The Curious Case of the Digital World

Come March 31st, 2014 and Mumbai, the city of dreams was calling! As I boarded my flight with a glint in my eyes ,looking forward to a coveted internship with Mahindra & Mahindra, deep down nervousness had begun to set in. After all, it was my return to the office. (I have a prior work experience of 20 months with an IT major and as happens with freshers  at large IT organizations, there are seniors always there to your rescue.)But this time around, there were added responsibilities –the challenge of completing a project within 2 months, a new fire within me and the legacy of IIFT.

 The project:

The sector assigned was Mahindra Partners. The business assigned to me was a premium women’s fashion & lifestyle magazine, edited and published by Mrs. Anuradha Mahindra- an industry completely unknown to me and highly creative. I had to conduct a comparative study and carve out a content and digital marketing for the business as the magazine would soon appear online. Not many women know this premium magazine, their clientele being highly-affluent women in metro cities.

The beginning:

The first week at their office in Worli was overwhelming as I saw before me the CEOs of the various sectors and Mr. Anand Mahindra- leaders with inspiring stories, whom I had only watched on TV before ,  answer our curious minds patiently. I also introduced myself to the other interns –Here I must mention- summer internship is also about interaction with like-minds. Your peers help you relieve the stress of work with fun moments and also form an important chunk of the memories of the internship.

Settling down:

Week 2: I was studying leading fashion & lifestyle magazines and looking up their websites-sites which I used to look at in my leisure time. Life can be such an irony! I thank my stars I had made that first report as I could come up with a few interesting things on the first meeting with my guide.( I had been assigned a guide who was a veteran with the magazine and a mentor, a senior person with  Mahindra Partners.)

Week 3: I deep dived into the project, conducting in-depth interviews and surveys to know women’s preferences while browsing online. As I waited by bookstores at luxury malls, stopped women and requested for 5 minutes from them, some simply refused to speak, sniggering “Market Research waale”. Nevertheless, undaunted, I continued building up insights on the premium as well as the mainstream audience.

Week 4: I met up people from the digital marketing and advertising field. I put down all my ideas to powerpoint, with relevant facts and figures. I re-read my presentation around 20 times to check for any points missed or any mistakes that could pull me down during the mid-term review.

The mid-term review: Ahoy! My heart skipped a beat whenever the online editor raised a question. Though I was confident that I was on the right track, I was glad when I was assured by my mentor about the same. And to my surprise, I was asked to move ahead with a new project which was the current concern of my mentor as they were happy with the roadmap presented by me for digital marketing.

This new project was a Go-To-Market Strategy for a new vertical- Custom Publishing wherein they would design customized magazines/coffee table books for four sectors- Malls/Realty/Banks/Tourism. I had to analyze the current market, competition, pricing and find out targets, then ultimately pitch for projects.

The challenges:

1)      The digital world is very fast-paced. Every website, including its social media footprint is practically updated multiple times a day. One day a site is up and running, a few days later, it is pulled off. One day you think of a unique differentiating content, next day it is on the competitor’s website.

2)      The lifestyle publishing industry was completely new to me. Then again, this would be true for every intern. But this particular industry thrives on creativity. Not only was acumen for business opportunity tested, but also the knack for creativity.

3)      Second project. Four sectors. Dwindling time. It required me to speak to almost 25-30 people per day but to my dismay, either the stakeholders refused to provide any information or they kept very busy. I had to follow up with the same person for around a week till I was given 5-6 minutes for shooting out my queries.

4)      And, of course the Mumbai locals. I also had to withstand the crowd and their sweat. Along with a small share of missing-my-stoppage days. However, had it not been for the locals, travelling to office would have been more challenging.

The learning(s):

Rising up to the challenge. Studying a whole new industry. Rich interactions. Race against time. Letting the heat and the sweat not bother me. Letting go of numerous calls for parties from old friends. Looking at earlier leisure activity as work. Need I say more?

The end:

 A sector level preview, where I was grilled, followed by a final presentation at Nashik,followed by a visit to the Sula Vineyards, followed by an awesome official “The End” party.Phew! However,my internship story would be incomplete without a mention about my guide who before leaving for abroad, told me that she would be waiting to receive my final presentation over the mail, with a smile in her eyes. Her generous praise on my efforts and at the same time, my mentor’s favourable comments after the sector level preview made my internship a very rewarding experience. Even now,I religiously open up the website on my browser, and I feel proud to see some of my recommendations incorporated.

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Misplaced Obsessions

Aren’t we  sick of those endless promotions of “fairness” products? I have been wondering of late that how come there is no campaign to nip this in the bud.

Probably,a lot is at stake for those having vested interests in it.Many live off it.A far disturbing thought is that it is we the people  who encourage it and indulge in it.Probably because we want to be “fair”.We may have good education,inner beauty,calmness,intelligence and all those “virtues” needed for an Indian woman/even man(nowadays :P),yet the first thought that comes across our mind on meeting people “She’s so pretty”(actually she’s only fair)/”Isn’t she dark”   ( she’s no competition for me :)). This is nothing short of racism/social apartheid.

Infact,some Indian celebrities have faced this discrimination. For an example Bipasha Basu had once said in an interview that she was never considered good-looking as a child since she wasn’t fair-skinned.She would be completely sidelined by her peers at school.It was her self-belief which saw her through.

Even now,if we look at the matrimonial section in the Sunday newspaper, the colour of the skin and the mention of  physical beauty comes before education details of the bride.Think,even now! So very little has changed regarding the mentality prevalent in society.In fact,it becomes a sort of stigma when the would-be groom’s mother nonchalantly puts it across “Hope your daughter is fair-skinned” and if the answer is “She isn’t actually very fair”,the phone call is cut short.

This mentality cannot exactly be dismissed as Indian since Western fantasy too has touches of blondness to it.

So,basically the world is perceived as having two classes people :- as u guessed 😉 the “dark” and the “fair”.Change is slow to come.Yet, I feel change is bound to come and will come.So,lets give the dusky beauties their due! 🙂

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A Perfect 100

Well,the unthinkable has happened in recent days.Now on ,every year one would require 100 percent marks in Science stream in the Board Examinations to get into SRCC , and maybe other colleges could follow suit.In my days perhaps a 93-95 were “enough” to get into the best college in India and I prided myself for scoring a 90.

To dwelve into this matter, we come across a few things.One obviously is “grade inflation”.Like prices hike ,marks and thus cutoffs too, do so.This might be due to the objective nature of the questions  to ease pressure off a student so that he/she can score well.Though the intention maybe good, it  supports the rat-race and further adds to a student’s misery because cutoffs increase,seats in colleges do not.Secondly,there are very few institutions(graduation colleges) that provide quality education and most of these are the very few like SRCC and are typically located in metropolitan cities.These institutes cannot generate enough seats for the lakhs of students.Thirdly,there are many who dream of studying pure sciences/bio-sciences yet,fail to get a seat on account of the single deciding factor- The Boards.These students have no other option other than studying,unwillingly, in a  private engineering college which cannot even boast of a decent faculty. Fourthly,another aspect has come into light,that commerce colleges are wary of providing admission to science students.Probably the 100 percent cutoff was to restrict science students.I,myself,have borne the brunt of this discrimination.I do not understand  what is wrong if a science student after his junior college decides to take up economics/commerce.Even the not- very- popular colleges discriminate on this front.Fifth,the Boards are day-by-day emerging the single deciding factor for the future of a student.Even a single bad paper can make a student bite the dust.

Clearly,there are many repercussions of this action of the SRCC admissions Committee.Yet,they are not completely at fault as grades are rising every year and they have to select the best.The problem lies elsewhere and is becoming a cause of great concern.

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My First Post

Hello Guys!

This is my first post.Since the past few days ,I have felt the longing to write down some things ,specifically my journey of life.For a start,I have just completed my B.Tech ( results are about to come) n whiling away time before I join my job.I have often felt the need of a friend with whom I could discuss issues related to me but as u would know at this point of time people are so occupied with themselves, so I thought I cuold give a vent to my thoughts here.Thanks for going through my post. 🙂

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