The ITC saga – Living life in the Fast Moving lane

 – Navonil Chatterjee

My internship with ITC Ltd. was, to say the least, an extremely special and insightful experience. Starting right from the regal two-day induction programme at ITC Windsor Hotel, Bangalore, wherein all the interns across India were provided generic insights about various aspects of this giant conglomerate, to being dispatched to our respective locations for the purpose of our projects, the journey was one of anticipatory excitement.

The Indian Tobacco Division (ITD), Kolkata, would be my base of operations for the next two months. My project involved devising marketing strategies that would aid in improving the visibility and cognizance levels of their products in rural markets. Being a very sensitive division from a legal perspective, one has to be very careful while implementing anything innovative, lest it should violate any of the numerous laws or restrictions laid down by the COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act). This in turn, makes the long term feasibility and scalability of new measures extremely difficult, not only for legal reasons, but also owing to the immense demographic and psychographic variety of the Indian population.

To say the least, the ITD head office is a very busy division and while it wasn’t the easiest task getting an audition with the higher-ups, they were supportive once the idea and the initiative was in place. Being a rural exercise, the project saw me travelling across suburbs and villages of Northern Bengal and gathering observations and insights necessary for formulating the pilot. Fifteen hundred kilometres and two weeks later, I had enough data to make sense of the prevalent market scenario in that particular geography and come up with recommendations to aid in remedying the situation.

The pilot, that was the crux of my project, followed shortly. Going to various authorities and agencies to get things done, travelling with the salesmen to every outlet in the area, communicating the agenda to all concerned stakeholders and managing various operational hiccups that arose along the way, it was by no means something that one would consider easy, but truth be told, after a point of time one tends to tackle all obstacles and focus on the success of the pilot, which becomes the one and only primary objective at that point of time.

Perseverance, integrity and truthfulness, in my opinion, play a very important role in the success of any such marketing or sales undertaking; closely followed by street-smartness and knowledge. Staying true to one’s timeline, managing time well, using one’s presence of mind to obtain competitor data, creating a friendly rapport with everybody in the hierarchy; every minute detail has a significant weightage in determining the final state of affairs and the impression one makes during the internship.

For me, my stint with ITC was a world of learning, involving a beautiful office environment, amiable co-interns, travelling across some very picturesque rural landscapes and meeting a lot of wonderful people along the journey. These two months were indeed some of the best days of my life!

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