31 Oct 2016 17:55 IST

Of shampoos, honey and lassis with salesmen

Apart from learning about Dabur, internship taught me professionalism and work ethics

After a hectic first year at college that was marked by crazy hours of lectures surprise quizzes, committee work and group assignments, it was time for summer internship.

I was very excited about these two months of training, as for the first time in 16 years of my student life, I could map the theories I had only studied till now, to the real world.

I interned in the sales and marketing division of Dabur India Limited, which is India’s leading FMCG company. It ensured that I got the best of both worlds, by allowing me to cover both sales and marketing, personal care division and health care division, and by letting me work in both Delhi and Mumbai.

Marketing stint

For my marketing stint, I worked in the shampoo category at the Dabur headquarters in Ghaziabad (NCR) for a month. My project was about the go-to-market strategy for Dabur Almond Shampoo National Launch.

After a long time, and after an establishing a name like Dabur Vatika Shampoo, Dabur was launching a new brand in shampoo category. It was exciting to witness a completely new product — not just a variant — being launched. The thrill of working on a live project on such a magnanimous scale still gives me a rush when I think about it. My team had enough faith in me to let me single-handedly execute a lot of projects.

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My recommendations, in terms of in-store visibility, were actually executed even as I was working. But all this came with great responsibility — daily follow-ups, meetings, negotiations with vendors and coordinating with sales team all over India. I worked on the placement norm and incentive planning, in-store visibility elements, and sponsorship deals for the product, along with a shampoo market study for my own learning.

Working in the marketing department was amazing. I was on a floor that housed big brand managers who served Dabur’s diverse portfolio, and were only too happy to share some marketing insights with you near the coffee machine; someone was always playing a TVC in full volume in the background for the whole floor to hear.

Cut to sales

For my sales stint, I was sent to Mumbai to study the distribution of Dabur Honey. Mumbai is a crucial market for this product and I had to study the sales trend in general trade — channel wise, outlet-type wise, area wise, current efficiencies (coverage, bill cuts and lines), and also study the buying-behaviour of shops.

Basically, I had a lot of company data to analyse and markets to visit all over Mumbai in the sweltering May heat! But it was fun, talking to retailers, getting to know every nook and cranny of this city, keeping pace with the super active salesmen and discussing their targets achieved over a glass of lassi from small food stalls.

Based on my insights drawn from the market visits, I made a few recommendations in my final sales review, which the senior sales management liked. They assured me that it will be definitely executed.

I was pleasantly surprised at how, despite being such a big and old organisation, Dabur was open to ideas from a young summer intern. My perception about big companies and the way they function changed completely.

Overall, being a fresher, my key takeaways from my summer internship where not just about the working of an FMCG company but also about corporate life and culture. I gained a lot in terms of professionalism, work ethics and interpersonal skills. In my internship projects, I was actually able to map my Kotler lessons to what I was doing, but of course, along with a hundred constraints while executing them. I witnessed not one dull day in those two months — there was new learning, new challenges and meeting new people everyday!

These parts of my first corporate experience are something I’ll value forever.