The following article describes my internship experience at Olam Vietnam Limited (Olam International Limited). To begin with, Olam is a leading food and agriculture business with operations across 70 countries and a network of 23,000 customers worldwide. They procure, process and deliver a wide range of products such as spices, edible nuts, coffee, cotton, cocoa to name a few. I was a part of the Edible nuts BU in Vietnam. To tell the readers about the conditions that led me there, I had completed my B.E and had been associated with two start-ups dealing with digital marketing and technical consultation. As a big fan of control systems engineering, handling project groups and events during my engineering days, I wanted an insight into how functions flow across corporates, conglomerates and big companies. Also, being a passionate farmer since a very young age, agriculture was something I could easily relate to. My intent to realize the scope and scale of a global supply chain and agri-business led me to Olam.
I was a with them for three months working across verticals of their supply chain starting from procurement through suppliers or self- sourcing from farmers to processing as per customer requirements while at the same time ensuring top quality and meeting regulatory requirements, then the aspects of sales, marketing and international delivery. This 3-step cycle of procurement, processing and sales is governed by top-notch logistics, storage and warehousing, packaging and QA-QC maintenance.
I had the opportunity to be a part of their Operations, Sales and Marketing team with delivering projects and undertaking supportive activities in fields of mixed shipment planning, variety processing of edible nuts, packaging for private label contracts and developing marketing content like brochures, presentations and catalogs to portray seed to shelf capabilities. Every moment with the Olam group was a cherishable one because not only did I get to learn about the technical and managerial aspects of the business, but also about corporate culture, soft-skills, networking and how to ask the right questions. I still remember the time when I had given my first weekly update presentation through a beautifully made PPT when my manager said: “You have wasted your time and not yet shown me how you have provided value”. That was a moment of realization. Unfortunately, we are taught in our schools and undergrad to submit beautiful looking reports and ppts but when it comes to a corporate scenario, the value you add is what matters. That is the essence of a supply chain! How value is added at each step to turn raw material into a finished product or service.
During my internship, my interest in Operations and supply chain piqued with the reason that it was a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary specialization with the scope across all departments/verticals of any given organisation. It is like an adhesive that gels the processes of the organisation promoting control, co-ordination and smooth flow of value delivery. This was way more exciting compared to the cliché fields of marketing and finance which most management aspirants hold dearest. Well, if you want to be able to sell for generating revenue and being happy about it, deeming yourself a successful businessman, you need to question how your products or services and being generated and importantly how efficiently. I am not trying to demean any field but upholding and asserting a field that is of high importance.
Another aspect of the supply chain that caught my interest is the “Reverse supply chain” that is of high emphasis since the past couple of years. It is how an organization deals with their wastes, by-products, products used and thrown by customers, returns, replacements etc., This defines the sustainability of a company based on how morally responsible they are in dealing with their sources and destinations out of their supply chain. For example, Olam uses their by-products and agri-waste generated from processing as pig-feed and fertilizer which is given back to the farmers from whom they source. Also, they re-invest part of their net income into improving the livelihoods of the farmers, thus creating a happy-sourcing or satisfied supplier. This is something that every organisation should re-evaluate in current times with choking emissions and piling up wastes. Does Lays (PepsiCo) take responsibility of the chips packet you throw into the bin? Something for the readers to look into. It is time that management aspirants look at the bigger picture, i.e brands behind brands, talent brands or conglomerates and evaluate their supply chains. Little do people realize when they munch into a Diary milk fruit and nut that it is a product of a multinational confectionery company Cadburys which is wholly owned by Mondelez International which in turn procures the cocoa, nuts and dried fruits from companies like Olam International.
Though I have diverted way out of describing my internship, that is exactly the point I’m trying to make! An internship acts as the foundation for you to think more, question more and dive into the ocean of possibilities. It lets you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, interests and short-comings, and brings you to the question of how am I adding value with anything I do? To anyone who is an intern, employee or an aspirant, question your company’s supply chain, question its efficiency and effectiveness, question its reverse supply chain, sustainability and most importantly, question your value addition within it. Now I’ll just let you be with your thoughts…