The 'self reflective report' is alike an 'after action review' i.e. it aims to document some of my personal learning on the project. Initially the project talks about how we went about doing the project. I have described the working of the project in three phases. Each phase talks about how we went about the project. The self reflection report will also cover problems and challenges which the group and I faced while doing this project as an individual and how we as a group overcame these problems. The report will also cover what I learned from this project, from my company head Mr. Chris Haycock and from my extremely helpful and extremely wise academic supervisor Dr. Hong Liu. The Manchester Business School Faculty seeks continuous ways of improving quality of the Mbus programme, it is anticipated that part of my learning as documented in this report will provide useful contribution in achieving commendable meaning to the programme. Also student involved in this programme in future may also find useful guidance.
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I would firstly like to thank all my friends and group mates who were a part of this internship Agatha Charalambous, Xu Liang, Yibei Wu, Ying Li and Yiyuan Ying. They listened, supported, encouraged and helped me to organize my thoughts. Without their help and input this project wouldn't have been successfully completed.
I could not have written this dissertation without the support and constructive criticism of my supervisor Dr. Hong Liu. Without his support and help my dissertation would have been so very different. I would also like to thank my Project manager at Askaprice Chris Haycock (Online Marketing Manager), for his continuous help and guidance. His expertise in online marketing helped me understand and learn a lot about web marketing.
But most importantly, I would like to sincerely thank my parents Mr. Mukesh Panjwani and Mrs. Reshmi Panjwani and my sister Miss Karishma Panjwani. Their constant support allowed me to pursue a Masters degree and their continuous encouragement and belief reminded me to always have faith in my abilities and to pursue my dreams. It is for you all that I dedicate this dissertation.
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards - by Vernon Saunders Law
The MBus Global Business Analysis prestigious and well acknowledged programme of Manchester Business School allows students to take a client-facing project with an external organization as a part of their final dissertation. This part of the course is closely related to the MBA Method that enables you to experience experiential learning and helps you to become a reflective practitioner or manager. This project or internship helps us as students gain work experience in an UK company or any other company worldwide. The internship also helps students gain practical knowledge from the company which is very useful item to be added to our resume and for the application of future jobs. The internship helps us apply all the theoretical and academic knowledge that we have gained during the course and in our previous academic education to the internship, hence helping students gain knowledge related to both practical experience and theoretical learning.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
I had the opportunity of working for my summer internship at Askaprice.com, a website which offers one-stop shop for car buyers. I worked on my project along with five other fabulous friends from my class Agatha Charalambous, Xu Liang, Yibei Wu, Ying Li and Yiyuan Ying. The internship went on for nearly 12 weeks. Since my internship was a group project, I had to write a group report in collaboration with other members of my group and an individual self reflective report. This internship provides us an opportunity to apply learning to business problems.
Askaprice.com is an e-business website which deals with car buying and leasing. Its head office is situated in Liverpool. Askaprice.com provides quotes for new cars as well as used cars. Its core function was to take car buying requests from users, check if these requests were genuine using a lead management software and then generating authentic leads which would be passed on to the different car dealers depending on the car and region requested. Askaprice.com would be paid for the leads they generated for the car dealers.
My group report was to prepare a Marketing plan for Askaprice.com which would give them a competitive edge in the dynamic business environment they work in and help Askaprice.com to make rational decisions in order to successfully keep growing as a company and become a household name which is their aim for the future. The marketing plan generally contains the Competitor analysis, Customer analysis, SWOT Analysis and the future marketing plan and strategy for Askaprice.com for the next five years.
This report is an 'after action review' i.e. it aims to document some of my personal learning on the project. Initially the project talks about how we went about doing the project. I have described the working of the project in three different phases. Each phase talks about how we went about the project. The self reflection report will cover problems and challenges which I faced while doing this project as an individual and how we as a group overcame these problems. The report will also cover what I learned from this project, from my company head Mr. Chris Haycock and from my extremely helpful and exceptionally wise academic supervisor Dr. Hong Liu. The Manchester Business School Faculty seeks continuous ways of improving quality of programme, it is anticipated that part of my learning as documented in this report will provide useful contribution in achieving commendable intent to the Mbus Global Business Analysis programme. All students who will be involved in this programme in the future may find useful guidance in this report.
As a child, toys attracted me simply for one reason; I wanted to open them, take them apart and see what made these inanimate things work. My room was virtually a warehouse of parts and portions of ripped up electronic playthings. My passion propelled me to take up Engineering in senior college. Today, I have realized, it's not only making things that is important but also to market them in the right way and create a need for that product in the market is important. The field of strategic Business Managementhas made a major contribution to this exceptional expansion and rapid development and this field with its diverse applications has propelled the world into reaching greater and unimagined heights. So I wish to groom myself as an entrepreneur who will be able to work efficiently towards ameliorating the lives of people in an effective and desirable way; giving my customers what they want whenever they want. Thus I want to gain an understanding about the dynamics of international business management and consumer behaviour. I want to grow as an individual not only to manage my family business but to expand it further and bring about its expansion globally.
In senior college I took up to my Bachelors of Engineering in Computers from a well known institute called Thadomal Shahani Institute of Engineering under the University of Mumbai. Here I learnt the essence of time management due to several projects I undertook as a part of my course work. As a team leader both in the academic front and in the extra curricular field I learnt the essence of factors such as motivation and group work and leadership skills. I also learnt to be compassionate towards others less fortunate than yourself and most importantly co-operation.
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After finishing Computer Engineering I planned to head to Manchester Business School which is one of the best Management schools in UK having some very highly knowledgeable and experienced professors. My course MBus Global Business Analysis has helped me learn about business management and international business development in general. It has helped me built my international business consulting skills and also helped me learn about business analysis and development. The dissertation completes my MSc in Global Business Analysis program at Manchester Business School.
The exceptional growth of Askaprice.com has meant that they have a more structured organisation divided into defined departments. One of these departments includes the Marketing Department, comprising of an Online Marketing Manager, Editor, Associate Editor and Designer/Developer. The Online Marketing Department is responsible for taking care of the consumers and customer related aspects of the business, including Search Engine Marketing, the overall website design, further web developments, copywriting of the articles and website editorial functions.
The long-term strategy of Askaprice.com in terms of marketing is to target the right audience which is dependent on many factors. These factors include a re-evaluation of the market, reviewing the competitor's landscape and budget limitations, etc. The marketing department has limited skills in these areas. Hence Askaprice.com has identified that it requires a well-structured, logical, cohesive and complete Marketing Plan for their organisation in order to guide their marketing team in the coming years in order to maintain their continuous growth in the automotive market. Although they have enormous knowledge of the target audience for their company, which they gained through consumer surveys and behavioural analysis conducted by them, they still feel they do not have the necessary expertise and skills to conduct a complete self-assessment of their department, to perform analysis of the competitors and the competitive environment, identify an accurate market share and formulating a more concrete objectives and marketing strategies.
Thus with the help of their marketing department and our groups knowledge and hard work we have prepared a Marketing plan for Askaprice.com's which will help them to achieve this for their long-term growth.
I have divided the project into three different phases which will help understanding the project development easily. The first phase explains how we accomplished the researching and background reading for the project in due time and formation of the contents of the marketing plan in brief. The second phase includes the combining of the research and theory that we had collected and read. It was important as we had to justify the theory with proper research and practical data. In this phase we also divided the parts of the project amongst ourselves for writing the final report. Finally the phase three includes the formation of the final Askaprice.com's marketing plan.
In the initial visit to the company we learnt about the company and the staff working out there. Chris Haycock, our company supervisor gave us an insight about the online marketing department and the work that the department does. We had a basic idea of the marketing plan which we all had researched upon. The group together decided how the marketing plan would be structured, documented and what parts of the marketing plan would be necessary for an online e-business site. After we completed basic outline of the marketing plan, we had to fill in the project plan that the company had given us to fill in. The project plan included everything about the project we were supposed to do including the benefits (qualitative and quantitative), the project costs if any, project objectives, project execution- the approach, the success factors, the technology, the resources and the deliverables required, the anticipated outcomes and the team structure. Basically the project plan was necessary as it gave the company a proposal about how we planned to approach the project and what people, tools, technology and time would be involved in doing this project
After we completed the project plan, a decision was taken of dividing the group further into two more groups, for faster, productive and more constructive work. Our supervisor Dr. Hong Liu helped us making this decision of dividing the group into two, in which the first group would handle the theory related to the marketing plan, internet marketing and as well as the automotive industry. On the other hand the second group looked into the all the research related to the marketing plan, web marketing and the automotive industry. Hence in Phase 1 we divided our group. Yibei Wu, Ying Li and Yiyuan Ying studied all the theory and Agatha Charalambous, Xu Liang and I did all the research necessary for the project. We gave ourselves around three weeks to do all the research and the reading necessary for the project. We would meet every week in the library meeting room, where we would interchange our thoughts, suggestions and check each other's progress and help each other if there were any problems related to theory or research.
As part of my research I found all the journals related to the automotive industry and web marketing from John Rylands University library databases. I looked through e-journals, e-books, market research journals and newspaper articles for the automotive industry and web marketing from Mintel, KeyNote, Business Insights, Proquest, Sage and many more databases.
In phase 2, I combined my research with other members of the research group. After we all looked at the research we combined all the research we had done with the theory the other group had read. This was an important task as we had a lot of data and we had to decide which was important and which was not unimportant. We put down all the theory and backed it up with the research gained through case studies and data from marketing research companies and e-journals. After putting theory together with the research, we formulated how the marketing plan would be, by making a rough draft of the content page of the Askaprice.com's marketing Plan.
After making the content page, each one was allotted a part to do which would be roughly account to 5000-6000 words per person as required. My part of the final marketing plan was to look into the future action plan for Askaprice.com. As part of this future plan I talked about how advertising will help Askaprice.com gain advantages and what mediums were available for advertising along with their corresponding strengths and weaknesses and what advertising strategy they could follow for their organisation.
The last phase included combining all the individual parts into one big marketing report. After combining the parts, the full marketing plan for Askaprice.com needed to be formatted and documented. The final plan was drafted and put together by the group. The grammar, spelling and the flow of the whole report was checked thoroughly. I took care of organising the references and the appendix. I arranged the references in alphabetical order with Harvard style for referencing as recommended to us by the department. The Appendix included all the tables used in the report as part of the research the group had done and these tables were later referenced correctly in the report by me. Each person read the report thoroughly and suggested the necessary changes if any. After finishing the final report, we gave Chris, our company supervisor the rough draft of the report along with a small presentation about what the report included. We also gave a presentation to other managers and staff of Askaprice.com in our last meeting. The presentation covered everything we had done in brief, giving the company a rough idea before reading the report and to ask them if they wanted us to add anything further or amend anything before submitting the final copy to them and our University. Chris asked us just to make two changes in the report which we immediately dealt with. He gave us a very positive feedback and praised us for the efforts we had put in making the report. We also submitted a rough draft to our University supervisor Dr. Hong Liu who also gave us a very positive feedback. After finishing all the required formalities we printed the final draft of the company report, which we later gave for binding, submitted it in due time.
The group faced a lot of difficulties while doing this project. Some of these difficulties were huge and some were very minute, but all of these hurdles helped us to unite and act together as a group.
Firstly, was the financial constraint. There are lots of market research reports and consultancy reports that could be very helpful for us available on the web, but the group and the company could not afford to buy them as they were very expensive. These reports were mainly essential for us as it would help us in calculating the market share for the company with respect to its competitors and the total automotive market. Hence we used all the reports and journals available to us through the University Library, John Rylands Library. One of the biggest challenges was to find reports similar to the ones we required.
Secondly, Askaprice.com have a very few competitors who use a system similar to that of Askaprice.com. It provides a very unique service which many not many car dealing websites provide. Even if there were competitors, they were very small medium sized companies, thus not enough data was available about these competitors on their website or in theory. Thus it was hard for doing the competitor analysis and also very hard to calculate their market share. We had to thoroughly analyze their website, get as much data as possible from their website.
Thirdly, Askaprice.com had a very small office thus we were given just one computer to share amongst people when we went to work in their office. It was difficult for all of us to work as everyone required computers to work on. Therefore to overcome that, we asked Chris if he could arrange for wireless connection. Thus some of us carried our laptops whenever more than one computer was required. Hence with undivided help from Chris, we were able to find a solution to the problem. After few weeks they offered us a bigger room so that we could work more comfortably.
Fourthly, we had few problems related to the financial data provided by the company. Since they had no in-house accountants, their accounts were handled by an external accountancy firm completely. While doing the financial analysis, the results were not exactly of what we should have expected so we asked Chris to reconfirm the financial data provided to us i.e. the cash flow statement, profit and loss statement and the balance sheet. The company took too much time for reconfirming the financial data as there was a huge communication gap between the accounting firm and ASkaprice.com, as there were not enough accountants to handle the accounts. But in the end we were handed over the financial data which was the last thing to be included in the report.
Fifthly, we visited the company only once a week. Since it was situated in Liverpool and they had very limited office space, we could visit the company only once a week. Therefore it was difficult for us to get to much information from other departments apart from the online marketing department. To overcome that we would the group met regularly apart from once a week in the company. If we had any questions we would write it down in a log book and ask them later when we visited the company. In case we weren't able to that then we would email Chris the question to be asked and he would answer it or redirect the question to the person in charge.
Lastly, we all had different writing styles as we came from different backgrounds and culture. Thus while combining individual parts of the group project we faced few problems with the flow of the document. To create the right flow, the group sat together for long hours formatting the document. We had regular meetings and discussions necessary for the report. We also had 'peer reviews' in which every person read each others part and gave further suggestions and opinions. I individually arranged the appendix and the references in the right order. Everyone in the end read the whole document to check the flow and to see if each of their part was just the way it should be.
Working in an internship really help me apply my academic knowledge. It also helped me strengthen my interpersonal skills.
Team Work and Diversity
'Coming together is a beginning, Keeping together is progress, Working together is success'- Henry Ford
Every large and successful business organisations, has been built up by 'Teamwork', not by one individual but by a number of individuals working together. (Washington, Booker T., 1997) I had the experience of working in groups during my under graduation and also during the course at Manchester Business School in Semester 1 and Semester 2. But this was my first time to work in a group of six people.
The team had a unified commitment. All individuals in the group were directing their efforts towards the goal of making a complete and well documented marketing plan. If an individual's efforts were not enough for any reason, then the team will tackle this and resolve the problem. The whole team had kept a high standard for the quality of work. I valued and anticipated feedback of others as they provided a new perspective
Diversity was one of the team's greatest assets. Some of us came from different ethnic, cultural, educational, and experiential backgrounds. We all had different personalities or styles, gender, age, religion, and lifestyle. When people come from diverse countries and societies, they bring a variety of work and life experiences, viewpoints, and talents to your team, leading to more opportunities for quality decision making. Most decisions made by us for the marketing report took into account a variety of issues, such as customers and their needs, the benefits and limits of technology, gaining support from various people or groups who will be affected by the decision we make. Having multiple perspectives may slow the discussion down from time to time, but it leads to a better quality decision. (Robyn Gordon, 2006).
Thus working as part of a team can improve learning and is a much needed skill in today's workplace. Thus working in group of six diversified people helped me understand team working better than before and resulted in a very healthy and positive report.
Learning and Developing Industry Knowledge
This internship helped me gain tremendous knowledge about the automotive industry, the advertising industry and online marketing strategies. Before working in the internship I had very minimal knowledge about the automotive and advertising industry in the UK. Through Askaprice.com I learnt about this industry, about car dealers in the UK industry and also about the car buying behaviour of the UK citizens.
I also got a chance to know about the advertising industry. A part of my job was to write about advertising mediums and strategies. This helped me learn about the advertising industry, different advertising mediums and how different companies of different sizes use advertising techniques attract customers.
Askaprice used search engine marketing for promoting their website. After working with online marketing team we gained a lot of knowledge about search engine marketing and web marketing. I gain knowledge of different web marketing tools used by companies to target the right audience and making their website more interactive, thus keeping the consumer satisfied. Hence working at Askaprice.com helped me gain an understanding of the structure and the importance of the above industries which will help me in future as an entrepreneur.
Communication and Presentation Skills
The ability 'to communicate' is a vital ladder to all types of career development. Without adequate communication skills it is possible that there will be little movement upwards. If you are planning one day to develop your own business organisation then communication skills will be critical to any chances of gaining, holding and enlarging ones client base. There is considerable evidence suggesting that those who lack communication skills find it difficult to advance their careers. (Ellis Richard, 2002)
Working at Askaprice.com helped me improve my communication skills as well as my presentation skills. It helped me develop my self esteem. I was given a chance to communicate with people of the company if we required any information. Also communicating with my supervisor and group mates who came from different backgrounds and countries help me improve my proficiency in communication. A part of communicating is to be a good talker and also a good listener. Communication was very important as it is an important part of learning.
We also gave two presentations to the company during the internship. Initially I had a fear of public speaking. I usually gave presentations in front of students or teachers in my school, but this was the first time I had given a presentation in a company. These presentations help me boost my confidence. They helped me lose my fear of giving presentations in front of an unknown crowd. Now I am a better presenter, who has learnt that not only the content of the presentation is important but also the voice, appearance and the body language is very important part of the presentation skills.
Efficient Planning and Organising
The ability to plan, both in management of time and in the organisation of procedures and programs, has played a huge role in the degree of success that you attain. Thus working in this group project in an internship has helped me manage time efficiently and it has helped me learn to about planning and organising my work. (How to get your boss's job, Gorge Proxy, 1970)
Organising and outlining can be an immeasurable help in many activities. Group meetings are one of the major showcases of your ability and your hard work. The team had group meetings regularly as an when we required having one where we would organise everything we used to discuss in the meeting. I would also organise all the data we all had collected in different folders. This organisation helped the group in writing and planning the group report, as all the information could be easily distributed and given to the person in charge of writing a particular part.
Planning the project helped me accurately estimate time and effort required to complete our task. It helped the group identify and organize systems and required resources for the project. It helped us maintain adequate preparation time for scheduled meetings, specific milestones and deadlines with the company and amongst ourselves too. I helped me learn to even measure results and milestones for my work in the future.
No two people are alike. It has been said so many times to that we may ignore its importance. While working in this group I learnt to understand people as everyone is different from one another and everyone have cultural differences and diverse habits. I learnt to become more interested in people and their differences. It takes cooperation to accomplish any task. I tried to know the interests of people I worked with in my group over lunch.
As a part of the cultural learning we would go to different restaurants during our lunch breaks like I was taken to an authentic Chinese restaurant, where I ate some very delicious Chinese food. We also went to Greek Taverna (Restaurant) where we had Cypriot Greek food. In return I took all of them to Indian restaurant where I made them try all kinds of Indian delicacies and food. I also tried to get to know the abilities of all the people working in the group as it would be helpful during the distribution of the work. Thus understanding people was one very important thing that I learnt while working during my internship.
Working as an Employee
Last but not the least I learnt and gained experience of working in a company. The people Askaprice.com did not treat us like students from the Manchester Business School but like their very own employees. Whenever we visited the company we worked there from morning to evening like any other employee. We had deadlines to meet and every week we had to inform Chris our supervisor the progress we made. We had normal lunch breaks and tea breaks like other employee of the companies.
Thus working for this internship gave me a firsthand experience of how working is like in a company, how necessary team working is, the importance of communicating with your superiors and colleagues, understanding people, efficiently planning you work schedule, managing your time, organising your timetable and effort, learning about the industry and the company and about team working and how important team working is for progress of any company.
The practical knowledge that I gained from working in this internship has really given me more than I could have expected. It has helped me apply whatever I learned in theory to the job at hand. It has helped me boost my self confidence and given me an advantage over other students doing MSc's and finding a job.
According to the Institute of Management Consultancy (IMC) the official definition of business/management consultancy is management consultancy is the service provided to business, public and the other undertakings by an independent and qualified person (IMC cited in McLarty and Robinson, 1998, p. 256). Thus working at Askaprice.com helped me get trained as a business consultant. Hence our job was to make the marketing plan for Askaprice.com, where in which we collected all the company information and put it down in the report, giving them further suggestions on their marketing strategy and advertising strategy to boost their sales. (Nada K. Kakabadse, Eddy Louchart and Andrew Kakabadse, 2006, pg. 419)
As a consultant my role was clearly stated to me in the first meeting by Chris Haycock. He clearly stated to us what he wanted from us. But he kept the structure of the report flexible and open. In the very first meeting we tried building a relationship with the client. Throughout the project Chris gave us all the information necessary for the project; he let us access all the companies' resources without any trouble.
Consequently this project has helped me prepare and study as a business consultant. It gave me a chance to practically understand a business consultant's job and the value it carries with it. My academic tutor Dr. Hong Liu is also a very well recognized consultant, who has done consulting projects for companies worldwide, thus under his enormous guidance it has helped me further understand consultancy and be trained for the consultants job. (Nada K. Kakabadse, Eddy Louchart and Andrew Kakabadse, 2006, pg. 420-421)
The three months of the internship passed quickly. According to me it was one of my most rewarding summers in Britain. Choosing the Manchester Business School for my programme Mbus Global Business Analysis was one of the best choices I have made in my life. This course has provided me everything I could expect from a very high standard business school. The internship given was very well inclined towards skill development and learning necessary for our future careers.
The internship gave me experience in consultancy and improving many of my skills. It helped me understand team work and working with people from diverse backgrounds and nationalities. Thus this will help me in my business when I'll be working with other colleagues from various backgrounds and cultures. It let me learn about new industries and marketing concepts that I hadn't known before. This knowledge is priceless and may help me in future while making a marketing plan for my own company. I improved my communication and presentation skills which will help me communicate better with the people I work with. I have become more organised and have learnt o plan and manage time more efficiently. Not only has it helped me to understand people I work with, but also make me help them with their work and personal problems if they had any. It helped understand them not as associates but as friends. Overall it has made feel like an employee and a consultant. It has given me the practical experience which is very much important for my future work.
I feel content as I am sorting out and editing this self reflective learning journal, which implies that the first project in my life is going to be completed with a feeling of satisfaction. On the whole Askaprice.com gave me very good opportunity of trying, learning and thinking. I hope these experiences will not only help me built and expand business but also make me do it well. It has changed my approach towards things in life and I will always appreciate the moments that I spent at Askaprice.com and MBS with my group. I wish everyone in the group a bright and successful future.
Askaprice Website, Available at: <URL: http://www.askaprice.com/ >, [Accessed 5th August, 2008].
Ellis, Richard, (2002).Communication Skills: Stepladders to Success for the Professional, Bristol, UK, Portland. Available at: <URL: http://www.netlibrary.com/Reader/ >, [Accessed 26th August, 2008].
Gorge Proxy, (1970). How to get your boss's job.
Haycock Chris, (2006). Best Practices and Persuasion Architecture Framework, Askaprice.com.
Nada K. Kakabadse, Eddy Louchart and Andrew Kakabadse, (2006). Consultant's role: a qualitative inquiry from the consultant's perspective. Available at: <URL: https://dspace.lib.cranfield.ac.uk/bitstream/1826/1911/1/Consultant's%20Role%20-%202006.pdf >, [Accessed 28th August, 2008].
Robyn Gordon, (2006). Diversity Leadership Guide, Diversity Management office. Available at: <URL: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/diversity/LeadershipGuideMarAp06.pdf >, [Accessed 28th August, 2008].