About the Author: Akansha Wasudeo, a student of IIM Calcutta, talks about her struggle of bagging an internship at Amazon and how the experience proved to be an enriching one.
The first day of the internship was a mesmerizing experience. It started with various interns from premier B-schools assembling at a common hall on the 26th floor of Amazon’s office in world trade center, Bangalore. The arrowing smile leading from A to Z on Amazon’s logo embedded on the wall in a grandiose fashion greeted me at the entrance, only to make me return the gesture by emulating it. The same day I received a welcome kit consisting of a T-shirt, a sack bag, a diary emblazoned with the Amazon logo, and a laptop. The orientation session was filled with a lot of learning about the empowered Amazon culture, its diversity, 14 leadership principles, etc. That night, as I was relaxing on the cushioned bed holding dreams in my eyes, I was impelled to dive into the past – those craving moments when I longed to be a part of Amazon family one day. The first of its kind royal treatment at J.W. Marriott, all sponsored by Amazon, didn’t come easily at the drop of a hat. It involved struggle in terms of getting selected amongst 450 brilliant minds from IIM Calcutta who had applied for the coveted internship.
The earth’s most customer-centric company had opened various roles on IIM C campus for the internship such as marketing manager, product manager, operations manager, financial analyst, etc. The profiles offered were great and thus I started my preparation. I read about Amazon’s business model, its products and services, its first footprint in India with challenges, opportunities, and success stories, and its financial performance vis-à-vis its competition globally. I also learnt about the strategic acquisitions and investments made by the firm in past few years. Apart from this, I researched about its expansion strategy in India and its delivery and distribution model. Moreover, I did competitive benchmarking to understand the e-commerce industry trends.
The initial shortlist was declared on the basis of our CVs and past experiences. When I saw my name on that shortlist, I couldn’t control my excitement. Next day, the interviews started. In the first round, the interviewer asked me to walk him through my resume. I told him about my stint in Tech-Mahindra as a technical associate. I specifically mentioned how it helped me in learning how a company functions catering to the needs of its clients. I also mentioned how I had handled responsibilities effectively to deliver results in terms of customer satisfaction and performance efficiency. The interviewer further asked me about the projects which I handled during that time. I told him about 2 of my major projects – one based on capability management in an operating environment, and the other on the pricing quick quotes generation. Next, I was asked to explain a situation wherein I had achieved a difficult goal, my strengths and weaknesses, and my biggest achievement. I gave satisfactory replies to all the questions. In the end, I was asked how Amazon was different from other online retailers in my personal views. I told them about the kind of customer experience a user got on Amazon website on parameters such as selection, price matching, and categorization. Being a frequent shopper on Amazon, I talked about the conduct of customer care executives, delivery, and product’s quality. I compared my experience with other e-retailers from whom I had shopped in the past.
The second round was a 30-minutes long case-based interview. I was asked what I would do if I had to set up a call center and what would be my staffing strategy. I talked about the dynamic workload in a call-center environment with increasing customer-base on daily basis. I said that the parameters which I would take into consideration would be odd working hours, split shifts, virtual workforce, and training modules. I also suggested ways to improvise budgeting with ever-expanding channels, ensuring customer-first motto by a strong collaboration of contact-center managers with the senior executives, giving the support and flexibility to call- center staff to get high levels of service, and finally how the virtual training and communication tools could be utilized for optimum results.
This was followed by a few factual questions around Amazon’s profit percentages in the previous year and P/E multiple, and the last-mile delivery at Amazon. It ended with a guesstimate question – I had to estimate the no. of flights landing at Kolkata airport every day.
The third round was more of a conversation with a senior manager. I entered the interview room and he asked me to pick up the newspaper lying on the table. It had a big advertisement about Snapdeal’s upcoming biggest online sale, occupying the whole of the front page. And there came the question that I was expecting and had prepared for – how would Amazon combat competition such as these with core Indian players in the e-commerce space. I talked about Amazon’s strong technical and operations leadership which resulted in the quality assurance to the customers. After this, I was finally told that I had been hired! I was ecstatic as my most cherished dream had turned into reality.
Thus, my 2-month internship started. My project guide was heading Amazon India’s Mobile Marketing division. I started planning a detailed activity-level timeline for the internship period. I was given the responsibility of designing a user engagement strategy for Amazon app for driving customer acquisition and retention. I conceptualized and piloted a marketing initiative called ‘app glam up week’ for a set of categories (beauty, personal care, and appliances) and evaluated various engagement-driven metrics such as app share of units sold, conversion rate, customer acquisition rate, repeat purchase rate, etc. to assess the increase in mobile adoption for the categories.
I started with defining a typical journey of a user on any shopping app. I then elucidated the criteria for the users’ engagement on the app ensuring value-addition to the customers at every touch point of that journey: increasing the time which a user spends on the app, increasing the visiting frequency of the user on the app, enticing users to make the first purchase, and exciting customers to come back on the app to make repeat purchases. I then went on a fact-finding spree to analyse various selling platforms of Amazon such as PCs, mobile browsers, and the app to discover the total number of sessions, total new customers acquisition, total units sold, and total ordered product sales (OPS) on each of these platforms on a monthly basis so that app can be strategized to engage more users in form of retainable prospects and satisfied customers. Thus, I conducted extensive primary and secondary research to understand consumer behaviour, sales parameters, and online purchase decisions in four major product categories – consumables, hard-lines, soft-lines, and media. The entire strategy implementation on the app was supervised by me, transacting with 60+ people from 11 different teams by acting as a liaison among various stakeholders such as category team, deals team, design team, gateway and cross-site merchandising team, social media marketing team, etc. It was a diversified role which gave me an opportunity to display my skills in various domains such as data collection, onsite campaign approvals, scheduling timelines, page configuration, testing functionality, raising sponsorship, channel promotion, design requests and adapts, finance approvals, deals and offers confirmation, data analysis and interpretation, etc. I was the sole owner of user engagement project leading the design and category teams for effective implementation. I also created a marketing plan which I presented to each category team along with a detailed description of every feature of the plan.
In order to facilitate seamless execution, I created a scheduling plan for the entire marketing event along with the timelines and then delegated work to the respective POCs for each part of the plan. Various key components of the ‘app glam up’ event were: app-only deals, Freecharge vouchers, budget stores, cook-a-look contest, and co-op initiatives. We also promoted the event on key properties of PC and mobiles such as site-wide messaging (SWM) slot available on the whole site, the topmost banner on the mobile app and web gateway, digital marketing channels such as ad-mob and paid social channels, email campaigns, push notifications etc. I finally developed a backward working plan for future marketing campaigns to proliferate app-usage and also provided recommendations to scale up app engagement via a year-long ongoing program. The plan was suggested for smooth functioning, process improvement, effective execution, and better delivery in future.
These 9 weeks had redefined my life on a completely new trajectory. I learned how to cope in a fast-paced environment with 100% ownership and accountability. It was the best platform to apply my management skills and to learn project management techniques to achieve desirable results. Most importantly, I learned to accept criticism which in turn, helped me grow. I also developed a sense of leadership in defending my ideas and taking decisions which further proved instrumental in impacting the business. Thank you, Amazon, for providing me this amazing experience!
Do you also dream about working with the top brands? Apply to these cool digital marketing internships and take the next step towards realizing your dreams.
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!