This report presents and covers my learning and experience during the first six months of my internship as a Management Trainee at “XY teas” group of companies which parents fourteen companies under its umbrella. XY Teas is famous for its tea under its ‘Rnafer’ brand since 1995 though it has diversified in to many areas at present.
The reason why I chose to obtain my internship experience under the XY Teas group is two folds.
- First is, it being a growing medium scale company which has increased its momentum continuously for the past yeRS which gives me a wider scope of learning without confining myself to a particular area of business management.
- Second is being a purely Sri Lankan company which allowed me to experience Sri Lankan corporate environment more vividly while learning how local businesses still manage to survive with high foreign competition specially amidst a vigorously competitive market like Tea.
The XY Group is a strategic sourcing partner for its product portfolio consisting tea, spices, desiccated coconut and cashew. Running thrpughout its past 50 years of its history it holds the tenth place in the Sri Lankan tea export market amidst huge rivalries such as Lipton, Ceylon Tea, Geoge Steuarts, Watawala and etc.
XY, one of Sri Lanka’s largest exporters of tea, began as a traditional trading house founded by S Ranasinghe and T Fernando setting the brand XY. In addition to its head office being located in Colombo and its ability to source fine quality teas from Sri Lankan Tea Auction, XY also has strategically positioned offices in Kenya and Malawi, for the access of African teas from Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire and Zambia.
An uncompromising attitude about maintaining its standards, its respect for international compliances and the adoption of operational processes that are customer focused, has made The XY Group recipient of an impressive list of accolades and awards.
- NCE Export Awards- The Most Outstanding Exporter 2002
- NCE Export Awards 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
- National Brands Award 2004
- ISO 9001:2000 Accreditation
- HACCP Certified
As at today XY carries fourteen diversified companies under its umbrella as follows.
- XY Teas Ltd
The most upmost important company within the XY group which exports tea to … different countries all around the world. Its sales amounts to …% of the whole cluster. In fact this is the first company of the group established in ….
Three overseas companies which secures a major part of the group’s profit which also deals with tea trade
- The Albatross resorts and Spa. – A luxury golfing villa situated in Kandy.
- The XY Teas Flexible Ltd.
Manufacturing plant of packaging and wrapping materials, Plastics ect. Most important clients of the company are “Samahan”, “Poppit” and ect.
- XY Teas e-Marketing
- XY foods Ltd. –
Exports spices to different countries in the world. (cloves, nutmeg, cardamoms act.)
- XY International Ltd.
- XY Travels Ltd. –
The travel arm of the XY Group of Companies. Caters to different travellor’s needs and special requirements with the service of the most-suited packages such as In bound travel, Eco tourism, Safari tours ect.
- XY Teas Kemulla Developments Ltd. – Engages in real property investments and rade.
My job profile at ‘XY Teas”
Job title : Management trainee (at group headquarters – group position)
Period of training : 1 year
The “Management Trainee Programme” at XY is a resourceful position as per my experience so far in order to acquire varying array of skills and to develop and enhance the expertise and competencies.
At XY the management, financing, marketing and major operational decisions across all the companies within the group are centrally decided and approved by the company headquarters at No: 36 Ketawalamulla Place, Colombo 09.
The aforementioned job position “Management Trainee” requires me to work in the headquarters of XY Teas to work interchangeably: mainly between the finance and the accountancy departments which centrally govern all the financial and accountancy related matters of all the companies within the group. Therefore it provides a wider scope for me to deal with fourteen different companies, it’s financing, accounting, ERP, management, operational and other internal control matters.
The job role “Management Trainee” at XY Teas is a unique position which facilitates plentiful learning and experience to the intern as per my experience. Unlike in other bigger corporate which are at a multinational level which provides knowledge confined to one area such as SAP or other routine work this position exposed me to a greater amount of detail as to how real world companies operate and manage their businesses practically.
At XY Teas my Job role is unique. I am expected to perform both routine and non routine work as a part of my responsibility.
Most of my routine work is related to the corresponding, reporting, providing management information to the top management and preparation of financial statements with regards to Two major overseas companies within the group.
The two overseas companies are
- XY teas Kenya Ltd. &
- XY Teas Central Africa Ltd
Both situated in Kenya and Malawi respectively. Both are tea trading companies situated in Central Africa. Both these companies but teas from the tea auctions weekly and engages in bulk production. These teas more often go to the produces that produce branded teas. The produces all around the world such as from Mexico, Egypt , USA, Japan, Uganda, Pakistan, Singapore and even Sri Lanka ect. Source tea from two XY overseas companies Kenya and Malawi.
- The third overseas company is XY Teas Vietnam Ltd.
This company has relatively low volumes of sales compared to other companies and is handled by another staff member.
The two companies Kenya and Malawi hold the life line of the XY group contributing 125 % to its annual revenue and 46% to its annual profit margin. Therefore the business at Kenya and Malawi are so important to the group performance which has led to rigorous attention by the top management of the company. Even though the tea business looks lucrative in the aforementioned two overseas companies of which Kenyan market is the finest market for sourcing best quality teas in the world it equally has its drawbacks. The high regulations and tougher political climate at these two companies especially Malawi has led the company in to hardships in expropriating its profits to Sri Lanka.
Amidst all these I am supposed to be in charge of the above two companies and am expected to monitor the overall performance of the two companies and to report exceptional cases to the management in a timely manner.
The routine work with respect to the companies can be broken down as follows for reader’s convenience.
- Daily correspondence
Looking in the daily matters and needs of the two companies including trading , reporting, necessities requirements and inform if necessary to the higher authorities mail is often used as the formal communication channel while Skype and team viewer are used in circumstances where necessary.
- Streamlining the information flow
Most of the processes at Kenyan company were not streamlined when I was recruited as a trainee. I was able to identify lot of bits and pieces of information flowing in through these two companies without a proper linkage to each other.
For an example the parent company had the control over its shipments but not over its millions worth of stock at a given point of time. Even though the weekly stock positions and reports were received in the parent company this information were not availed of as there was no particular system to have cross checks upon these information.
- Preparation of final accounts
As I am tasked with overlooking the operations at Malawian and Kenyan company I am responsible for the making of final accounts for the two companies as well. At present I have taken complete control over the preparation of monthly Profit and loss accounts , Balance sheet and the equity movement statements for the Malawian and the Kenyan companies.
- Preparation of monthly and pre shipment costing
Preparation of costing is important for number of purposes. At XY there are two forms of costing performed universally across all the companies within the group. Those are “pre costing” and “post costing”. Pre costing is performed before a shipment is made specially to analyze the probable profit margins and to take contingency measures to avoid loss making contracts. Post costing is performed after a shipment is completed to measure the true profitability of shipments, most profitable buyers, countries, and profit per Kg.
- Reviewing systems and loopholes in the ERP systems
The company is implementing a renovation in its ERP systems at the moment. For this to be completed effectively user requirements need to be mapped effectively. I was delegated the task of looking at the systems issues prevailing at the moments and also any recommendations if any to reduce the time taken by the employees to perform the same task with the new ERP system.
- Presenting at the weekly management meeting of the issues that need special attention
Most importantly I am given the opportunity to request information from any department of the company when I see the necessities of such information for my work without going through much strict procedures. I am always directed to obtain the learning from interdisciplinary functions of the company – accountancy, finance, legal and production by the top management.
- Tea stocks reconciliations
- Bank reconciliations
- Discovering the prevailed inconsistencies and discrepancies in the weekly stock related management reports and introducing an universal format for reporting stocks weekly across all the companies handling with stocks.
Before I take over the control the Kenyan and Malawian company there seemed no analysis done on the weekly management reports relating to billions worth of stocks at these two foreign companies. Managing foreign stocks were challenging due to two main reasons.
- The stocks being physically distant away from the mother company
- Stocks being in the possession of a third party (outsourced ware house keepers) which made it more vulnerable stock being in the hands of outsiders to the company.
During the second month of my training I was realized that the management reports sent by them are inconsistent with other information that we are maintaining such as purchases and physical verification by the outsourced partners. Therefore having the issue immediately reported to the management I was granted with the whole responsibility to look in the matter and develop a system that would facilitate cross checks between different types of information receive in Colombo.
For this purpose I created a simple guideline for me to help the have strict controls over the tea stocks. The plan in brief is as follows.
|Area of control||Purpose||Method of controlling / Reports and other supporting documents requested|
|Regulating stock movement|
|Regulating stock outs|
In fact the plan I created seemed to work well throughout the two overseas companies which was highly recognized and appreciated by the management.
- Serve as a member of the internal audit committee of the company
Company is currently engaged in implementing a new internal control system. Of its companies the overseas companies are the most complex to manage. Therefore I am delegated with the task of examining its accuracy and internal control procedures under the guidance of the company finance manager.
- Being employed at the Tea department (department which major part of the tea tasting and blending happens) to solve a issue relating to their Tea Mix system. Here the system that has been used to provide the tea exportation reports to the Tea Board seemed not reconciling with the contracts set by the buyers. Having inquired the investigation revealed that the operator has back track the data and produced old reports as a result of lack of training given on the system and lack of self motive to learn.
- Serving as a auditor for the spare parts division and the stationary stock of the head office.
One of the companies in the group – “XY flexible” produces packing materials and other flexible items to the market. These machines are high tech and very expensive machines of which spare parts for these are normally impoted. A monthly stock taking is under taken by me to see whether the spare parts are safe in their stocks.
The more the pain would be more the gain. At XY Teas the life is not so plushy as it suggests. As in any other private corporate the life here is more challenging and demanding. No matter the barriers that would lay ahead, you can’t complain or be excused as in Schools here.
You have to find out your own solutions to overcome these barriers. Ultimately only the end result would matter.
Barriers in Communication
Corresponding with the foreign staff is primal according to my job description. Most of the staff at these two overseas companies Kenya and Malawi being nationals of these respective countries creates certain barriers to communications. Communication via mail does not create many controversies as written English is not frustrating across national boundaries. Yet when it comes to telephone and Skype conversations where most of their accent is hard to understand and their tone lacks clarity. For these issues I have shifted to more chat media and written communications enabled with “team viewer” (a software programme that facilitates common virtual computer screen for both parties) to solve many of the barriers in verbal communication.
Further one of the important aspects when it comes to demanding information is to become precise and assertive. As I am relatively new to the corporate sector I feel less more comfortable when dealing with foreign mangers. As also suggested by my supervisor, in future virtual communications with foreign managers I am required to develop the assertiveness in my speech which I also think lacking in my tone.
High demand for IT @ other computer based skills
No matter the level of authority whether its finance manager or the director there is immense usage of excel and other basic Microsoft applications. In a company where there is huge number of transactions and operation s manual workings are not anyway tolerable, furthermore slow usage of these applications are more intolerable. Therefore a thorough knowledge on these applications is a must to work effectively while saving time.
Organizational envy and jealousy
Nobody is black or white. Rather all of us are grey. So the organizations, and its members. Organizations do not always have a brighter side. They have a darker side as well. The experiences encountered by me throughout my shorter training period exposed me to the envy of other lower level staff who had a generally a dark attitude towards young people coming and progressing quickly within the organizations. I had to act tactfully to avoid the hatred in their mindset and to make them feel superior with me. Unless I am sure that the organization would have sounded a bitter place for me no sooner. I leant that being with people is much more cumbersome than managing riskier investments.
As portrayed by the foremost section of the report the XY originated with the combination of two young entrepreneurs who made the history. Mr. Sa Ranasinghe and Mr. Travis Fernando. The two leaders still serve at the director board of the company Mr. Ranasinghe as the chaiman and Mr. T as a director. The excellent management caliber and skill of Mr. Ranasinghe and the far reaching Tea expertise of Mr. T Fernando has raised the company to what it is today after a long period of time, effort and investment.
Company’s managerial decisions and other foremost important decisions are still taken by its chairman Mr. Ranasinghe. And its nonetheless to say XY’s culture is mostly influenced and shaped up by his attitudes ideas and what he wanted XY to be.
Most importantly XY is built upon a vision ‘daring to dream’
And its’ mission statement reads “To be at the forefront by enhancing shareholder value by productively utilizing our resources through diversity and innovation and continuously improving the unique quality of our products to attract and increase our customer base.”
Truly the company has kept up with its vision and the mission statements on its journey towards success starting from a small tea factory to a diversified XY portfolio. The interminable dedication, courage and endeavor of the founder Mr. Ranasinghe has raised the company to new heights.
In general I would say XY has a corporative, friendly, informal and a sharing organizational culture. Always you can ask for a help from someone within XY.
At XY I would call power is “performance”.
Here most of the times persons acquire power based on the performance. If somebody performs well he is well recognized and rewarded. The expertise knowledge possessed by individuals such as Tea tasters which is acquired only through years of experience and professionally qualified individuals seem to rule all over the company. Like in most of the organizations seniority gives no chances for carrier improvement and progresses here at XY. But it should be noted that you will be respected for your seniority at XY in a Sri Lankan way.
All in all XY Teas can be called to have a less power distant friendly corporate structure. But that too is comparative per se. If compared with highly internationalized companies such as HSBC, ICICI XY’s culture is more power distant where you call the director board with the salutation “Sir”. But its less power distant when compared to other private and public organizations in Sri Lanka where you may be even patted on your back by a director early in the morning instead of a “good morning” greeting.
Politics means how power is used to allocate resources in the general connotation. At XY resources are allocated based on the most effective and an efficient manner. The absence of nepotism is very vividly observed and evidenced at XY.In fact I don’t count that aspect as a plus point on its’ corporate culture because the absence of nepotism at the company is not for facilitating equal opportunity but for maximizing its return through hiring the most talented and best fitted.
Most importantly XY does not have unions. And from the observations throughout my little period of serving it seemed that employees of XY had never wanted to start an union inside the company.
Organizational midlife transition
Businesses do not stay the same as it was back in the days. It changes continuously. So as the corporate culture. Individuals mature. So as the corporate. Troughout its 55 years of long history the organization has matured.
The recruitment of higher expertise staff, diversifying business, extending product portfolio, drive towards making their own local brand are few of the signs of maturity of XY Teas group. This maturity has been well managed by the organization through the existing diversification strategies as well.
Yet though It seem that the organisation is going towards an organizational mid life crisis. On my experience XY is a resourceful place to undersatn the organizational mid life crisi ina practical way.
Alongside Mr.Ranasinghe is the Mr. N Ranasinghe (his young son) serving as a director to the board.USA educated, not too emotional character of the son seem not so compatible with the ongoing organizational norms, structures and philosophies.
“Our main target is to reduce the costs of the company. Even a cent would make a difference” This is a more common saying that is preached out by the chairman at a board meeting.
“Things should not be the same as we used to do years ago. We need to change. We should invest in sophisticated ERP systems high caliber employees in order to achieved sustainable development” This is an utterance that you would often hear from his son after participating a management meeting.
This itself suggests that the organization is going through a difficult time with managing organizational mid life issues. It seems that both the older as well as the younger staff at the organization still value the founders’ path. But still there are few who think the organization should change from what it is doing at the moment and to move on to new landscapes of business and business management.
Applying learnt knowledge in to the practical context
Many undergraduates practicing internships in the corporate claim that the class room theories won’t benefit when it comes to real world phenomena. I must suggest that this is a complete myth. On my opinion what we learn in the class room definitely come handy when we solve or find solutions to some problems, perhaps unconsciously.
From school to the University we come across wide pool of subjects, modules and courses. Looking backwards whether we realize or not the remnants of everything that learnt inside a class room such as technical and mathematical concepts as well as outside a classroom such as researches remain within us.
Below is a brief elaboration of how learnt theories came to play a significant role in the context of my “XY Teas” working experience.
Management philosophers or Gurus who have contributed to the management theories such as Henry Fayol who introduced the administrative theory, Max Webber who taught on organizational bureaucracy, Peter Druker who expounded on managerial role and so many others have constructed these theories based on real world life time experiences. Therefore is reckless and unwarranted to disregard these theories as theories. In fact these are most probably applied in today’s world.
For an example XY Teas is a theory Y organisation. There the employees are naturally driven to take responsibility. On my first day at work my immediate supervisor told me ,
“Here at XY nobody would pin point and teach everything. Its your responsibility to work and learn, learn and prosper”
Further the degree of freedom at work XY was very high except few exceptional conditions all the directors and seniors of the group were open for communication throughout.
To become managers in the future some one has to start from somewhere. The famous Sri Lankan exemplary character Dian Gomes who rose up high to the top of the corporate ladder also has started from the bottom. In that sense the technical stiff that an undergraduate lean in the primary stages such as accounting, financial statements, analysis and case studies play a huge importance when providing management information. And the accurate workings make us recognizable among the crowd.
Communication is not just a language. That represents whole lot more than that. At schools and universities we learn English, and business communication respectively. Specially this business communication taught us how to present before a board, hoe to sit for an interview, how to talk with subordinates bosses, how to address a gathering hoe to communicate via emails ect.
And obviously these kind of learning come handy when you step in to the corporate.
Information technology is one of the urgency of the era. Mangers can’t stand alone without IT knowledge with them. Because systems have wiped out the relatively less efficient staff. At XY are millions worth of IT enabled ERP systems. Even daily work is centered around PC s or laptops as in many contemporary organizations. For success the undergraduates have to definitely chose the easy and the efficient route.
On my purview both these two types of learning the business communications and the IT should be facilitated well at the school level. And undergraduates should be properly equipped for the corporate environment.
Skills acquired during the period as an intern
Similar to theoretical knowledge the practical experience always matters in the corporate as the ways and means of applying these theories are more contextual in nature. So by working at ‘XY teas” I was able to sharpen my skill and knowledge in order to set the foundation to becoming a leading business women in to the future.
In the long term goal of managing businesses practicing leadership skills is a must. According to the Trait theory on leadership people are either born or are made with certain qualities that will make them excel in leadership roles. Nevertheless so many other theories in leadership suggests that leaders may emerge due to contingency needs. Some might have the myth in mind that only men can manage or lead.
Despite all these connotations practicing at XY enhanced my leadership skills to a great extent. I believe the leadership skills tarnishes with the responsibility that is paused upon us. The responsibility do work as a drive to manage and lead the others towards a common goal.
At XY the immense autonomy at work that is granted helped me to work close and confidently challenge and argue the continuing practices of the organization. Even the foreign staff and purchasing staff are most of the times reregulated under me. The freedom I have over demanding information, analyzing reports and suggesting amendments to the reports gave insights as to how specially human resources should be tackled in an organization.
Specially when it comes to handing foreign staff and coordinating with them the national differences come in to play most of the times. Not just the national differences but also the tribal differences are more significant in African countries especially in Kenyan company.
The company is performance oriented and nobody pushes and coaches. There seems to improve the ability of self learning at the company
Professionalism cannot be taught in class rooms most of the times. The way of dress, talk and even the way of greeting reflect ourselves to the outsiders. Professionalism can be most of the times leant through observation while being a part of the corporate culture.
At “XY teas” I learnt how to be act and behave professionally not at all that how to sharpen our attitudes like a true professional.
Presenting in the class room is important to be ready to present before a board. Yet I would say two are much more different. During my first presentation before a board where more than three directors and outstation managers were presented I almost shivered having successfully faced classroom presentations.
The difference here is it being an actual corporate climate. I slowly gained in confidence to present issues and procedures in front of the board with practice and continuous participation during my tenure at Rnafer Teas.
During the first few weeks of stay at company I noticed that company’s intention is not to get the work done somehow but to get the most quality output. That was not just in the production division but also in the supporting services mainly Accounting and Finance. Therefore I am automatically trained by the company to perform what is value adding to the company. The enhanced autonomy at work made me privileged to bring in proposals and suggestions anytime and they were open to these ideas full time.
Communication is a foremost important aspect when it comes to work as a manger. Here in the company as a trainee I was granted the opportunity to enhance not just communication skills but effective communication skills. What the chairman always stresses is that “you have to deal with correct information” , without information the top management decisions would not be fruitful.
As a manger what is crucial is to bringing up alternative solutions to problems as economic resources are scarce and restrictive. XY rejects the concept of TINA. It always believes that the alternatives are always possible.
At the end of my first month I was assigned to the task of internal auditing in relation to the foreign stocks held by the Kenyan company. Many have refused to accept this task as tracking on foreign stocks seemed cumbersome. Yet though, the management trusted in me to bring up a system to have close control over foreign tea stocks of the company, particularly in the Kenyan company as some issue as sprung recently.
With the invaluable information collected from the Accountant, Finance manager and the tea department of the company I was required to draw up a plan and a summary of the process flow of the Kenyan operations. I studied the local operations and compared them with the foreign operations. I drew up the process flow and found that there are loop holes in the internal controls of the Kenyan system. This plan was appreciated by the management and currently I am working on it to have regular controls over this process. (The process flow that was presented is attached in the annexure.)
The company’s main source of income is Tea exports, from which most of the revenue flows in from the three overseas companies. Therefore the tracking payments and invoices are a crucial aspect pertaining to my job role. As contracts are invoiced in Dollars the risk of an error would me billions per a contract as the ultimate authority of payments lies upon me. As a result the company is expecting me to maintain 0% error specially regards to that aspect.
Overall “XY Teas” is a resourceful place to learn and work as an intern. Despite its success and continuous and consistent growth I believe there could be lot more that the company could do than what the company is performing at the moment. And few are listed below.
- Brand recognition
Although XY Teas is a substantial market holder (which accounts to tenth place) in the exports market yet it does not have its brand consolidated in the Sri Lankan market. Ceylon Tea , Lipton, George Stewart being the major competitors of XY seem to hold the advantage over XY due to lack of brand recognition. “XY” though has the capacity and capability to make up a brand it does not seem so interested. So I suggest XY to go under a brand name for the survival in the long run and also to diversify the risk.
- Repositioning and implementing strategies to face organizational mid life crisis
As presented earlier the company at present is facing a bit of a mid life crisis. Being a mature organization which is 45 to 45 years old the company need s to look forwards, outwards and make decisions to suit the competition.
- Identifying its core competencies
- Reformulating strategies and objectives
- Establishing clear cut KPIs
- Facilitating innovation and
- Changing the mindset to take risks
Are few of the areas that need attention in the context of” XY teas” at the moment.
- http://www.XY.com/ (accesses on 20.06.2016)
- Annual financial statements of XY Teas
- Kumarasiri, G.,Tea Plantation In Sri Lanka, (1998), Godage Publications, Colombo.
- Adetule, P. J., The Handbook on Management, (2011), Author House, Vasbourn.