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Summer 2020

Summer Diaries: Bombay Shirt Company

September 29, 2020
- Deep Behal

This summer, I worked at Bombay Shirt Company as an intern in their product team. Launched in 2012, Bombay Shirt Company is the first online custom shirt brand in India. Since their inception, they have operated primarily offline with 12 stores in India, one in New York, and one in Dubai. But recently they decided to ramp up their online presence, automate their supply chain, and use technology to transform the offline experience in their stores completely.

Getting there

I want to preface this by talking a little about Product Management as a career option straight out of college. One has to understand that Product Management is currently a niche in the Indian startup ecosystem. There are three primary reasons for this (nonexhaustive obviously)

  1. Only recently this title has been adopted industry-wide until a few years back there didn’t exist a designated Product team in many firms. Traditionally the work of a PM was handled by different teams and wasn’t very organized. Due to this the individuals who became the early Indian product managers were ones who had worked in domains like tech, business, design, marketing, etc

  2. Given that having a Product team requires the evolution of a firm’s structure and working and firms don’t necessarily evolve in the same way or with the same pace, the role of a Product Manager highly varies from firm to firm

  3. In countries like the US, firms recognized the advantage of hiring fresh graduates in Associate Product Manager programs some years back, and as a result, firms like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Tesla have very coveted APM programs. Only very recently have Indian startups started to adopt such programs

Thus it’s essential to recognize that opportunities for Product Management are very limited straight out of college and as a result, however “cool” Product Management sounds, students considering this as a career option should be extremely careful and mentally prepared for having many panic attacks at the thought of having a very bleak future (or maybe that’s just me lol)

It’s my firm belief that the primary purpose of an internship is to find out what you ‘don’t’ want to do in life. So, after having a great experience at my second-year internship with the product team of Zee5, I was fairly sure that Product management was something I wanted to do in the near future

(note: you have to keep in mind that the things you’ll want in life are always going to be malleable and will change based on your immediate circumstances, so it’s always better to plan for the ‘near future’ so that you can deal with unexpected changes in life)

Getting there (really this time)

Landing internships in product management is not a straightforward job and there is no sure shot way to get an internship. But the way that seems to be efficient for most people is using LinkedIn. I started preparing a list of firms in mid-January while keeping many parameters in mind. Some of these were:

  1. The sector of the firm. I was particularly fascinated by B2C (Business to Customer) firms that were primarily driven to provide services to average customers. This includes E-commerce firms like Amazon, Fintech firms like Paytm, Concierge service firms like Urban Company, etc

  2. The products they have,especially important as being excited about a product is essential in being able to give your best and learn the most

  3. The Product team. Making meaningful connections is extremely important not just for future networking but for being able to seek mentorship. Hence, it’s important to try to gauge at who can act as great mentors in Product teams of firms that you are applying in

  4. History of hiring interns or freshers for full-time jobs, to be able to calibrate your expectations

After having finalized my list, I started connecting with people at the highest product positions in both the HR and Product teams of these firms. After this, it was all about striking conversations and perseverance. By the first week of March, I had interviews set up with many excellent start-ups, and things were looking really nice for a change.

But that’s when the Covid-19 situation in India was starting to become a crisis. Suddenly I was back home and all my interviews were canceled. I’m going to be completely honest, I didn’t try to do anything else in hopes for things getting better for at least a month (was just living in denial)

But once things got fairly certain that remote internships are the best things we can hope for I started seeking out firms to see if they were hiring. Unsurprisingly most had frozen hiring for at least a quarter. Luckily when I spoke to my manager during my Zee5 internship, he told me all about how he had quit Zee5 and was now the Chief Product Officer at BSC. After a lengthy discussion, he offered a remote internship at BSC with their product team (Remember when I spoke about the importance of making meaningful connections?)

Work at BSC

The business side of BSC was pretty dead. Due to the lockdown restrictions in Maharashtra, their entire supply chain was forced to come at a halt. Seeing these conditions, the folks at BSC decided to ramp up the entirety of their development. This involved redoing their entire website, finetuning their measurement algorithms, digitizing manual aspects of their payment’s infrastructure and expanding their online infrastructure to account for migrating from just selling shirts to different custom apparel and accessories.

I worked on two projects in my three months of working with them.

  1. I drove the entire revamp of the ‘Store Stylist Journey’ on the ERP system. For some context, each BSC store has a few stylists who would assist individuals who would come to their stores to customize shirts to suit their needs. Stylists used iPads to show customers various customization options. But this journey was extremely disjointed and very different from the website journey. My responsibility was to do a complete overhaul of this journey to make it more seamless by replacing physical measurement by their proprietary measurement algorithm, integrating payments, and changing the UI/UX of this process to closely resemble that of the website to increase customer confidence, allowing for better online migration. I was solely responsible for conceptualizing the user flow and wireframes after conducting stakeholder interviews, and I led a team of UI/UX designers and developers to build solutions

  2. I also led the integration of a new mPOS payment provider for the 12 offline stores across India and the integration of a new Payment Gateway. They gave better opportunities for seamless integration, better reporting, and automating the refund process, saving 30+ manhours per refund Remote work was quite challenging and not as enriching as I’d hoped, as the most critical aspect of product management is being able to communicate with various stakeholders not only within but also outside the firm. But what did make the experience better was the fact that the team at BSC was accommodating and approachable

Key pieces of gyaan

  1. Networking and making connections is a skill that comes super in handy

  2. Nothing is more valuable than the ability to grind and persevere

  3. As cliched as it sounds your career should be at an intersection between what makes you happy and what makes you money. So use your internships wisely. Try to find that intersection, I guess? But know that it’s fine if you aren’t able to find it very soon. All this social media crap about “summer sorted” and “machau” may give you the perception that others have successfully found their intersection but trust me everyone is just winging it. Take your time