A lot can happen over coffee - you could lose your job too! Summer Experience of IMT Ghaziabad Student

 | July 27,2012 04:23 pm IST

April 9th, 2012. History repeated.

This time my dad accompanied me again. He had accompanied me earlier to all the formal occasions in my life from convocation to college admissions and I still thought that maybe from today I would walk like a truly grown-up professional in my hometown. Poor me!

He said he wanted to accompany me to the corporate office of Cafe Coffee Day, Kolkata and assured me that he wont make me feel uncomfortable and leave after making sure I got into the corporate office all right. At the back of my mind I could see him meeting my internship supervisor or the HR manager before leaving and introducing me; and I staring at the two like a dumb Einstein. No point arguing with a retired Sales Manager, he was more eager on that morning to market his product (me) than I was eager for my experience. It all came to pass as I had imagined and looking back I think he was natural in his expectations; being the financer of the two year course and fortunate enough to have his son located in his hometown for summers.

The office appeared busy and it was apparent that they had a post vacant and some interviews scheduled on that day since I was told to wait in a room where several others were already waiting for a interview. After I had a conversation with the HR manager regarding the formalities, she introduced me to a guy Anandam who was the induction trainer. In the meantime a guy named Rajdip had come and shook hands with me and told me that he was from the marketing department and that I would be working with him and his manager Arun who was heading the marketing department in the east.

After the induction training through a detailed presentation, I realized how little Google search had offered about the company. Then Anandam told me that it being my first day, I needed to spend time in a CCD outlet. I was not given any task except a small observation survey that I was told to fill after leaving the cafe. The nearest cafe was in 57B, Park Street and I was to report there. Now came the awkward part. Since I would be staying there a few hours behind the counter, I was told to dress like a staff (they are called employees colloquially). I was handed a CCD staff outfit consisting of a shirt and an apron (it even had a batch carrying an unknown name) and told me to return them the next day. I arrived at the cafe outlet. A staff greeted me with a smile but it vanished soon as he saw me approaching the counter.


After talking with the cafe manager I was shown the change room where I got into the black and purple outfit. As I was changing one staff got in and asked me if I am a new staff and I had a hard time making him understand that I am a summer intern. Somehow he could not digest the idea, eyed me suspiciously like a competitor and then left the room. The next couple of hours the manager was not there and I was at the counter, dressed like the staff and observing the interiors and its music, the people at the tables and the POS system. The staff worked away and I helped them a little with passing some stuff. One of them also showed me the coffee machine and deep freezer with much interest. Amidst all these, in my mind I was fighting an uncanny affinity to stay in that outfit, boss around (they were already addressing me as Sir!) and take pride every time a customer steeped into the outlet and the contradictory willingness to come out of the outfit, reveal my well-ironed formals and tell the visitors that I do not work here but a management intern on a visit.

The next day in the conference room, all my dreams of developing marketing ideas in corporate boardrooms or by sitting in front of computer vanished into thin air. Since they had no immediate project for interns and they were expecting some from Bangalore head office next week, I had to do CMC (Cafe Moments Card) sales in high footfall locations in Kolkata for a week. The card had been launched in select cities in India and the staffs were not promoting it well. The cards benefits were explained to me in that meeting. I had paid less attention to it thinking they would give me a nice brochure where everything would be written but when Arun got up giving me a target of 10 cards per day and started leaving after wishing me luck and instructing me to report to Rajdip every time I enter and leave a cafe, I got panicked. Rajdip was my savoir, being of my age he read the perplexity on my face. After Arun left, I managed to ask Rajdip the details again and he also assured me that I could call him for any help. He told me to pick any mall for the first day and I opted for South City Mall. Before bidding good bye to the air-conditioned office and stepping out to the sultry heat, I mustered some courage and asked Arun if they would reimburse the travel expenses and that I would be taking off the coming Sunday. He gave a positive nod for the travel expenses but advised me to avoid cabs unless emergency and take any weekday off next time onwards instead of weekends as CCD has more walk-ins on weekends. Thinking Rajdip would solve the toughest of my apprehensions, I went on to ask When should I exactly approach the customer after he enters the cafe? I still remember the way he beamed at me and said Being a marketing student, you should be able to able to find it out yourself!

The one week sales experience was a blessing. I got to know the cafe manger and staff very well at South City Mall as I repeated the location for the next 3 days with Radips permission. I tried a variety of waiting positions: standing behind the counter sometimes, sometimes seated on a table and sometimes just standing in a corner trying to figure out whom and when to approach. I carried a demo card with me and after some initial failures got comfortable with a sales pitch that sounded like Good Afternoon Sir/Madam, I am from the marketing team of CCD and last month we have launched a card as you see here(a pamphlet was on the table). Using this you can blah blah and blah, so would you like to take one? Gradually I could figure out I was more successful with single customers, okay with couples but terrible with groups. Some customers were quaint too, having peculiar idiosyncrasies as I found out talking with them. One old man after being approached, talked with me everything but about the card, two old ladies treated me like an obstinate child telling me smilingly that they would surely buy one next time, most couples saw me sympathetically as the hapless salesperson they could perhaps make happy and one guy from the corporate world complained about an earlier card launched by the company and even gave the old card no. telling he would buy CMC only if the earlier problem got rectified by the head office. The freakiest cases were some of the repeat customers who had not bought the card after being approached on any previous days; they avoided to gaze at me at all cost, thinking I would catch them again and they would again have to say no(for some people it is hard).