Hey, I’m Aditya Iyengar, a final-year undergraduate majoring in Mechanical Engineering and this blog is all about my experience leading up to, and as an intern at Faering Capital. Let’s dive into it straight away, going back to August 2020.
The Intern Season
I only had a broad idea of what I wanted to do. Or rather, a clear idea of what not to do :-p. While I liked occasional coding, I certainly didn’t want to do it full-time, so there goes all the SDE profiles. No core. That pretty much left consulting, finance and FMCGs. And that became my preferred order of companies.
As far as preparation goes, I had only done the bare minimum – a few mock aptitude tests, sporadic case prep, basic finance jargon and some HR questions. Well aware that my resume didn’t have anything remarkable with respect to any of the fields I was applying to, I went into Day 1 with not so many expectations. The companies I had applied to were ITC, HUL, P&G, Deutsche Bank and Strategy&. I made it through one round of shortlists for the first two, but very quickly realized that the profiles weren’t to my liking. Within a few days, an IAF from Faering Capital opened. Finance (tick). Decent stipend (tick). Since I had never heard of the company, I looked up the job profile, googled Private Equity and there you go, my interest was piqued. IAF signed.
The first round, for which almost everyone meeting the CPI cutoff was shortlisted, was a basic aptitude test – quantitative reasoning, English comprehension and logical puzzles. All three are part of almost any decent aptitude test that you find online. Felt like going through the motions, but didn’t expect anything great from it (later on I was told that I had scored the highest in the test, who knows how that happened xD). And with that I made the first round of interview shortlists. My interview was taken by one of the Principals (yeah, not the school one), who later turned out to be my supervisor too. The interview was off to a pretty steady start – walked through my resume, told why I wanted to work at Faering and then took up some questions on my projects and extra-curriculars. The rest of the interview (about 10-15 minutes) was spent on a guesstimate. My occasional case prep helped me out here, and I felt that I had done a solid job of the question.
Soon enough the shortlist for the next round was out, only seven had made it so far. I nervously sat down to brush some finance material, wondering what would be the subject of the interview the next day. Fast-forward to the interview, as I entered the Zoom meeting, I momentarily freaked out. The only person on the other end was the founder of the firm himself. However, I’d have to say that it ended up as one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever given. We pretty much had a candid conversation regarding our college experiences, the economy, Covid and my future goals. As I came out of the interview, the first thing I said to myself was, “Chalo, ab toh it doesn’t really matter selection hua ya nahi”. I had a great talk and that was enriching enough for me then. Later that night, the results were announced, and lo and behold, my name was there. My primary feeling was relief, slowly transforming to elation, particularly after Day 1 BT. A few Google searches later, I was actually excited. Office right by the Mumbai seaface, whoa, that sounds super fun. Yeah, press F already.
The Actual Experience
Cut to May 2021, first day at work.
In a cubicle on the 10th floor of a shimmering skyscraper, with a view of the sealink and the vast blue sea. Hostel 15 ka room (hey, at least it was the 10th floor).
We were introduced to the people at the firm, at that time just the 10. Yep, TEN! Almost all private equity firms are really small because, in the words of the founder, “lesser people to share the profits with” xD. Within a couple of days, we started off with our work, to start with, basic financial modelling – income statements, balance sheets and the like. All interns were assigned pretty much the same task, however with different companies. Despite being work-from-home, there were reasonably fixed working hours, starting at 9:30 AM and ending around the 6 PM mark. At the start, we would catch-up with our supervisor about once every two days. The work, albeit tedious at first sight, was actually very very engaging. To explain it to a layman, we each worked with reasonably small companies (obviously unlisted, since PE!), tried to model all their historical financial information, benchmark them against their competitors, understand the market and the company’s position therein and finally predict their performance over the next five years. Sounds cool right! It sure was, especially for someone with a decent background in ML (although we used none of it, just simple finance!)
Oh, didn’t I already mention Friday Catch-ups! Faering has this unique culture, where the entire team meets every Friday evening for about 30-45 minutes. No, not to discuss work. To play a game :). Every week, one member comes up with a game and organizes it for the others. Smashkarts, Among Us, Codenames, Boggle, Skribbl – we played it all. You know what, I actually learned about some cool online games. So if you choose to contact me after reading this article, let it be for game advice rather than general gyaan xD.
Anyway, this is pretty much how it went until the first week of July, by which time we completed the project.
A Twist at the End
With the scheduled end of the internship approaching in under two weeks, we were asked if we could extend till the end of the month, as there was a very exciting project in the pipeline. All of us said yes even without a second thought! We were supposed to work directly with one of the portfolio companies, almost like a separate internship. In hindsight, it was a really really great opportunity to get a peek into one of the country’s hottest startups, not from an investor’s POV but that of the company itself. Here, we were split up into different projects – mine involved extracting the company’s product reviews from Amazon, Flipkart etc. and use NLP to provide some insights to the retail team. The problem statement was effectively another two month project, but as we only had a month at hand, the tempo was upped. Daily catch-ups, longer working hours, you know the drill. The work was really fun, and we met our deadlines more often than not. As we reached the end, we were told that there was a surprise in store for us. We were called to the company’s office for a day, meeting several of the heads and the founder, one after another! The hourlong life talk that I had with the founder, an IITB alum (they’re everywhere, aren’t they), goes down as one of the best hours of my life ngl.
Oh, and I stayed back at the office (or was forced to by my co-intern :-p) for about half an hour after the work was done. Yes, for pictures! Yay, finally some proof that I actually did an intern :-p. We were showered with goodies as well, just so happens that the company is a female skincare brand. Hope Mom likes cherry body lotion, because I’m leaving the whole goodie bag home whenever I get to go next :-D.
To all the readers, especially those entering the internship season, I’d like to say this. Chill out and approach the season as a period where you get to learn more about yourself. Yeah, it’s great if you get a Day 1, but trust me on this, there are enough great companies out there for you. I’m quite confident I wouldn’t have traded my intern for anything else that my friends had – each company provides a very different, and more often than not great, perspective!
So, look out actively for opportunities around you, don’t “judge books by their covers” and give it your best shot!
Obviously, thanks are due to you, the tenacious reader, for sticking around for so long. Also to Insight, for compelling a lazy me to pen down these thoughts. All the best – and feel free to contact me, I’ll be glad to help in whatever little way I can :).