Daily Winner for: – 3rd August 2013
Name of the intern: – B J V S P Varun
Weekly Winner (Popular Choice) for – 1st Aug – 8th Aug 2013
Institute: – IIM Raipur
Organization interned with: – Tata Starbucks, Mumbai
Summer internship, representing the last two-month break before one enters the big bad corporate world, will make a person experience a love-hate relationship with the organization. Sometimes you will feel so comfortable that you start to think that you have been working there for years, and at other times you will feel like an intruder and start doubting yourself.
But, however clichéd it sounds, it can only be understood when experienced. Well, so even I finally lived it! Phew, must say it was worth it! Seeing an iconic brand being built in a country which proves every international business principle wrong (examples like P&G, McD etc), was something I can never forget.
My first day in office was something I had not been expecting in my wildest dreams. I was made to wait for 10 minutes at the reception, after which I was escorted to the director of marketing. He asked me to go on a tour of all the stores in the city. I was completely taken aback. Later, he asked if I was new to the city, to which I nodded. I thought he would be kind enough to ask me to go after a few days, when I had settled in, but what he said blew me off my feet. He said, “Go find your way. I don’t think there is a better way of understanding who we are and how we see our competition. However much I tell you will not matter unless you actually visit the stores and come up with your own analysis.” Not only did he ask me to go to the stores of the company but I was also made to go to the competitors’ stores as well. However, after the task was completed, it gave me a sense of satisfaction and I was not exposed to such challenging tasks later on.
The work environment was definitely very relaxed as the organizational structure was flat as opposed to the vertical approach. Also, the company’s mission – to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time was followed in true spirit right from the back end to the front end- the stores.
On top of that, there was no formal dress code, with the option to wear anything comfortable. The Mondays were definitely the days to look out for as there would be an informal gathering of the entire workforce labeled the ‘Coffee tasting’ session. This session is one of the most fun-filled sessions, with black coffee from around the world being tasted and its blend history being understood. It was very enjoyable and interesting, since Indians, being majorly a tea-drinking population, have coffee only occasionally, and it’s never without milk. So trying black coffee was definitely an experience to savor, with the newcomers fighting their discomfort and the veterans showing that they are connoisseurs by using the language of coffee – describing it as woody, earthy or spicy.
After the wonderful task of getting to go around the city and understanding what’s actually happening in the burgeoning retail café industry, I was expecting some more action. Unfortunately, it was not as exciting as what I had done earlier but nevertheless it did interest me, owing to it being my first experience in the corporate world. It consisted mostly of observing what was happening in the stores around the city and then documenting it. It included wonderful interactions with the Baristas’ store workers and understanding their side of the story. They were the most important people in the entire value chain as they directly interacted with the customers. They were the ones who faced the wrath or the recommendations. So it was definitely interesting to hear the story of the company from the horse’s mouth.
The other interesting work that came along my way was competition tracking. It entitled me to go and sit for around six-seven hours in a competitor’s store and understand their way of working and build a rapport with the workforce out there to understand their culture of coffee and also to get to know their financials. It was initially very irritating to go and sit at a place for 6 hours with nothing much to do. But as the days passed it was very heartening to build up a relationship with the workforce. In retail, however big the company or the brand maybe, it is the people who work in the stores who matter the most. They are the people who can clinch the deal in favor of the company. These people have amazingly interesting stories to speak about especially about the different kind of customers they get in touch with. To give an example, at an airport store it would be a customer who wants a quick bite and in a mall it would usually be the young crowd and in the flagship store it would be people who want to experience the brand. So the set of customers they encounter is largely different.
The challenges and the learning’s during this phase were manifold. They included an entirely new approach to my interactions with people. The corporate culture of sparing no one was another definitive challenge that I had to encounter. It was not that they were after me but that I could make out at least this much, that no matter how much of shit you are in, it will only be you and yourself while getting out of it.
The learning’s were something I imbibed from the observations and repeated questioning rather than the ‘gyaan’ sometimes we get from colleagues. But whom am I fooling by saying I’ve learned subject from observing. It was more of the all round culture of working than just the subject learning’s. Well actually, the tag of being from a branded college worsens your chances of grounded interactions. I would have loved it to be the more normal way.
My whole stay at this wonderful organization would not have been possible without the support of a young TAS manager who himself passed out of IIM-C in 2012. I was really touched by his kindness to accommodate me from the word go.
A different thing that I did during my 2 month stay was the CSR initiative taken up by the organization, called Community service. It involved setting up an organic garden for the cancer-affected children staying in an organization called St.Judes, on the Tata Memorial Hospital campus. It was maybe not as colorful as the regular CSR activities, since the euphoria was different, but what struck me more was the kind of bonhomie top management and the partners had. I felt it was another large cause that the activity helped in. I myself had such good interactions with the staff that they recognize me when I enter the stores they work in.
This internship stood out because of quite a lot of things, with major ones being- understanding the way the brand was being nurtured from scratch in a tea-loving nation, my stay with a friend who epitomizes my childhood and the wonderful city of Bombay. I definitely couldn’t have asked for a better two-month break albeit that I had to work.
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