About Author: Sreeraj is a final year PGDM (Management) student at SDM Institute for Management Development. He interned as a Management trainee in Nairobi with CLIPS Limited.
My internship was in the dark continent. The land of the largest elephants on the globe, the land of the poor and the poorest, the land of poverty and starvation, the land of Drogba, Etoo and Song; before going to Kenya, the pictures that ran in my mind were these.
I did my internship in CLIPS Limited, Nairobi, which is a distribution company of office and school stationary. CLIPS Limited is the largest agent in Africa of world renowned stationary products that include brands like Staedtler,Uni Ball, Maped, Foldermate, and other in-house brands like Fantastick, Atlas, Alpha, and Marka. The company’s head office is in Dubai and it has got branches in various parts of the world. My internship guide was Mr. G P Rajmohan, who is the resident manager for the company.
Kenya is known for its long-distance runners. The first scene I saw after getting into a taxi from the airport was a group Kenyans running along the streets. And the capital city, Nairobi is a clean and silent city, full of greenery. Another striking feature about the people in the city is the way they follow the traffic rules. They are so concerned about safety and in no situation do they break any traffic rules.
My internship began on April 2nd, 2012 and the first thing assigned to me was to read and learn about the company and the products that the company distributed. They also provided me a list of wholesalers and retailers and the sale the company was making with them. The objectives assigned to me were:
- A study of the distribution network of CLIPS Kenya Ltd.
- A survey on the satisfaction levels of various customers of CLIPS (wholesalers, retailers, supermarkets, etc.)
- Competitor Analysis and presence
- Suggestions (if any)
After two days, my real job began. I had to go around the city, visit shops and do a survey on the various things they had printed on the questionnaire, and also gather information about the products that CLIPS was not supplying. A merchandiser was also assigned to me so that she could converse in the local language with the dealers, in case they did not understand English. I walked around each and every corner of the city, talked with lots of dealers, wholesalers, other distributing giants in Kenya and also participated in various meetings with them. I understood that Kenyan stationary market is still growing and there were still huge opportunities in there. The Government of Kenya is completely focused on improving the educational scenario of the country and hence they are opening lot of new schools and thus the market is widening. But the inflation rate is pretty pathetic and also the economic conditions of the country is in the pre-mature stage. Wealth distribution is not balanced and is concentrated in the hands of few. Also the products distributed by the company are of great quality and has wide acceptance in the market. The concern was on the service side. Most of the dealers were not that satisfied with the service the company was providing.
But, there was another side for my internship apart from the business knowledge I gained. As part of the collection of data, I had to travel from place to place. When a person goes from one city to another, a person has to pass through many small towns and villages. What I saw was really the dark side of Kenya. The villages are still pathetically under-developed; still living in huts, no electricity, no proper clothing and the physical condition of the people in those areas is appalling. I felt as if I was watching some kind of documentary by some UN channel. But still they live, they exist and they die. Another incident that happened during my SIP sends a shiver down my spine even now. May be you would have heard about the bomb blasts that occurred in Nairobi in the last week of May, which killed 4 people. The day before the blast, I was there at a supermarket collecting data for my internship. Those 24 hours really made a difference and that’s why I am writing this right now!
Overall, my internship experience was full of excitement, fun , terror and of course, knowledge. It helped me gain experience about a foreign market and that too in Africa, which is the next big destination for the multi-nationals. Even though the continent is dark, the people I met there were really bright in their conduct. They are helpful, caring and hard working. And one more thing, most of the big businesses and malls there are owned by Indians. I felt proud to be an Indian ;) I came back home with the brightest memories from the Dark continent.
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