Akash Jayachander: Internship at ITC

Describe your profile. Give us some background information about yourself to help us understand your profile better.

My name is Akash. I’m a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate, currently in my final year. I did my third year summer internship in ITC at Bangalore. My hobbies include gaming, playing cricket, and reading. I’m also interested in stock trading. I am fluent in Hindi, English and Tamil. As my father has a transferable job, I’ve had the privilege of living in different parts of the country which gave me the opportunity to experience various cultures.

Take us through the selection process for your ITC internship. Describe, to the best of your memory, all the rounds of scrutiny you had to clear.

Firstly, a link was put up to apply for the internship and I had to write an essay of sorts, in which 3-4 questions had to be addressed. One of the questions that I remember was, “Describe a ‘mind over matter’ situation”. The other questions were similar. The next step was to upload our resumé, after which, we were shortlisted based on our task and resumé. Next, there was a psychometric test, which was succeeded by a group discussion session that involved a case study. We were presented with a topic and had to brainstorm in order to present a solution to the problem posed to us. The specific problem given to us was that of a village facing energy issues. Our job was to ascertain the best mode of power generation for the village. The group discussion was eliminative. Of the 6-7 people in the group, 2 of us made it to the personal interviews. A total of 10 students made it to the first PI round, of whom 6 made it into the second PI round, and finally 4 of us were selected for the internship.

What was your preparation like for these rounds? Did you specifically prepare for each round or did you do some general preparation?

The case study wasn’t based on much of what we prepared for. It was more of a test of soft skills: how well you present your ideas, how you give others an opportunity to speak and get their opinions, and the like. As for the PIs, there were some technical aspects that were tested. Since I’m a Mechanical student, I was asked questions from Fluid Mechanics and Automobile Engineering. They also question you about your previous internship/project experiences. An important thing to note here is that it doesn’t matter to them what kind of internships you’ve done previously. What matters to them is how well you have carried it out, how deeply you understood what you worked on, and how much you learnt out of it.

It is worth mentioning that it is of utmost importance to market yourself well to the interviewers. Do and say things that ensure that you control the course of the interview. For example, the fact that I was interested in the stock market was a good talking point for me.

Is there something that you learnt in your time at NITT that helped you secure this internship?

I would say that the soft skills that I gained by being part of teams like CFGL are the experiences that helped me secure the internship. For example, I developed an app for Sportsfete when I was a part of Spider. They basically check for diversity in your previous experiences and most importantly, how well you manage your time.

What did you expect of the internship before joining? How different/similar was the internship from/to your expectations?

I expected the internship to be fun and to be a learning experience. It was all that, however it was also really hectic. I consider that an advantage, as I was also able to experience night shifts. Sometimes, we have to adapt to certain situations and I learnt how to do so. My main takeaways from the internship were – how to manage people, to take responsibility, and to act quickly and not ponder over things too much. Another significant thing I learnt was that every little conversation you have, it adds to your project. At ITC, people were very free and open to discussion. You could walk into the CEO’s room and talk to him regarding your project and get his insight. You mustn’t shy away from talking to people. Try speaking to as many people as you can in order to get things done.

Describe to us your internship. Were there any prerequisite skills needed to carry out your internship project?

I worked on a product called ‘Bingo No Rulz’, which is a Cheetos-like low bulk density product. My project was to improve the toy efficiency of the product. Sometimes, in certain packets, you would have two toys, whereas in certain other packets, there would be no toys. My job was to try and normalize that disparity. The other issue was that the toy-feeding process was manual, so I had to automate that process. This involved some basic knowledge of robotics. As for specific prerequisite skills, I wouldn’t say anything is needed as such, but you need to be willing to learn during all parts of the internship.

Was your knowledge of robotics and specific technical aspects of the internship tested in your PIs?

No, it wasn’t tested during my interview because they have various real-time business projects which are given to interns, and since they are assigned randomly later, they don’t really check for your skills in particular sectors. All my  co-interns were from either IITs or NITs. One student from Electrical Engineering got a project that was completely unrelated to his field, something to do with the Chemical side of things. You cannot expect your project to be in your field, and you need to put a lot of effort into learning things during the course of the internship.

What were your takeaways from the internship? What did you learn at ITC that you previously did not know?

After my time at ITC, I had especially learnt to tweak my soft skills. I had to contact certain vendors, and it is important that you convey your thoughts and ideas precisely to them. Also, I learnt how to engage with people and how to extract information and get things done from them. I learnt to adapt to different environments as well. During my internship, I had been to Delhi and Haridwar. I was based in Bangalore and the factory/manufacturing location was located 40 kilometres away in Malur. The conditions there were not great, and so I had to adapt.

How is an ITC internship different from any other internship? What was a stand-out feature of your ITC internship?

The pay for an ITC internship is 3 Lakhs for 2 months. What they expect from you is a fresh opinion on a problem that they are facing. For example, some of my co-interns received certain problems to tackle, problems that the company had been facing for 5 years or so. This shows that a lot is expected of you. You are sometimes expected to work 15-16 hours a day, or stay for 2 days straight at a factory to record some observations. It is definitely demanding, but it helps you become a better individual.

During the screening process, how important is it to them as recruiters if a candidate is involved in club activities?

It definitely matters to them, because as far as ITC goes, you are treated as a manager, even though you are an intern. You are treated like a permanent employee, and moreover, you are the project manager for your project. This is why skills like leadership and effective communication matter not only for your PIs, but also during the internship. These skills can only be picked up by being a part of clubs and teams on campus.

When you were faced with some difficulty during your project, whom did you approach and how did you ask for help?

At ITC, interns have a guide – the person who drafted your project, and another person called the ‘buddy’ whom you could approach whenever you want. If you’re not really comfortable with approaching the guide, you could approach your ‘buddy’. This was the case with the Foods division of ITC. ITC has many divisions such as Foods, Tobacco, Soaps, etc. and you don’t have a say with regard to the division you are allotted. My guide and ‘buddy’ were approachable from the start. I could get any doubts clarified from them. The first month was a bit of a struggle because I was not accustomed to the work environment there. I learnt that it is best to stay clear of unproductive thoughts and focus on the task at hand.

What were your co-interns like? Did you get to work directly with any other interns or did you only report to higher ups?

Each intern is assigned a project. So, I couldn’t work with any other intern, but all of us were provided accommodation in the same premises, which is where we would discuss about our projects to get each others insights. This helps a lot because they might have some new ideas that you hadn’t thought of. All the interns were from IITs and NITs, and by interacting with them, you get to learn a lot.  

What plans do you have for after placement season? Do you plan on staying with the workforce permanently or do you plan on pursuing higher education?

For now, my plan is to get placed and work for 2-3 years. After that, I plan to do an MBA, but I’m not quite sure about that.

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