28 Aug 2020 21:32 IST

Demystifying e-commerce with Bain & Co

‘I helped take decisions that would directly impact the company, both financially and operationally’

I had been looking forward to my summer internship at Bain & Company from the day I landed the offer! And then, as luck would have it, a microscopic virus wreaked havoc on the world bringing life to a standstill just weeks before my joining date.

As companies started cancelling internships and joining dates began to be deferred, the dream of experiencing a slice of consulting — zipping from client location to home office every Monday, fun Fridays in office, staying in a five-star accommodation, and all the other exciting aspects of a consultant’s life started crumbling before my eyes. But hats off to the Bain summer internship team for making our on boarding as smooth as possible in these trying times — from delivering laptops to our doorsteps to creating an app where we could connect to Bain folks and other interns. They went the extra mile to make us feel at ease.

After a month’s deferral of joining, day zero arrived! After a quick training session, we were assigned to our teams. I was given the e-Commerce sales acceleration project. The fun of it was that, I had to boost innerwear sales online during Covid times

Consulting, a steep learning curve

Since the day one of the case, I hit the ground running. In less than three days, I had to bring myself up to date with all that had happened so far and the recent developments before I joined. My manager tried his level best to give me the best possible ‘virtual consulting’ experience, putting me on all Zoom meetings, ensuring that I get a flavour of the varied work streams on the case — from front-end digital marketing efforts to the back-end supply chain management. At the end of two months, I had not only gained a ton of practical knowledge in the e-commerce sector, but more importantly, I had witnessed the whole business play out end to end right in front of me. And, I had also helped take decisions that would directly impact the company, both financially and operationally.

Clients are the centre of the consulting universe

The very first client call I ever had was quite an eye opener. As students, we envision consulting client meetings as suave CXO board room meetings, with pretty presentations and “high-impact” conversations. My first client call put things in perspective. It involved members from the entire supply chain network — warehouse team, finance team, packaging and logistics team, and so on. All of them were coming together to collaborate with Bain on how to make the system more efficient and robust.

After that one call, I realised that it is the last man on the ground who is working in the shop, day in and day out, who can give the consultant the insights and inputs that they need to come up with the best solutions. My second client call was a virtual experience fitting the swanky board room image I had painted. This meeting taught me that the client is “God” and all your weeks and months of efforts can go down the drain, if the management of the company doesn’t buy into your solution.

Team is your go-to support system

Consulting, though the most glamourised role on campus, demands long hours and can be extremely stressful, since stakes are always sky-high. No room for mistakes here and timelines are super-crunched. Interning virtually during unprecedented times like these was all the more demanding. But I think when the going gets tough, its those small gestures or pep talks by your team mates that helps you pull through.

I will always be grateful for the really interesting people I met at Bain. As one of the senior partners once told us: “ If you were to put consulting parlance in a 2x2 matrix based on the type of people we look for — I would say, they not only have to fall in the ‘high-intellect’ quadrant, but also in the ‘high on niceness’ quadrant.”

I couldn’t agree more.

(The writer is currently pursuing her MBA from IIM Lucknow. She is a part of the campus Consulting Club and is passionate about a career in management consulting. A Bharatanatyam dancer, writer,  and she is always up for a conversation around books, dogs, or travel plans.)