Internship Series 2017 – FMCG Companies

By Shaswat Mohanty, Abhijit Gupta, Saptarshi Majumdar, Utsav Dutta and Abhishek Kelkar

 

T5E presents the first article of the Internship Series, with FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies opening the list. Generally based out of factories, interns at these organisations work on projects ranging from efficiency and optimisation and automation/technology to supply chain, design and more.

The following article elaborates on the diverse and unique experiences of Shashwat Mohanty at HUL, Abhijit Gupta at ITC, and Saptarshi Majumdar at P&G, along with their tips on how to tackle the upcoming internship season and bag the Day 1 FMCGs.

 

The Basics: An intro to the internships and what they had to offer

 

Shaswat: As you might be aware, HUL is the Indian wing of Unilever, a global FMCG company with a reputed product range (Dove, Knorr, Sunsilk, Lipton, Axe and more).

With most of the other FMCG companies already through with their orientations, we had received no intimation from HUL at the beginning which caused a bit of panic. Our first intimation was as late as April which dispelled all fears. When I received a mail, titled “International Internship | HUL”, I was thrilled because Leeds is the only foreign location we want to believe that HUL sends its interns to. I opened the mail only to be met with the surprise of the location being Nigeria, and I was mortified. However, two months later, all I can say is that it is the best thing that could’ve happened to me; it was a whole new experience in itself.

My project was a pure Mechanical Engineering project; I had to improve the gas generator efficiency and reduce the fuel consumption by 10%. The session was 5 weeks long and dealt primarily with IC engines, where we managed to improve the thermal efficiency of all the generators. This, in turn, resulted in over 12% reduction in fuel consumption and an 8% increase in the efficiency. In the last two weeks at the factory, I worked on replacing the Vapour Compression Chillers with Vapour Absorption Chillers considering the resources we had at hand.

 

Abhijit: I interned at the Biscuits (Sunfeast, Dark Fantasy) category of ITC’s Foods Business Division (With other brands like Yippee, Bingo, Aashirvad, B Natural etc). As you might know, ITC is an Indian conglomerate with a highly diverse product and service portfolio, and the highly competitive Foods Division is the fastest growing division today.

Based in a town called Mangaldai, about 70km from Guwahati, Assam, in arguably ITC Biscuits’ most technologically advanced factory, my project entailed working on taking this plant to the next level by making it the first Smart Factory in the industry. This required the deployment of existing technologies such as IoT, SCADA, MES, cloud and analytics, mobile apps, project management tools, computer vision etc. The key obstacle was to enable rugged industry-grade electronics (But antique compared to the technology today)  such as PLCs, industrial PCs, HMIs etc. to connect to the Internet, and make them communicate with today’s consumer hardware.

I found it quite challenging to assimilate these technologies into the practical scenario as one must keep in mind the nuances such as business advantages, contingencies and troubleshooting, and take the solutions to global standards. 

 

Saptarshi: Procter and Gamble is a global FMCG with products across categories such as laundry detergents (Tide, Ariel), shampoos (Pantene, Head and Shoulders), sanitary pads (Whisper), diapers(Pampers) and much more. P&G has been a pioneer in a number of significant fields across technology and supply chain. Both history and theory are testaments to this fact.

In a company this vast, where do engineers such as us come into the picture? As with all product based companies, P&G requires engineers to keep its supply engines, plants and supply chain functioning at maximum efficiency. More than half of all internship projects handled by T-School undergrads deal with cost reduction, process reliability and automation based projects. In addition, as with my internship, engineers also handle commercial projects across the space of supply network optimisation and industrial design.

All this, of course, comes within the gamut of their profile, labelled Product Supply. The department deals with all aspects of the supply chain machinery; including the technology centres, production plants, supply networks, inventory and logistics.  

 

The Journey: How to tackle the selections, and some general tips on bagging the internships

 

Shaswat: The FMCG selection procedure includes multiple facets on one’s professional and administrative accomplishments. HUL is open for ME and CH. The resume has just 10% of the overall impact but it is important that you mention the right things. Focus on the technical projects (however simple they may be) you have a solid grasp over, rather than a fancy summer project over which you have little authority. Leadership and teamwork are some of the attributes that these companies will be looking at, along with technical knowledge. When the interview moves on to the POR section, always have a story or two in handy, from your organisational venture from which you drew team building or leadership insights from.

Moving on to the GD prep, it is important that the point you raise is sensible and not just something you utter to introduce yourself to the argument. Give others a chance to talk, but be smart enough to invite someone to share their views on your point so that your idea stays at the centre of discussion for long. Starting off or concluding a discussion has no bearing on the outcome, contrary to popular belief. Take a stand on the topic, early into the discussion and make sure you stand by it. These attributes impress the moderators the most, as these were the markers that my mentor looked for in all GDs that he moderated.

 

Abhijit: Dubbed as KITES (Knowledge Initiative Talent Excellence Series), the selection procedure for ITC’s “techno-managerial” summer internship programme (open for ME, CH, EE and ED) consists of a resume shortlist, group discussion and two rounds of interviews. One tweak is that you need to fill a form rather than submit a resume. The form is quite exhaustive, and it not only includes spaces to write all the content on your resume but also has a couple of HR questions. This round is followed by group discussions on Day 0, and the interviews on Day 1, with two rounds; a technical round, and a second “icebreaker round” with the top management, which includes a general resume review and HR questions.

A tip in advance would be that ITC is highly technical in its selections, so revising your courses would be a good way to go so that you would have a broad idea of your curriculum and everything else you’ve done so far. I was quite surprised when I had to face a rapid fire round on all my courses. Along with this, your resume needs to showcase diversity, technical credentials, some leadership initiatives and extracurriculars. These add flavour to your portfolio and ensure that your resume stands out. An icing on the cake for any interview would be if your skills and achievements were presented as a story.

My recommendation would be that you need to be open to all options while selecting an internship since the point is to explore and hit the right note. While this would mean more preparation, it would also help you in figuring out what you’re interested in and where you could possibly get this experience.

 

Saptarshi: P&G’s hiring programme on campus is a comprehensive strategy driven by multiple parameters and selection charts, which at multiple times may seem random. However as I’ve learnt over my two months here, all of it paints an impressive bigger picture.

At IITM, P&G opens itself to EE, ME, CH, AE and MM. The process starts with their resume submissions and all applicants are mandatorily required to undergo a psychometric test. Based on the combined results, around 50 students are shortlisted for a General Aptitude Test. Pretty much everyone at this stage qualifies for the interview.

Interview Rounds at P&G are completely based on personality assessments and have absolutely no salience on engineering knowledge. This to me, was easily the best part of their process, though of course there’s a rather selfish motive of me not really knowing an iota of what my years in engineering were meant to teach me. The selection process aims at judging how well the intern will assimilate with the existing system. It isn’t meant to judge the worth of an individual, rather his/her synergy with P&G vision.

Questions vary from situational analysis to personal backgrounds and general articulations. Our interviewers maintained a very calm and informal tone throughout the talks and that was a feedback resonated across all those shortlisted including interns from other campuses as well.

 

The Experience: What the internships encompassed, and key takeaways

 

Shaswat: It was a dream right from Day 1. We were pampered for the first three days of induction before we were shipped off to our internship locations. My entry into Nigeria was CIA-esque since I was given the codename, “Blue Sky”, to which I had to respond to at the airport. Armed vehicles would always follow the vehicle I was in and it all felt like a movie.

Over the course of my 7-week stint in Nigeria, I met engineers from Holland, Germany, Poland and Italy who were stationed at the same hotel, and the knowledge that they had to offer was immense. There was a lot that I learned outside of my project, at the dinner table from an experienced bunch of Europeans. Of course, the best thing about Europeans is that they all love football, which is something that we bonded over during every football match that was telecasted during the course of our stay. I’ll come back to this.

The internship was a great learning experience, not just for me, but for all my co-interns because you get to realise the value of your engineering knowledge at an industrial level and get to interact with a multitude of people which widens one’s perception of the outside world. At the end of it all, I’d urge everyone from the current aspiring intern batch to refrain from getting disappointed at failing to land your “dream” company because it is very difficult to assess what might actually be a dream company. No matter where you intern, you’ll get to learn a lot and you will return to insti post next summer, richer, in terms of knowledge and experience.

Some hands-on field work is always required, right from the interns to the factory managers and of course, the workers

However, it was not always about work and it won’t be the case in any internship you do. There will be weekends to enjoy and barring the one that will come up right before the review, there’s always loads in store. Now, in Agbara, which is a tiny village on the outskirts of Lagos, there’s very little to do on weekends, but there’s one thing that all Nigerians and I had in common –  We’re crazy for football. All my weekends were spent in playing for the Utilities team in the inter-factory league and it really couldn’t have been any better. For every insti player, there is a fear of losing out on fitness over the summer, but I was playing two games a week even though I was getting thrown all over the place by everyone there. Every conversation would be about football, be it the admin staff or the driver assigned to me. The entire village would be down to the hotel bar for football matches because the hotel I was in was the only place with a generator to ensure that the match remained live on the screen at all times. I’ve watched the Europa League finals, UCL finals and the Confederations Cups along with 200 other Nigerians and a few Europeans. Every match would be followed by an hourlong footballing folklore session by my fellow residents. It’s all these things that made my stay worthwhile and made me enjoy every moment outside of work, in the tiny village that I was posted in.

 

 

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It’s never all work and no play, especially at one of  the world’s football-crazy countries

 

Abhijit: In one word, the work was intense.

A 12-hour workday was business as usual, as ITC internships are live projects, where you make a difference in real time. The essence is that each of these 12 hours taught me skills I would use practically anywhere and not just in my internship. Be it the principles of product design, understanding the project needs, evaluating practical scenarios, managing people or getting things done and a lot more, the experience was enriching, to say the least. Coming up with ideas or prototypes is worlds apart from deploying the technologies in the real world, and this internship helped me understand and bridge the huge gap that exists between the trending technologies today and what actually is present in the industry. The rush of seeing your ideas come to life and contributing to the cause (Minus the pressure of it all) is something I will cherish from these two months.    

One thing that I did not see coming (Among others, for those who know me) was the sheer diversity and the business impact of this undertaking, which I realised only after meetings with the top management. The flatness of the organisation is extremely appealing, and this was advantageous as us interns had to gather information from employees across locations and divisions and gave a touch of “networking” to our projects.

Of course, there was a fun, non-work related side to it all! In fact, the fun began before work, at the three-day orientation in one of ITC’s most luxurious hotels, right at the end of March.

 

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The ITC contingent from IITM, at where it all began (You might not want to know more about the other incidents in these three days)

 

Towards the end of April, when I first found out that my location was in a pretty remote place like this one, I was quite surprised, with touches of shock. However, it took me just a short while to realise that this was the North East; the land of scenic beauty, the land of tea, the land of metal. In the end, it all paid off. (Literally too!)


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Hiking in the Khasi Hills, Meghalaya (On the one free day I got)

 

Saptarshi: One of the stark observations I had at P&G was the complete absence of hierarchy based separations. Informal communication across all management levels results in a healthy and vibrant workspace. The focus on work-life balance was refreshing given the competitiveness of the workplace and the industry itself.

A challenging aspect of working here is navigating through a perennially busy organisation. While help is readily available through knowledgeable personnel, an important skill we all inculcated was converting the most out of every minute in conversation spent with the employees. An essential part of the process was the post conversation prognosis to look for further details that might prove crucial at a later stage. While understanding business works was a critical part of our internship, soft skills are one the of key takeaways from P&G.

Indeed in an organisation this monstrous, with teams in almost every country,  interns often have to connect to teams at different corners of the globe, from Cincinnati to Brussels, and Karachi to London, in order to gain a complete understanding of the problem. Because if there truly is nothing new under the sun, then it’s likely that the duplicate would be in some P&G workspace on the planet.

With my project being a typical business case, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about P&G’s supply chain through on-ground training programmes. Indeed, visits to all ends of the supply chain, from the suppliers to the buyers and the resellers is a gratifying experience, a humble attempt at understanding the vastness of the network that everyday business operates in. Strategies and baits towards wooing consumers at all ends and the deep sense of rivalry amidst all these make for fascinating conversations with the more experienced members of the organization and indeed, among the interns’ group as well. As a group of 6 interns, we gelled exceedingly well through the course of our two months stay together, and this was indeed our all weather support system in milestone events such as reviews.    

While most of us through the course of our projects have learnt nitty-gritties of operations or logistics, the critical factor that hold us all in good stead would be our exposure to live business problems in supply chain. This places us in a position to understand at least certain specific business needs of almost every consumer-directed company that exists.

 

Our experiences at some of the biggest FMCG companies highlight the work culture, the type of projects and future growth prospects, and we hope that the points and markers mentioned are helpful for all those interested in these profiles and general corporate internships. If you’re interested to know anything in particular about HUL, ITC, and P&G, or if you want general tips on how to prep for the internship season, resume tips and reviews etc., do feel free to reach out to any of us.


Shaswat Mohanty is a Mechanical Engineering Dual Degree student entering his fourth year and can be reached at:

+91 8879241166
shaswatmohanty16@gmail.com.

Abhijit S Gupta is an Electrical Engineering Dual Degree student entering his fourth year and can be reached at:

+91 9949439339
abhijit.sri.gupta@gmail.com.

Saptarshi Majumdar is a Chemical Engineering B.Tech student entering his fourth year and can be reached at:

+91 9764542815
saptarshi3.14@gmail.com

Disclaimer: The views are not to be construed in any manner as the official views of IIT Madras.
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