Summer Internship at GlaxoSmith Kline-Consumer Healthcare – Sakshi Vashist from SCMHRD Pune

Sakshi Vashist (second row, right-most girl, with a chirpy smile) interned at GlaxoSmith Kline-Consumer Healthcare, and tells how her day-and-night efforts during the internship finally helped her get the PPO from the company. Sakshi is an MBA student at SCMHRD Pune. Read her experience in her own words.

On a warm afternoon of February-end in Pune, I was getting anxious neither because our first year of MBA was getting over nor because our exams were approaching. My nervousness was because, in a month I was to embark upon the Summer Intern journey and still had no idea what I will be doing. Even the other to-be-interns at GlaxoSmith Kline-Consumer Healthcare had a similar feeling. Although, I think, I was the only one vocal about it.

March 1, 2014
To my inbox: Summer Internship Project details: “Increase GSK’s wholesale business by leveraging sell-in and sell-out strategies.”

Now presented with a title of my project, I wondered how to proceed, so I decided to dissect the title itself:
1. Increase business 2. Wholesale channel 3. Leverage 4. Sell-in 5. Sell-out 6. Strategies

My immediate resorts were the seniors who were counting their last days in college. The next week I approached my professors, one of them shed some light on “sell-in”–which means how company sells to a channel, in this case, wholesale. But, he too was confused with what exactly is sell-out. What do we sell? Who do we sell out to?

I kept pondering over these questions for a day or two, when I got a mail from my office, stating that I can contact them on the stated number. Excited, I called him the same evening. No answer. I called him the next morning. No answer. The next day they called back, saying they have assigned me a mentor. I was given a name and number. The next day, after doing some primary and secondary research, I called my mentor. No answer. Called him again in the evening; no answer. So I called the HR SPOC for the college in GSK-CH. Again, No answer.

I realized that the employees in this company are REALLY busy! I had no option, but to wait. Fortunately, in a couple of days my mentor called and briefed me about the project. With a sudden influx of knowledge, I could sleep properly that night. “Live project”, “Very important for company”, “You’ll have to deliver”, “Be thorough”, “You’ll have to travel extensively”, “Everyone is looking forward to this project” and mostly “Read more and brief me what do you feel, in 3 days?”

The night was of March 11, and I laughed to myself, deadlines already! This was going to be a tough nut to crack. And it was! After a regular follow up with primary and secondary research throughout my final term exams, the day finally arrived when all the interns were received at the Gurgaon guest house of the company.

April 1, 2014
To my surprise, not many were thorough with their project topics or briefs. Then again, I remembered what my mentor had said, “Very important for the company”–maybe only my project. This was confirmed after the first chat with my mentor. His first question was, do you know the projects of other interns? You realize how important yours is, compared to others? Obviously, I was no genius to decipher project details of every *competitive* intern with their one-line answers, but neither am I stupid enough to not guess by those questions that my project is under a radar–a very special radar.

By Day 10, I had a folder full of excel and word files to analyze. By Day 13, I was meeting my guide and mentor, not knowing how to proceed. My briefing went soar because I was still confused on some areas.
I had two deliverables:
1. Recognize most efficient strategies for increasing reach and doing more business through wholesalers.
2. Incorporate best in-market strategies in Q3- Q4 calendar.

“What” was clear, “When” and “How” were still a question mark. So I sat down with my mentor, Day 15, and we charted out a potential plan for my travel and things to do. Day 17, I had prepared my questionnaires for wholesalers, shoppers (retailers, stockists, traders, customers and consumers) and promoters. Those were worked up on and improved and a final version was ready by Day 18. I presented them to my guide, in my second meeting with him. And he wished me luck and gave us a go. Day 21, I flew to Hyderabad. Before I left, I was given clear instructions:
1. No less than 25 wholesalers and 10 shopper interviews each day
2. Update every 6 hours about new learnings
3. Send a brief report by EOD
4. Click as many pictures as possible
5. Ping when you leave a city & when you reach a hotel
6. Call anytime!

On Day 25, I presented my detailed analysis of South India, comprising of my visit to Hyderabad, Bangalore and Coimbatore. There was only 1 problem cited in the presentation- “You are throwing out data and voicing the people you talked to. We got you here to know what you think. We also know these facts and figures. What is your opinion? That’s what the company wants to know”. I made special effort to improve myself in the next market visit to Mumbai (Thane and Masjid) and Indore, but the next scheduled presentation was crucial; it was named “Mid-term Review”.

Week 5, Day 3: I presented 3 concrete ideas on which I would work as well as give my final recommendation. I was meeting my guide for the third time and he said, “You have made revelations in the last 2 hours which I have not seen in 20 years of my career. In fact, I would have not sat here for 2 hours had I been not intrigued with every slide in your presentation. Substantiate your ideas with your next market visits and we’ll do the same on our end. Good work.” With that, I knew I was on the right track.

In the next 2 weeks, I went to East and North India, venturing into Kolkata, Patna, Jaipur and Delhi. By last week of May, I was having sleepless nights. I had too much data and too less time to analyze it, following which I was supposed to make recommendations- minimum 5.
May 25, 2014. Project extended by 15 days.

My mentor suggested, “We can present today or tomorrow, because you have the data and analyses. But it can become better, and if it can, why not?” I went along with his idea. We made 5 thorough recommendations, brainstormed where we got stuck and took help from all stake holders to understand each scenario better. Apart from this, I also submitted another set of 5 not-so-thorough recommendations, separately. Tonnes of phone-calls, dozens of meetings and million times revisions- later my final presentation was ready, almost ready.
I went back to Delhi market and bounced off the recommendations, if they would work on not. I came back with a content heart.

June 7, 2014
Final review with my boss and his boss, where my mentor said beforehand, he won’t be interfering. And, they were impressed. I not just presented, I told them a story. A story spun over 2 months of travel in 9 cities, where I talked to 300+ wholesalers and 100+ shoppers. I had sprained my leg and also had smiled my way into the claustrophobic buildings to talk to sweaty men sitting without a fan or light. I had walked in scorching heat with, sometimes, nobody to assist or guide. Fortunate if a Distributor Sales Representative of company’s sales executive (rare occasion) tagged along. Some places, I found men too rude to talk and at some places, I needed translator. But overall, I could get some or all answers from all of them. With each interview lasting from 1 to 45 minutes, I realized cultural differences in each region. And hence, were my recommendations: niche programs to suite to the different categories of people GSK-CH deals with. After a breathless final PPT lasting 45 mins, I was given a recommendation for a PPO.

2 days later, I was narrating the same story to Sales VP of the company, of how our strategies are working and how can they be better. With each recommendation, I had supportive collaterals – either a dummy or a brochure or a dossier.  That evening, I went back home, kicked away my heels and left for Rohtang Pass.

I had done my bit. I had done everything I could, not because I had to; but because I was always guided so well to. If I had an idea, I could call my mentor at 11 pm and he would listen. If I was freaking out, I could say it and I would get help. Such was the environment of this FMCH giant!

Throughout the two and a half months, I was not only trying to surpass my own expectations, but also fighting to live the expectations of a million dollar FMCH Company, who chose me as one of the 30 interns for their summer internship program.

Done and Dusted. I resumed my college on June 24.
August 11: I was named one amongst the 4 interns to get a PPO.
And I felt, my summer internship story is now complete.

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