About the Author: Jananie SV, a student of M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Nungambakkam, talks about her blockbuster internship experience in the colour and vibrancy of movies.
I’m an avid movie lover and a regular movie goer. Whenever I went for a movie, it was always at an SPI Cinemas outlet. SPI (earlier known as Sathyam) is an Indian multiplex chain and film production company, owned by the SPI group, headquartered in Chennai. Over time, I had moved on from being a mere customer to becoming a fan of the trusted brand that SPI was. I wanted to know more about the organisation which led me to approach them for an internship. SPI cinemas has a very active presence on social media. I had sent a personal message to them on Twitter inquiring about internship openings. A few hours later, they replied by asking for my resume. Once I did that, I got a call from the HR department and a meeting was set up.
I assumed that the meeting would be super formal, just as in any other organisation, with a panel of two or three senior HR people hurling questions at me, to judge my aptitude and attitude. I entered the office and was ushered into a lounge area which seemed like a pretty cool workspace – with bean bags, leather cushions, and long comfy-looking sofas. A person came and greeted me. He began a casual conversation and asked about my likes, dislikes, what I was passionate about, and why I had picked their company for internship. All my answers were focused on two things – my love for movies and my admiration of the brand SPI. I was asked to hang around in the lounge and speak to other interns as well, some of whom had been interning for periods as long as 10 months. I asked them about the organisation, the different departments, and work timings. I was initially confused with regard to what department I would fit into and what was even there to pick from. The interns told me the various projects they were a part of and what was required of them in each of their departments. This helped me gain clarity as to where I might probably fit in. Once this meeting was done, I was told that I would receive an email from the ‘externship’ team – the team dedicated to looking after internship programs, consisting of HR representatives as well as long-working interns.
The email I received consisted of an audio clip, which guided me to fill my details into an ‘ECG Matrix’. I had to divide a sheet of paper into three columns: experience, growth, and contribution, and fill them with whatever came to my mind – what I would like to experience, areas in which I’d like to see myself grow, what and how I would like to contribute to an organisation, etc. The audio clip broke each of the three categories into specific questions which were to be answered. Time was allotted for each column; it was like a rapid-fire where you had to jot down your thoughts instantaneously and stop when the buzzer rang. Once all the columns were filled, I had to take a photo of the sheet and email it to the externship team. This is how SPI finds out one’s aptitude and accordingly suggests which department or project one can be a part of. The idea of this exercise, apart from enabling the organization to understand you, is also to enable self-discovery, almost like a SWOT analysis of your own. The outcome of the ECG matrix reflected that I had a flair for people skills and communication. The externship team suggested that I maximise on the same.
I started my 6-week internship. SPI was operating about 48 screens in Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Trivandrum, Warangal, and was going to start functioning at Pondicherry and Hyderabad as well. The internship program was called ‘externship’ as it gave experiential learning opportunities that enabled college students to discover their true calling. I could choose a variety of departments to work for. For the first week, I was a part of the customer experience team and got to work on a short-term project called ‘Project Automation.’ This involved analysing the different sections within the operations department in the organisation and determining how and where human effort could be minimised by introducing automation. We had to speak to the four sub-departments within operations – housekeeping, security, food & beverage concessions, and parking lot personnel. We got a timeline of their daily routine and asked them which of their tasks they found the most arduous. We put together our observations in the form of a presentation, and separately also presented the possible solutions for the problems that we discovered were inherent in the processes.
Being a student of media studies, I opted to be part of the marketing department, specifically, digital and social media marketing, for the rest of my internship. My work in the marketing department consisted of research, conceiving creative campaign ideas, and a bit of event management as well. SPI cinemas was on a major expansion drive. In order to better understand their newly emerging audiences at different locations, a detailed analysis of their current performance was essential. This involved research work that I categorized into two parts – a competitor analysis and an introspective analysis (within SPI). In the first category, I had to monitor social media posts of other major players in the industry, segregate them into different post categories, analyse and compare the posts of each player, and measure audience engagement rates. In the second category, I had to analyse social media posts by SPI cinemas, the number and content of these posts, and how effective they were. This research covered what SPI was doing so far, what it wasn’t, and what it could be doing. In the last couple of weeks, I was asked to come up with a one-month social media plan. This involved proposing creative content ideas – contests, polls, quizzes, videos, etc. for the Twitter and Facebook handles of the company. The idea was to boost up audience engagement to the maximum. I had to present my ideas in the form of PowerPoint presentations. I used all my creativity in those ideas and presentation, and my content was appreciated by my mentor too who was the assistant marketing manager.
Luckily, the overall marketing head of SPI Cinemas had flown to Chennai around that time. My mentor, having been more than pleased with my work, thought my presentation would be worth spending time on and had arranged for a slot with the marketing head- for him to view my presentation. However, I learned that I was supposed to present it to him, over a projector, in a conference room. This was as professional as it could get! I was extremely nervous. The projector was on, lights were off, and as I gathered all my courage to start presenting, I heard a knock. I saw someone bringing in a big tub of popcorn and two cold coffees for my mentor and the head which constituted the audience. I heaved a sigh of relief as it felt more informal, almost like a movie theatre – my place of comfort. Barring the initial nervousness, I was able to carry off the rest of my presentation smoothly and was even appreciated for all my ideas. After the session, they wanted to revisit some of my ideas and were considering implementing it right away. In my final week, I got to handle the media and press for an event conducted by one of SPI’s restaurant brands. I worked really hard, but, for me, the learnings were much more than the amount of work itself. Professionalism was written all over the company’s super-informal atmosphere. There was no dress code and every person was approachable. There were no separate cabins for those who held high posts – one could readily have a conversation with them when one passed by. I was also constantly encouraged to think out of the box. While being asked to come up with ideas (for any activities or events), I was advised to just think of the craziest of ideas and was told not to worry about the implementation – that was SPI’s problem, they would say.
The internship came with its fair share of fun moments. To complete my presentations, many times I had to stay back till 8 or 9 in the night; however, it never seemed stressful as it was followed by a dining-out session! A lot of employees worked till late, and all would gather and head to a restaurant for dinner. In the first week itself, despite just being interns, we were urged to go and watch the first-day show of Baahubali 2 with the other employees – and it was on the house too! This was one such day when half the audience at SPI Chennai was the employees themselves. In my 6-week internship period, I got to watch at least one movie every week!
At times, some interns also got the chance to be a part of food tests. When a new dish was to be introduced at any of SPI’s restaurants, we had the chance to taste it. There was also the concept of ‘Intern Friday’ where all the interns were asked to come in a specific dress code. Any defaulter would be asked to do a task – dance, sing, or act. It was followed by a 1-hour session of different games.Word had also spread that I could sing well. I used to get song requests and someone in some corner would slyly be taking a video of me singing. And, soon enough, I would discover that embarrassing video on Instagram! My mentor, on knowing that I could sing, also put me in the team which was in charge of Think Music – the Music label by SPI Cinemas – so I could take my talent forward. On my last day at SPI, I was presented with a goodie-bag with desserts from Ecstasy (SPI’s dessert destination), marking the entire experience as a sweet one, literally. Not to forget, they also extended me a job offer – I can join them once my studies are over!
Can’t live without movies and entertainment industry? Check out these cool digital marketing internships and have a closer (and free) look at your favourite movies.
Editor’s note – If you also have an interesting story to share, you can now participate in Your Internship Story Contest 2017 and win cash prizes and goodies worth INR 1 Lac!