Stuck in traffic in the monsoon rains of Mumbai after a tiring day at work seemed like the perfect occasion to kick-off my internship blog. So, hey there, I am Aditi Mahajan, a junior undergraduate at the Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Delhi currently in the penultimate week of my 2 months long internship stint at the Mumbai Head Office of Hindustan Unilever. Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) is India’s largest Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company with a heritage of over 80 years in India. A company that is behind 9/10 products used in any Indian households on a regular day.Being a subsidiary of an Anglo-Dutch company, Unilever, HUL is a blend of the Indian and multinational firm culture.
I applied to HUL through the Training & Placement cell of campus. Given that I was to go to France on a Semester Exchange Program during the first semester of the 3rd year, I was aware I would be able to sit for just the Day 1 & 2 companies before my departure. You can imagine the amount of pressure that I must have gone through to crack an internship on the first 2 days. HUL is one of the FMCGs that comes to campus on Day 1 fortraining recruitment.
I spent some time brushing up some core courses and made it a point to understand the recruitment process, right from resume building, to GD and interview prep from some seniors.
Students can apply to either the R&D or the supply chain profile of HUL. I chose to apply for the R&D profile sinceI was interested in a job that allowed me to apply my scientific thinking and background to solve real world problems and this profile seemed like the best fit!
I got the opportunity to intern at my dad’s dream company after making it through a 3-tier selection procedure that comprised of a CV shortlisting, Group Discussion and 2 rounds of interview. I realised that critical thinking and practicality in your approach create an impression in the interview, so think aloud! Have a crystal-clear understanding of your previous projects and present them in a simple manner without too much jargon. The results were out on the same evening and I was ecstatic at having secured one of the most sought after internships.
The Induction Session:
HUL has a very structured internship program designed for the holistic development of undergraduates by giving them an opportunity to work on real life projects and develop leadership skills. All interns hired from various IITs gathered in Mumbai for a 3-day long induction session that gave us a feel of the organisation we were going to be a part of. Lectures, success stories of some employees, consumer house visits, team building activities, great food and the party, of course, summarise the induction program. Not to forget, a bag full of Unilever goodies and our own visiting cards at the welcome were the most pleasant surprises ever!The Unilever Leadership Internship Program (ULIP) follows a buddy-tutor-mentor system to help interns familiarise themselves with the organisation and its work culture better. Apart from the project, each of us was supposed to complete certain technical, social and societal tasks (writing this blog being one of them 😝) to understand not only the various departments that the organisation functions across but also the sustainable living and CSR initiatives of the firm.
The Mumbai HO has a research centre within the campus itself with excellent lab facilities and pilot plants. I joined the Global Design Centre (GDC) for Personal Care and was working with the Authentic Local Equities (ALE) team for soap bars. I was assigned a mandate that was a part of an ongoing innovation project in Kenya. I still remember how important and overwhelming the feeling was when I was told that I would be working on a project that was expected to bring a 7-digit turnover in euros. Like most other new recruits, I found myself lost in the pool of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms 😝) and office jargon but could pick up a handful of them by the end of my stint.
The project required me to develop a clear understanding of the processing and rheology of soaps and I spent the first week reading reports, talking to R&D Associates in my team, exploring the pilot plant and labs and gaining insights from discussions with my tutor. I was lucky to get a tutor who was an excellent teacher and invested a lot of time in teaching me the essentials of soap making. He always encouraged me to take initiatives, make mistakes under the cover of being new and think out of the box. More than the results, he invigorated me to work on the means and my learning objectives. When I came up with my first solution to the problem at hand, it was overwhelming to see how the team immediately got involved in implementing my solution!
Reading reports, thinking of solutions, evaluating their feasibility, backing my hypothesis with scientific facts, predicting results and scale up strategies by applying core chemical engineering principles, shuttling between the pilot plant and supplier meetings, managing the end-to-end processing of soaps in the pilot plant and making my own soap would be the best description of the last 2 months of my life.
Work Culture @ HUL:
The work culture at HUL is pretty multinational I’d say. Although there are no official timings as such, most people work from 9:30-5:30, 5 days a week. Labs and pilot plants shut at 6 in the evening and safety is given the primary thrust, especially women safety.
The overall culture stimulates and motivates thinking because all ideas are well accepted. Furthermore, there is no hierarchy when it comes to innovation and to cut the boss-subordinate system, everybody is called by their names and an open-office culture prevails.
The office is spread across a 12-acre land that has facilities like gym, swimming pool and even a creche! The main building has a street which is always bustling with activity. From TIGI Salon, to Knorr Kitchen, from Wall’s Happiness Station to the Bru café and Adda, the office building is full of spots to hang around and chill. In fact, I have had most of meetings at one of these spots instead of meeting rooms!
Apart from the bag full Unilever goodies, my own soap and a handsome stipend, I shall take back an assortment of memories that I will cherish a lifetime. The entire experience has been a great learning curve and I have gained in oodles in the last 8 weeks. Understanding the corporate work culture in a multinational, learning to work in team to bring something on the table, assuming leadership roles and understanding multiple facets of research and development has made the experience extremely insightful.
Blog entry by: Aditi Mahajan