief detail of our projects was given to each of us and we were on our own.  My project entitled me to work on the positioning of Mahindra Partner companies and formulate digital marketing strategies for the same.

I had done my homework well. An average supermarket has 40,000 products. An average human vocabulary consists of 8000words. Simple Mathematics shows us the growing need to uniquely position a product in the consumers’ mind. I knew how Xerox had positioned itself as the only copier, Cadbury was synonymous with chocolate and of course ‘Thanda matlab Coca Cola’. From text books by Philip Kotler to reference works by Jack Trout, I had read them all. In short, I had my act in place. I was excited too before reality hit hard like a gush of cold wind.
Fact 1: I was to deal with 8 companies in different industries
Fact 2: The companies spanned across sectors like, consulting engineering, processed steel, logistics, renewable energy, boat manufacturing, vocational training, conveyor systems and retail. (So effectively, I was not really dealing with the Coke/Pepsis of the world. I was to direct my marketing activities not towards consumers but towards other businesses. Didn’t seem all that fancy anymore)
Fact 3: All these in 8 weeks

But I stuck to my grandfather’s logic about adversity.

SCENE 2

In the next few weeks, I scheduled appointments with the employees of several companies. This included the internal companies of Mahindra as well as the competitors in each industry. This was followed by customer surveys which in most cases were other businesses. This helped me analyse the current positioning as well as the gap existing in the market. After understanding the problems faced by the industries, growth drivers and current capabilities of our companies I conceptualised the new positioning for some of these companies (Some I felt were not required to be re-positioned).

The next stage was meeting the digital marketing and IT consulting agencies. Being a non-engineer, I have always considered technology as the bogeyman. (Till date I prefer writing with pen and paper over typing it out). And here my project not only entailed me to understand new technologies but also to employ them and formulate unique marketing strategies.  My initial resistance towards technology hindered the process a bit. But, gradually I opened up to the idea and was almost fascinated by the subject. Ironically, the most challenging aspect of my job turned out to be the most enjoyable one too as it had opened up new avenues of marketing I had been so unaware of. Finally I had put together a presentation with my recommendations.

SCENE 3

I presented it before my mentor. He appreciated some aspects of my work and suggested improvements for some. Lastly, I did not bag a PPO for the internship, as is the dream in most cases. But the ride has been good and the learning was great. Met good people and made great memories.

EPILOGUE

In my childhood days, we used to have a yearly carnival in our town, with the giant-wheel being its biggest attraction. The kids in the town would wait a whole year in anticipation. As the time of the year would approach, the fervour would increase. And then on the fateful day, we would find ourselves on the giant wheel – with fear, excitement, panic, and longing – an exhilarating experience to say the least. And once it’s over, we would spend days relating our unique experiences to one another. It was strange how each one would feel so differently about the same ride. And more relevantly, it was one of those ‘you-had-to-be-there’ experiences. May be this is the reason why, in my mind I always associated the summer saga to be a ride on the giant wheel.

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Subarna Mukherjee
Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (New Delhi)
2013-15
Project Domain : General Management

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