ITC (PSPD) – Bakhsh Mangat

The prologue

I am not an HR executive of ITC so I won’t be boasting about what ITC is and what it does. Ever heard about Classmate, Goldflake, Sunfeast, Maratha/Windsor, aashirvaad? Bingo! You are good to go (pun intended). ITC has five major divisions. But the Paperboards and Specialty Paper Division (lovingly called PSPD) is the one often unknown to the masses. Its biggest plant is in Bhadrachalam (actually 6 kms away from there too), which manufactures more than 50% of the paper India uses. And my summers ’18 have been all about this place.

How I was judged and made nervous

The breakfast hall (The Windsor)
The breakfast hall (The Windsor)

ITC traditionally had one GD, one Technical and one HR round. But this year we were surprised by an additional psychometric test. And with my history of failing all the PTs I have ever given, you can say I was “pretty pumped up with anxieties” to put it lightly. ITC was my first choice in FMCGs (Just kidding, I was rejected in the other two). But it was definitely a rank above the non-core firms for me. Frankly, I had never expected to get an intern in a core profile at ITC (and was reinforced in this belief of mine after the ‘terrific’ tech-cum-HR round). But here I am, after 5 weeks of enthralling industry experience, writing this blog post.

(I have been asked to give some fundae for the interviews and psychometric tests. You can skip to the end ‘here’. I wont mind. Because I can’t know if you skipped. Or can I ? )

How I waited and waited and then partied

Like most of the companies which come at the start of the Intern season, ITC took its own time to send an offer letter. I often wondered and devised long elaborate plans of how all this might have been an incredible hoax put in place to torture my already meagre existence. One of the best things ITC offers is this 3-day orientation where you get a fully paid travel to Bangalore and a 3 days – 2 nights stay at The Windsor ( plus every meal is a gala dinner and there is a cocktail party too ). The vicious HR executives devise malicious schemes to lure you out of your comfort circle and “talk”.(Quoting Ms wallace, “ Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?”) Apart from that, for most of the parts its a seemingly long, boring orientation. So I am not going to talk about it.

The reception (The Windsor)
The reception (The Windsor)

So we got our projects, guides and mentors allocated around mid-April. I was lucky enough to get a problem related to my research interest in Thermal Engineering. It was to increase the efficiency of Chillers (basically large size ACs) used to cool water for pulp production line. ITC rarely rolls out projects in supply chains to the tech interns. The projects are the real world problems the industry is facing right now. In my case, the output temperature of the water was really critical for efficient production and the people here were actually struggling with the problem with chillers. Before actually reaching here, we talked to our guides over a call and got some initial insights into the project. Well that’s pretty much it for the pre intern part.

Now skip to May 15, PSPD, Bhadrachalam, Telangana.

The Project

The Way ITC views this is- They give you a problem and you are expected to solve it in two months (or at least provide key insights). That’s it. You can ask for anything and the people will support you to the fullest. Best thing is, these people listen to what you have to say. You are put in direct contact with CEO of the division too. They have hired you because they want fresh, new ideas, different from what a professional with 20 years of experience can generate. Usually the problems are the ones which almost everyone has tried their hands on once, and you are their last hope, before they implement some heavy cost measures.

This is a small part of the line where pulp is made from small wood pieces
This is a small part of the line where pulp is made from small wood pieces

I had no clue of how I was going to solve the problem allocated to me. And I feel that was the biggest asset indeed. The first one and a half week was mostly literature reading and going through the manuals. Two weeks after that I did the data collection and simultaneous analysis of the same. As of now I have identified the root cause of the problem and am looking for solutions and devising the action plans.

Life of an Intern – 101

This is the same small part of the line where pulp is produced, but from the opposite side of the road
This is the same small part of the line where pulp is produced, but from the opposite side of the road

My work here has varied from designing heat exchangers to performing titrations to staring at my laptop for hours at a stretch hoping the numbers would make some sense if I continued to do the same for another hour. The working hours are not really strict but you are expected to report to your guide daily and keep him in the loop on what you are doing. I usually work from 9 to 6, and leave the plant by 7 after discussing the day’s progress with my guide. The reviews are scheduled fortnightly, within the pulp mill. Also the monthly review is with the General manager of the Plant and the CEO of the PSPD. The factory can take a toll on your ears, but don’t worry you will get ear plugs free of cost 😀 . Anyway you don’t need them after a few days.( Evolution!). ITC follows 6-days a week schedule so the weekend lasts even lesser than expected. Hey but did I tell you that they have a bar INSIDE the plant. 🙂

This is a cabin allocated to two of us interns. Guess what? It is also in the same small part of the line where pulp is produced. (Basically I didn’t put too many efforts in taking photographs)
This is a cabin allocated to two of us interns. Guess what? It is also in the same small part of the line where pulp is produced. (Basically I didn’t put too many efforts in taking photographs)

The Place, The People, and a North Indian

Bhadrachalam is known for its hot and humid climate with temperatures easily reaching up to 50oC at this time of the year. Combine it with the rummage of the factory and you have got yourself a pretty nice topic to complain about to your friends touring exotic locales at their Univ Interns. But the dedicated company of monkeys here, have made it sure I never miss insti.

On my way to the plant
On my way to the plant

Me and my co intern from NIT Warangal were given a quarter here inside the residential colonies in the plant itself. So the work is just 5 mins away (I won’t comment if its a good thing or a bad thing).

I have significantly improved my sign language too. Most people here do not understand hindi or English but are surprisingly helpful and interactive. Food wasn’t an issue as I had been undergoing the rigorous hostel 5 mess training for almost 3 years now. We also had the fortune of meeting up a few seniors here who joined just 2-3 years back, who provided us the much needed human interaction and some nice company on the weekends.

The Main Road. This unit can easily compete with our campus in terms of forest cover ( Our Insti will obviously win. Meh. )
The Main Road. This unit can easily compete with our campus in terms of forest cover ( Our Insti will obviously win. Meh. )

The nearest city, Bhadrachalam is kind of shady in terms of good restaurants but is a nice place to visit if you are looking for south indian architecture in temples. About 40-60 kms from bhadrachalam there is a nice place called Papikondalu but we haven’t got a ticket for the boat ride yet. Maybe our lady luck will shine in the coming weeks. You actually realise the extent of remoteness of this place when you have to drive for 2 hrs either side to reach the nearest theatre which airs ‘Sanju’ in Hindi.

My humble abode ( Thankfully it had an AC inside, and a Narnia style lamp outside ).
My humble abode ( Thankfully it had an AC inside, and a Narnia style lamp outside ).

Fin

Frankly the life here can be a bit mundane and tough(if you can’t beat the heat). But still I would call it worth it, solely due to the kind of industry exposure I got. That too, while doing the work I like and applying the knowledge I actually learnt in the last 3 years. For me this internship has been an exponentially increasing learning curve where I have added a lot to my knowledge as a mechanical engineer. And now if someone asks me, “Was taking IITB mechanical worth it?” I finally have an answer after 3 years.

The residential colony in which the quarter was. It is called Champak.
The residential colony in which the quarter was. It is called Champak.

Random Fundae

Frankly speaking I didn’t have a core profile at all (basically first year CS project and a highly inflated XLr8 bot which didn’t even actually work). All I had were some basic concepts of mechanical engineering that I learnt in my sophie year and a lot of confidence. And I still feel that was the only thing that worked in my favor. The interview phase is quite a stressing part of the insti life. People will give you all sorts of fundae. Take them. Talk to seniors. Ask for help. Prepare for the common questions beforehand. And the most important thing, DON’T PANIC. Even if you are wrong. There were many points in my interview where both I and the interviewer knew that I was telling some half cooked answer based on guesses and meagre knowledge. But it had a proper flow of logic. Interviewers are not there for testing knowledge. They just judge your logic and your faith in yourself.

This is what I think. And this is what I would judge the person on, if ever I take some interview. :p

2 years ago