Summer internships are perhaps the most hyped activity that every student at any B-school keeps hearing and planning about right from the first day he/she enters into a campus. I was no different and had a lot of dreams and visions to get into an FMCG major and become a Sales God in just a two-month long stint in some part of India. As a wise man once said, “Man proposes and God, in his own way, disposes”. All said and done, I was successful in bagging a Sales and Marketing role with none other than the TATA Group, although in a different segment, namely TATA Motors.
Now, every MBA candidate who gets a Sales and Marketing internship would hope to be in the FMCG sector rather than hardcore automobiles and then even in automobiles would hope for passenger vehicles rather than commercial vehicles. Well, to say the least, I was no different and had similar hopes. You would have guessed the role of fate in this as well by now. I got a Sales and Marketing internship with TATA Motors in their Commercial Vehicles Business Unit at Bangalore for their Intermediate and Light Commercial Vehicles Range in the Karnataka region.
Now, the way I have articulated the sequence of events, it might seem I was not too happy about the internship. However, it was the exact opposite since I had already seen the working of the motor parts business and getting into commercial vehicles was an equally interesting avenue for me.
My internship with TATA Motors started from 1st April, 2014 and continued till 3rd June, 2014. These two months were an eye-opener in various aspects, be it the actual, real-time functioning of organizations, the corporate lifestyle, or the on-ground sale realities.
TATA Motors truly lived up to its reputation of being a progressive organization and on the very first day we had an address from the Chairman, Mr Cyrus Mistry followed by a personal address from the HR Head, Mr Vikram Bector. After a warm welcome into the corporate world, we were given an overview of the TATA Group with focus on TATA Motors. Now, you can very well imagine how long and illustrious even a brief overview of a group as huge as the TATA Group would take. After the overview we had a few formalities such as Non-Disclosure Agreements followed by introductions to our mentors.
My internship was pretty well structured with the first week concentrating on me getting to know the Intermediate Commercial Vehicle segment and also each and every detail of our product offering. This, I believe, is a crucial step for any marketer. My project had two major phases which were sequenced so as to produce a scientific approach towards evaluating and providing recommendations for marketing and positioning our product. The first phase was of Market Research wherein I travelled across the length and breadth of Bangalore to meet and interview more than 110 different customers in this segment.
Before delving into the phases, the reader should know a little about my product as well. My deliverable was to provide proper positioning of the Ultra range of Trucks – a new product offering from TATA Motors. This range is truly a case of disruptive innovation in that the cabin totally revolutionized the concept of comfort and accessibility for the transporters. The vehicles have a car-like cabin and handled smoothly even at speeds in excess of 100kmph.
The research phase gave me a lot of insights regarding the customers and the various nuances that differentiated the Commercial Vehicles Sector from the Passenger Vehicles. My mentor was able to provide me with leads to follow up for finding customers of both TATA Motors and our competitors. It was at this point that I understood the relevance of knowing all the Business Research Methods and applications of statistics to derive more accurate results and inferences.
The second phase of my project was to evaluate our performance in terms of planning and execution of ATL and BTL activities and generation of pipelines. This was quite a complicated task as it required identification of relevant parameters on which to evaluate ourselves and our competitors. The positioning of various brands in this segment was derived on the basis of the customer feedbacks gathered in the Market Research Phase. In order to better understand the parameter set required, I visited each of our dealerships and interacted with the ground sales force to better understand the purchase behavior.
As my project progressed, I could see patterns emerging from my data on customer feedbacks and purchase behavior. It is at this point that I truly understood the importance of a structured approach to market research. After loads of customer visits and BTL activities, I was also given the opportunity to close deals with a few key customers and this was like the icing on the cake. Towards the end, I must add that although moving around in Bangalore is not a major issue, interacting and convincing customers who were more from a rural background and primarily spoke Kannadda was a major challenge that taught me how to better communicate so as to get across your value proposition to the customer. This I believe was a take-away that significantly improved my confidence in my pitching skills.
The saga wouldn’t be complete without an insight into the work culture at TATA Motors. I can personally vouch for the helpful nature of each colleague I met, be it from any level in the hierarchy. This work culture increases motivation levels and energy in the office to very high levels even when it’s not the month end and there are no major deals to close.