Sarang Bhawalkar is a rising MBA2 interning at Reckitt Benckiser. Sarang is specializing in Marketing and Strategy and is the co-president of the Graduate Marketing Association, VP of Finance (Luxury and Retail Club), and VP of Social Events (OutClass).
NYU Stern’s “Summer Internship Series” sheds light into Sternies’ internship experiences. Posts are written by rising MBA2s who are currently working at their summer internship.
I cannot believe my summer internship is over already. The past ten weeks have flown by so quickly! I am currently on vacation and writing this from the comfort of my family home in Mumbai, India. This past year at Stern has been a crazy ride capped by my internship and it all has been worth it. Prior to Stern, I used to be a research scientist in the building materials industry and worked in product development for six years. I have a PhD in Polymer Science and it often takes people by surprise when I mention it. I was very good at what I did, but I was interested in working in a more fast-paced industry and in a consumer-facing brand manager role which made me decide to go to business school.
Over the summer, I interned as an Assistant Brand Manager intern at Reckitt Benckiser and worked on a small personal care brand. My objective was to reposition the brand for the sports space and target serious and recreational athletes. I had to develop a go-to market strategy to relaunch the brand in 2019 and develop a three-year strategy to grow the brand through product innovation. Usually for bigger brands, interns get to work on one of three parts of the marketing strategy – Equity (Brand messaging and recognition), Activation (implementing brand interaction in the market) or Innovation (Product pipeline that serves to grow the brand). Since the brand I was working on was a much smaller brand, my project touched all three and gave me significant insight into different aspects of managing a brand. I also had to be very scrappy with research since we had a very small budget. I reached out to as many people as I could to do market research and conducted focus groups to understand the target consumer and their shopping habits. Doing all of this was very new to me, but I felt a certain excitement that I had never felt in any of my previous roles – a major indicator to me that this was something I was truly passionate about and it motivated me to do my job better. I had always heard about the hub and spoke model with brand managers being the center of the wheel with the different spokes representing the different functions, and this internship was no different. I had to lead several cross-functional meetings to get consensus on many key aspects of the brand such as distribution, P&L and claims. We also had limited R&D support, so I got to put on my old R&D hat on for developing an innovation strategy for the brand. Reckitt Benckiser has a very fast-paced and entrepreneurial culture, but I had the nicest manager who was very patient with me and helped me understand the business. Everyone that I spoke to always took the time to guide me and I never felt like I did not have the support that I needed. One of the coolest things I got to do was the change the packaging for the brand. I worked with a design agency and I had to give them a brief to come up with a design that would appeal to the new target consumer. After several iterations, we came up with a few design options that we tested on a consumer platform. This helped me make a recommendation for the new packaging. It will be very exciting to see a product on the shelf in 2019 that I helped design the packaging for.
In my essay for Stern, I was very clear that I wanted to be a brand manager and I am grateful that I got a chance to try it out for the summer. I really enjoyed it and I look forward to that being my full-time job after I graduate in 2019. However, a lot of students in my class are not completely sure that their summer internship was their calling, and they will explore other options in the Fall – which is perfectly okay. The internship is a two-way interview – both you and your employer are looking for a fit. If it doesn’t work out, you both move on. It is a great way to explore a different career path and I am glad to have found my calling through it.