Aravind M Nair, a student of Marian International Institute of Management, shares how he got his dream sports internship at Decathlon and how the experience helped him understand the nuances of sales.
I always believed in the saying that if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life! I’ve always been passionate about sports and fitness, and so I knew from the start that I wanted to do an internship in Decathlon. Their tagline “Sports for all, all for sports” should tell you why I made that decision. With the help of our placement faculty, some students from my college applied for an internship in Decathlon. We started preparing for the selection process in our hostel premises.
12 of us were interested in sports and had applied for the internship. We were asked to submit our CVs for the CV shortlisting round. I had mentioned my participation and the various certificates in sports during school time and graduation. On the basis of our CVs, 8 of us were shortlisted. The next round was a telephonic interview with the CR manager.
I was asked to introduce myself followed by questions on my favourite game and my academics. After a few days, he called me and asked me to attend the DRD – Decathlon Recruitment Drive. In DRD, I was asked to be in front of the store at 6:30 in the morning for attending the interview. First, there was a physical fitness round, in which I was asked to run for a specific time for checking my stamina. It was followed by a ‘beep’ test, a 20m multistage fitness test.
Next, there was a game round in which the participants were divided into two teams and given a Frisbee. In that game, my team was the winner, but they were judging us on the basis of our communication to the team members, vitality, and responsibility. I can tell you that anyone who hasn’t gone through the sports round of this process has missed an experience of a lifetime! As demanding as it gets, the sports round is a true test of character.
After this, 3 of the participants were eliminated. Next was the sales round in which we had to select a Decathlon product and convince the regulators to buy it. I chose cricket bat as my product and they asked many questions just like customers for ex. – a bat which can be regularly played with hard as well as soft ball, why some of the bats had a curve at the bottom, etc.
I knew that there were mainly three types of cricket bats: English willow, Kashmir willow, and mixed willow bats. For playing regular hard ball cricket, English willow bats are perfect. I managed to convince them by explaining the specifications of English willow bats and their specific rates. Even though I only had a little product knowledge, I somehow convinced them to buy it. It was a great experience!
I cleared that round and it was time for the final panel interview. There were 5 interviewers and it started with a few questions from my resume, followed by my strengths and weaknesses. After that, the mode of the interview completely changed.
Then came a tough situation-based question. They asked if they were a group of investors interested in investing in a new store in Gujarat, what factors would I consider using for convincing them as the store manager. I took a minute, thought of some ideas, and replied that it would depend on a number of factors like the interest of the specific state towards sports, number of stadiums and sports councils in the state, government support, famous sportspersons from the state, no. of competitors, etc.
They were pretty convinced with the way I had answered that question. Thus, I got the confirmation that I had been hired! My joy knew bounds! Not to forget, the entire interview was conducted in sports attire. I walked into the interview room wearing sports tee and shorts, and came out bagging a summer internship offer! Pretty cool, right!
I joined Decathlon Vyttila store at Ernakulam. I could tell from the first sight that it was different from any other workplace! Employees were coming in sports attire, dropping by and shaking hands with each other, greeting them with a warm smile. I soon figured that it was part of the awesome work culture and fantastic employee bonding at Decathlon. I met my mentor, Renjith (Operations head), who briefed me about the company and its values.
Being a sports enthusiast myself, I was deeply convinced by Decathlon’s vision to make sports accessible to all and it didn’t take me long to blend into the sporting culture of the place. I made new friends and tried out new sports whenever I could! But make no mistake, Decathlon was not all about playing around and having fun.
I was soon assigned to Domyos department, the in-house fitness brand of the company. I was expected to manage the sales of the brand for the next two months, all the while working on my assigned summer internship project. That means I worked for straight 9-hour long shifts in which one wasn’t expected to sit even once, except the lunch break!
I managed the visual merchandising of the brand and dealt with even the ‘unfriendliest’ of customers in the friendliest way possible! It wasn’t an easy job, but it helped me learn the nitty-gritty of sales! Coming to my summer internship project, I was expected to develop a market development strategy for Domyos.
The deliverables included developing a competitive analysis of the brand, a user analysis for the fitness enthusiasts, awareness building program for the Domyos, and identifying distribution network opportunities in local fitness clubs of Ernakulam. I had to find out about every fitness brand available in Indian market, their price range, quality and technical details, reaching out to fitness clubs, meeting local fitness teachers, conducting surveys and what not!
Apart from the work culture, another thing I liked about the company was their amazing focus on customer service. ‘Outservice than outsmart’ – they truly live up to their motto. I also cherished the freedom that was given to every intern and employee when it came to work. I could set daily pilot strategy, manage my layout format, and set my own merchandising display! I wasn’t supposed to follow any set pattern and could try anything and everything.
I could make any no. of mistakes as long as I kept learning from them. Was there any downside? Well, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. True ownership meant I was accountable for every minute details of my layout, something as big as deciding the growth strategy to as trivial as managing the cleaning work. There was no concept of weekends, rather I was overloaded with work on weekends! It was very demanding at times, and I could perform only because I was passionate about it.
From this internship, I got a real hang of how sales work, how visual merchandising is taken care of in a retail outlet, how a brand’s commercial policy should be developed, etc. I made some great friends, tried my hands on skateboarding, cycling, hiking, and of course, my fitness improved too.
I also won the quantity challenge held in the store as I sold the most number of fitness equipment above the range of INR 10000 in the history of the store. On the last day of the internship, I was also offered a full-time job! Overall, it was an enriching experience and I couldn’t be any happier.
Author of the article: Aravind M Nair