Pranjali Manjarekar from the Departement of Mechanical Engineering talks about her internship experience at Hindustan Unilever Limited. Read on to know about the selection process for the FMCG profile, her workspace experience, about working in a new city and much more.

Tell us about your insti life? What are the various activities you take part in insti?

I’m a third-year Mechanical Engineering Dual Degree student. My insti life is pretty chill. I’m a part of the cultural festival of IITM, Saarang, as a Sponsorship & PR core. I also like reading quite a bit. Besides this, out of interest, I participate in athletics practices and am a fitness enthusiast.

What motivated you to take up your current intern?

I think much of what influenced me to take up this intern was the advice and the experiences I’d heard from my seniors. FMCGs are said to offer one of the most intense yet rewarding internship experiences for a third-year student. When it comes to speaking specifically about the company, I think HUL not only gives you an internship experience that pushes you out of your comfort zone but also is very well-balanced in terms of applying your technical knowledge and developing your people skills at the same time.

What is the process involved in applying and getting selected for this intern?

HUL offers two roles for the students of mechanical and chemical engineering streams. There is a Supply Chain Management (SCM) role open to both mechanical and chemical branches whereas the Research & Development (R&D) role is open to the chemical branch only. The internship process starts with filling out an online form on the HUL website which is a break-up of your resume – academics, projects, past professional experience, extra-curricular and so on followed by two or three paragraph-type questions. From this, a few students are short-listed who move on to the next round, the group discussion. The group discussion will be different for both roles. As I had applied for the SCM role, I can only speak for this. The GD topic consisted of a decision-making situation between old and new technology to be used in a factory because of rising production demands. The new technology would lead to a lesser requirement of employees and also lead to a higher yield but at a high initial investment cost. The GD had to be concluded as a group by answering a set of questions at the end of the discussion time.

For an SCM GD, you do not require technical skills – perhaps mostly just common sense and critical analysis. A few tips to keep in mind is to not simply repeat a point brought out by another person and the most fatal mistake – to say a senseless or obvious statement just for the sake of grabbing the attention of the mod. This does more harm than good. Use this stage to showcase your communication skills (speak clearly and sensibly) and your co-operative nature in a team.

After the GD you move on to the interview rounds. These interviews are not clearly demarcated as technical or HR but have a mix of both. The technical questions asked are very fundamental and are mostly applications of subjects learned in the second year. A general tip is to always think out loud as it is the approach you have towards a problem that matters the most. In case you aren’t quite well-versed with a topic, do tell the interviewer that. He/She will try to help you out with the problem then. Besides subjects, I got questioned about my second-year internship experience and projects. Make sure you know these very, very well. It isn’t about where you did your internship but about the quality of work you did and your grasp over the project. The HR questions asked were along the lines of discussing my college life and hobbies. It’s always useful to think about a few incidents from your college life – whether in PORs or sports or anything else – where you showcased quick thinking, persistence, leadership and so on. The interviews were very pleasant and I discussed topics like food and novels with my panelists.

How has your intern been so far? What is the kind of work you do? How is the work environment?

I worked at the Rajpura factory in Punjab where they make food products (Kissan Jam and Tomato Ketchup). My work was based on reducing cleaning time for a machine making 950g pouches and development of an Excel-based dashboard. My primary project slightly dabbled with fluid mechanics and material characteristics and the secondary involved VBA coding. Fluid mechanics and coding are two things that absolutely frighten me, but they were very manageable. The managers, executives and the rest of the people working in the factory are extremely helpful and sweet. I had a lot of support from everyone and they would always take out time to help me with the smallest of doubts. What I loved the most about the fact that I was in a factory was that a factory is a place where multiple different functions of supply chain all work together in the same place. The work is not compartmentalized. Because of all the projects going on around you, you can also participate in other discussions and at the same time pick up a lot of things too. I also got to see gigantic, state-of-the-art machines and boilers and compressors being put to use right in front of my eyes. Besides this, the fact that Unilever is such a global, wide-spread organization only sinks in here. Unilever has a huge database of information – problems and solutions faced by other factories worldwide documented very neatly. You can also reach out to any employee from these hundreds of factories for help. And the same thing applies here too – no matter how busy anyone is, they take time out to help you.

How was the experience of moving into a new city and working? Were there any interesting events that happened?

Although my factory was based in Rajpura, my stay was in Panchkula which is basically an extension of Chandigarh. And the guest house was amazing. I had absolutely no issues because all amenities were close-by and in the guest house itself, I got pampered a lot. The great part about the stay was that a lot of HUL employees visiting the different factories close-by stayed there. So everyday dinner conversations were also very interesting.

I have never lived this far up-north and the stark difference in people’s attitudes and cultures is very evident. The people here are extremely fun-loving and helpful. Not to mention that Chandigarh is a beautiful city. It is very well-planned and well-maintained. And the best part about being in Punjab? The food was to die for. I’ve never tasted a more buttery parantha or a more satisfying lassi or a more delicious butter chicken – EVER. I think the bad part about being in Punjab was no matter where you went and no matter how well dressed you were, you’d always feel underdressed there xD

I also befriended a few students from IITB whom I hung out with. Once, just impulsively, we booked a Zoomcar at 3 AM and left for a hill station close by, called Kasauli, just to watch the sunrise. That was very lovely.

What according to you helped you get through the interview?

I think I was very tensed in my first interview, which did not help. I gave elaborate answers where the panelist expected a simple answer. So my tip is to not delve too deep unless asked. Stick to simple language and basic fundamentals. Know how to explain the most complicated of mechanical phenomena in the most basic language. A good exercise is to successfully explain to someone a phenomenon that they have no clue about. Make sure you’re very well-versed with at least your second-year subjects. I was much more relaxed in my second interview and it ended up being a very casual conversation. If you’re careful enough, you can to some extent sway the direction in which the interview goes. As I mentioned earlier, we even discussed our favorite novels during the interview. So stay calm, stick to basics and don’t worry.

Author: Hardhik Jhurani (BT-CE ’21) and Sahithi Yamala (DD-CH’21)

This article is part of the series – Intern Guru. To get regular updates on all our articles, follow us on Facebook at /chennai36 and Instagram at chennai36_iitm