By Choong He Rong Samuel, Year 3, Business major in Banking and Finance (ITP Track)
Interned with Wilmar International Limited, Ethiopia
"Working under Wilmar’s Ethiopian subsidiary Repi Soaps and Detergents has been nothing short of eye opening in a whole range of aspects."
I was attached to the marketing department, where I learned about their distribution system, marketing strategies and more importantly their challenges. Being a third world country, all these parts of Repi’s marketing department were worlds apart from Singapore. The large differences in technology, country development and economic strength meant more manual processes and challenges such as lack of US dollars to buy sufficient raw materials.
All of these meant not being able to produce optimum quantity of product, set-backs during work (e.g frequent shortages of wifi), lack of automated systems to track aspects of the company etc. This exposure gave me a much more worldly perspective of life outside of Singapore, and it was very humbling to see the company continuously strive to push boundaries despite the challenges of the government etc.
However, one thing that also very apparent day after day was the Ethiopian friendliness and hospitality. People at Repi have never hesitated to answer my questions, explain things to me clearly or take time to tell me more about their country. This can also be said about Wilmar, where the managers who visited often checked on my well being and told me more about Wilmar’s side of business when working with Repi.
But the highlight of the 2.5 months would be the living experience itself. Unstable basic amenities such as electricity, internet (which was only available at work, there was no wifi router at home), water, majority of roads being unpaved gravel roads etc is something which I can safely say Singapore will never experience to such an extent. Blackouts across the whole neighbourhood’s power grid happens very often, in which I will be unable to cook dinner for instance, often lasting till the next morning or for the whole of the next day. There was also a week without running water and I had to bring water from the factory back to the house for cooking and eating. All this sums up to be a few months which has developed me as an individual and my sense of appreciation of what’s out there, which is in my opinion as important or more important than just getting the work experience.