A WRONG Beginning to an Astounding Journey@PepsiCo

May 10, 2013

Today, it was my first day of internship at PepsiCo. Oh! I hate waking up at 8:00 in the morning and that too in vacations!!!

To my misfortune, I couldn’t wake up on time even though I went to bed early yesterday. I wonder how come my mother’s loud and shrill voice couldn’t reach me in my dream world. (I guess the only time she hates me is while waking me up.)

I woke up an hour late! HOLY HELL! The PepsiCo Bottling Unit was 45 minutes away from my house. And my reporting time was 10:00. I wonder at what speed do I expect myself to get ready with my mom continuously shouting at my ears for being late. Argh..!!!

And to add to my misery, I had to drive all the way on my own on my so-called “BULLET”! (Don’t mistake it to be an original bullet. It’s Mahindra Kine, a scooter!)

In this scorching heat, I hated driving from the innermost core of my heart. The drive seemed to be never ending. I regret why I fought with my mom and left the option of being dropped by the driver.

I tried my best to make up, but still reached half-an hour late. And over it, the guard at the gate gave me the look – Gak! How can we let this girl enter? (I think my manifestation of a dacoit made him think so. You see the look which the Indian girls usually carry over during summers.)

I wanted to rush in. So many questions were coming up in my mind – What impression would the administrative officers get of me? What excuse would I give them? Will they believe that? What if they send me back home?

But again, the guard’s drama went on. It seemed to me that I was playing Takeshi’s Castle – coming over all the hurdles! I liked one thing about the beverage company today the most... they make you fill so many forms (pun surely intended)! Forms inquiring the diseases I am suffering with, forms stating the extra materials I took in, and the most weirdest one – death responsibility form, etc. It took me another 15 mins. to complete filling them up. I almost ran to the Administrative office to meet Miss Mukti Rani.

While on my way, I heard noises of glass bottles clanking. I look up and see that crates of glass bottles have formed a train with innumerable bogies running at a moderate speed on tracks designed especially for them. It was really amazing! There were huge tanks almost everywhere with different markings on them. Rolls of tin sheets were lying here and there, huge cylinders of CO2, and the most important thing – uncountable bottles of slice, pepsi, mountain dew, aquafina!

I will surely try filching some bottles in the next fifteen days, or if possible a whole crate!

Miss Mukti ordered her assistant to take me to the microbiology lab. One thing was really funny about all the people present there – they were wearing SHOWER CAPS! Yes! It was a shower cap. I really didn’t want to ask them if they had any particular name for it. As of for me, it was a shower cap. From workers to officers, from sweepers to managers, all of them were wearing it just for a formality as half of their hair was out of the cap. It really didn’t matter to them if the consumers get a hair strand in their drink. Shockingly, I didn’t expect this of such a recognized organization.

I had to cross 3 doors to reach the lab inside the plant. After entering the first door, there was a warning in red to get our hands sanitized. At the 3rd door, there was a warning for wearing hand gloves, caps, lab coats & toe-covers. But to my amazement the guard didn’t ask me to do any of the tasks mentioned nor did he do it.

I entered the lab. I saw 2 women and 2 men working, performing different experiments on the beverage. The lab had all possible apparatuses. But one thing that drew my attention was that even these people were not wearing lab coats and toe-covers. I wonder if they had sanitized their hands or not. Still, they didn’t forget one thing – SHOWER CAPS!

I don’t know why I was scared.

Scared of........ being questioned and judged!!! This was my first exposure in an industry, so this nervousness was quiet obvious! I introduced myself in a very low pitch. Several questions were asked – what my name was? Where was I from? What I aspired to become? Why I chose biotechnology as my career? etc. etc. Never ending!

I was made to sit on a chair for about an hour or so, and wait for the lab-incharge, Mr. Sandeep, to come and assign me work.

The best and the most funniest part of the day – While I was waiting, the people working there offered me a lemon yellow coloured drink in a beaker. They were calling it Mountain dew (an Indian fountain drink). (Ok! Don’t get shocked after reading the next few lines). I never knew that the colour of Mountain dew was lemon yellow. I always assumed it to be transparent in colour.

First of all, I was confused as to what they have offered me in a beaker! I was cynical if they had mixed any chemical to it and targeted me as a model organism. Secondly, I didn’t know if I should pour the drink in my mouth or drink it in the usual manner. Finally, I decided to drink in the normal way. I didn’t want to face the thwarting situation in which instead of pouring the drink in my mouth, I pour it on my dress.

But still, the confusion persisted in my mind. I wanted to be sure that I was drinking a healthy drink, and not a chemical. I asked one of the ladies present there, “ Mam, why is this drink yellow in colour?”. The lady puckered brow, gave me the “dumb-headed” look and said – “Obviously because the PepsiCo has set that standard colour for it.”

“But mountain dew.... is... tr-an-sp-ar-ent.... “. I got rebuked and that too on the first day itself. I felt embarrassed. Silently, without asking any more questions, I gulped the whole drink in just one go.

(Have you seen the Melody - a very famous Indian chocolate - advertisement? The boy asks the girl – “Melody itni chocolatey kyun hai?” [Why is Melody so chocolatey]. And the girl goes mad! Yes! I was in the same situation. It was just that, I was the boy of the add and the lady was the girl. )

The wait ended up late in the afternoon. The lab-incharge entered. I wished him and the series of questions started again!

As, there was only an hour left for my dismissal, he ordered his assistant to take me for a plant visit.

My excitement was suddenly on seventh cloud. I was about to witness beverage making in reality. All these years, I had watched it on National Geography – “Food Factory”.

The assistant gave me a cap to wear. She took me in a huge room which had 6 extremely gigantic steel barrels containing syrup, sugar, treated water and mixture of all the three. This is usually done at a particular temperature and pressure. She has promised to tell me that in the coming days (I guess she didn’t know herself!). The syrup is then transferred to different intermediate tanks for storage.

Then, she took me to another unit where they make PET bottles and wash the glass bottles. I was happy to see that these people believe in reusing the bottles and not throwing it away like people of other organizations do! The cleanser was making the most noise. I wondered how the workers worked in that situation. Don’t they get headaches?

All kinds of bottles – newly made or reused ones, are once again washed before taking in for filling. One thing I noticed, they were washing all the bottles in an upside-down position. I wonder why? I will surely find this out. Subsequently, the filling of syrup, capping, marking of batch nos. , sealing, sticking of plastic tags were done. The bottles were then ready to be sold.

In America (for what I have seen in food factory), machines are used from initial stage to the packaging stage. Use of man power is minimal. But in this industry, just the beverage making and filling up was done with machines, and the packaging was done manually. I am happy to see this for it must have decreased the illiteracy rate in India.

One interesting fact which she told me while explaining the process that they make beverage only for 4 months in a year i.e. from March to June. While the rest of the year, they comfortably sell the bottles and work on audits (for those who doesn’t know what an audit is – it’s a technical term used in the industries for any award competition).

Now, this rose many questions in my head which I hope to get clarified tomorrow.

The lab-incharge has told me that he will teach me microbiology tests tomorrow. For the first day ended well with mixed feelings. Just the first day experience was worth waking up 8 in the morning.

I look forward to play with the bottles.

I wish I could filch one bottle tomorrow!

-Signing off