About Author: Shakul, a final year MBA (Marketing) student at Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Kolkata interned with Madura Fashion and Lifestyle, Bangalore. He shares his internship experience in Sales which included an exciting journey through 27 different cities in 4 different states of India.
“This is the last time that you would be working in a company as a student, so you are allowed to commit mistakes and have a second chance. Make the maximum out of it-it’s time for action!” These were the words from my mentor with which my summer internship kick-started. It was at Madura Fashion and Lifestyle, a division of Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd, one of India’s fastest growing branded apparel companies and a premium lifestyle player in the retail sector. Madura Fashion & Lifestyle is defined by its brands Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly, Peter England, and People that personify style, attitude, luxury, and comfort.
So after the initial two day orientation program, all the interns were assigned their respective projects. It was partly based on a form that they had made us fill a few weeks before the internship commenced. It had questions about any previous projects which we had done and a write-up about ourselves. There were 19 interns in total from 6 different B-schools. The whole program was very well organized, with each intern being allotted a separate mentor in addition to an HR person who was available for any other assistance.
To tell you briefly about my project, it was based on market mapping to increase the presence and penetration of the company’s brands by looking at opportunities in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. It included; drawing a clear map for relevant markets across potential cities in a state, mapping the company’s presence in each of these markets vis a vis the competition, suggesting presence/penetration strategy viz consignment, buy and sell or MBO(Multi Brand Outlet), brands and sub brands, and collection of the data of relevant stores which should be targeted. The data should say which brands they carry along with the margin structure, size of store, and the annual business of the store. The project involved traveling – insane amount of traveling! My first stint was in the states of MP and Chhattisgarh. As it was the first time I was actually working for a company, I was a bit apprehensive in the beginning regarding how I should go about this assigned task. I used the following approach, some part of which was suggested by my mentor and rest was out of brainstorming with myself –
STEP 1: Identifying the potential cities after discussing with the area manager and creating a plan of visit to each of them.
STEP 2: Identifying the major dealers (mostly MBOs) by exploring the relevant markets and classifying them as – a. Currently doing MFL brands b. Doing only competitor’s brands.
STEP 3: Talk to them about their business, brand performances, types of customers etc and gauge their interest and potential.
STEP 4: List out the dealers who have a potential to start/increase the present MFL business, start a new brand, or/and are willing to lease some space etc.
STEP 5: Suggesting strategies for growth in each of these markets.
After finalizing my itinerary, I set out on my tour starting from Indore. Subsequently I visited 9 more cities in MP followed by 5 in Chhattisgarh. The journeys were amazing and it included almost all modes of transport and of all levels – from flight journeys to crammed local buses, from clean AC 2-tier bogies to dirty, jam-packed local trains. And the work within the city involved walking – in the markets, malls, high streets and any other relevant place. The working hours had to be between 11 am in the morning to 6 in the evening because that is the time when the dealers are free and available for discussions. But working in those hours in scorching sun, that too in the month of April and May was arduous. Regular intake of water and glucose was imperative to avoid myself from withering away. But the zeal to do something productive kept me going.
The best part was the Birla group’s travel policy. Even though I was just an intern, the expenditure limits were such that I was eligible to spend almost any amount on food and traveling (save 5 star hotels, business class, and AC 1-tier- that would be like asking too much!). I was asked to report through mail every 2-3 days about my activities and findings. For that, I prepared two different formats – one containing all the details about the dealers and the second one having other information based out of my observations. From the very beginning I was aware that the one thing they expected from me was sincerity and the well formatted reporting reflected that part. Initially it was difficult to get the retailers to talk since I did not have any fixed agenda for them. But as the days progressed, I developed that art of striking a conversation and leading them into a healthy discussion from which I was able to gather all the required information. After I had covered all the markets in MP and Chhattisgarh, I was asked to make a presentation to the manager in charge for Western India in Mumbai. At the end of it, he was fairly content with the overall analysis and the strategies that I suggested based on the findings. He also pointed out the little fallacies out of my inexperience and made some valuable suggestions which helped me later.
My next assignment was in the states of AP and Kerala where I visited 12 more cities. The work was the same but the market was very different as compared to the previous ones. Language was a barrier at times but a mixture of the known words and the evergreen sign language saw me through at all times. Finally towards the end of the internship, all the interns had to present their project before a panel of managers from different domains. To my satisfaction, they appreciated my efforts – the ultimate aim for which I had worked through the previous two months. Overall, it was a great learning experience, a good beginning to bank upon.
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