Summer Internship with ITC Limited — Shashank from Faculty of Management Studies

Wildcard entry for: –  23rd August 2012

Name of the intern: –  Shashank

Institute: –  Faculty of Management Studies, New Delhi

Organization interned with: –  ITC Limited

“Smoke to karta hi hoga na? Bas aish hai fir toh!” was the first reaction of my batch mates the day I got my summer placement offer. But in my 2 month tryst with ITC, I realized there is more to the company than just cigarettes (what the outside world thinks). I hope a glimpse of that can be caught in this narrative.

The Kolkata airport’s arrival bay was disturbed by the loud and distinct chatter of a herd of co-interns, quickly tagged as “uncultured” by the onlookers’ gaze. They would never understand the sigh of relief a b-school student relishes once the end-semesters are over. The gazes continued to mock us till we hired the signature yellow-black Ambassador taxis and vanished from the scene. As the resplendent edifice came to sight, it was excitement and pride that knocked us over as we were going to spend the next couple of days in Shonar Bangla. Getting pampered by the gods of hospitality, gorging on the most toothsome meals, enjoying high teas with the who’s who of the organization and the biggest add-on being the KKR players present in the house: every now and then someone would boast about sighting Yusuf Pathan at the spa or Gautam Gambhir in dining area. Well, for me sharing the lift with Australian speedster Brett Lee topped it all.

As the induction workshop was over, all the interns headed to their locations (me to Chennai) carrying their own tales to tell. My focus was going to be a daily use product category, really insignificant in terms of recall to a layman but not the same in terms of use. Some would not even consider it worthy enough to have a team working on its branding strategy and sales. It was matches. Landed at the business unit HQ in Chennai and had introductions with my project mentor and his sub-ordinate. Being the considerate people they are, they realized that I would be unable to cover markets in Tamil Nadu efficiently because of my inability to converse in Tamil and hence picked Lucknow as my focus market. And the very next day, there I was in the City of Nawabs. Being the non-smoker I am, always used to be confused and curious too, when my smoker friends said “Bhaiya, ek Milds/Classic/Chhoti Gold dena” at the nearby pan-shop. Day 1 on my market route and the difference between the various brands of cigarettes was crystal clear, their prices by heart.

For the next week, my daily schedule involved riding behind a salesman on the rickety by lanes of Lucknow, getting to hear a more than flattering introduction of me to the shopkeepers every day, consuming the healthiest of delicacies that road side hawkers had to offer as the Sun God showered all his love with temperatures soaring in late 40s. Unfortunately, my stomach didn’t conform to the trials & tribulations and started throwing its tantrums, making me disappear from the grid for 2 days as advised by the doctor and by my mentor. When I resumed office, I was treated with pats on my back and with phrases like “Welcome to reality! This is what they don’t teach you in MBA,” and all of a sudden the little shame I was carrying inside changed to pride. So I was back to my daily routine of compiling as much information as I could by interrogating the shopkeepers and celebrating IPL victories at night with my flat owner.

The geographical expanse of my market study extended from Lucknow, initially to the outskirts like Amethi, Kakori (yes, the same place where the train was looted) and the bike rides started getting more and more pleasant as we rode amidst fields gleaming with ripened golden wheat crops ruffled by the wind. Days ahead brought trips to Bareilly, Kanpur, Auraiya and even more  tea-samosa combos. These little sessions brought a lot of insights for my project and helped me a great deal later for my suggestions. For the final 3 weeks, I was running a pilot project in Hardoi, the town where the rickshaw pullers are ardent fans of Tokyo Drift. My hotel room brought with it a perfect sunrise view in the morning quite contrary to the afternoon view featuring a herd of buffaloes beating the heat in big pond across the road.

Amidst all this, I learnt more than what I had in 1 year of MBA at campus; how the markets function, what affects the markets, why everything is related to crops and harvests, how the retailers think, how the consumers think, how the salesmen think, what the company thinks, why it does so etc. Getting moulded into the unique eastern UP culture where even the abuses seem sweet, where you refer to your enemies also as “bhaiya”, each person brought with him loads of wisdom and unconsciously taught me a lot of lessons. By the end of the 2 months, I developed a lot of respect for the sales force who put in so much hard work in the most inhuman conditions.

As the final day drew nearer, a little restlessness and anxiety set in as this was my first corporate engagement and I wasn’t sure how had I done. The assistant managers and area managers at Lucknow office came to my rescue and answered even the pettiest of the queries with utmost patience. Compiling my final presentation and report was not a very bumpy ride because of the daily reports I had prepared for my mentor. The final presentation concluded with “good-job” and “well-done” and I headed off back home a lot wiser and richer in experience.

Want something similar for yourself? Check out the latest Internships in Chennai.

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