The feeling of winning a national level competition organized at such a grand scale was truly overwhelming. Upon hearing the winning team’s name, the first 10 seconds were a flashback of all the hours of effort that went into the making of the final solution. And then an immediate juxtaposition of the current state – us holding the winner title. Our next reaction was to just look at each other in the eye and say – Hey, we made it!
While a B-school extensively trains students on solving business problems through case studies and simulations, working on a real-life case study has its own steep learning curve. HUL is the biggest FMCG player in the country and participating, let alone winning the competition was a matter of great prestige. It is in competitions like these in which the rubber meets the road and theoretical concepts taught in classrooms are put into extensive practical use. We could not have asked for a better platform than HUL’s Big Brand Theory.
It would be wrong to say that we did not burn the midnight oil. Any feasible solution to a well-defined problem requires repeatedly going back to the drawing board. We had a very systematic approach to working on the problem. The team divided essential tasks based on key individual strengths and capabilities. Once substantial work was done on the assigned task, the individual had to present his work while the others played the role of Devil’s Advocate.
We ensured that we stuck to the set deadlines and deduced that any work done beyond the deadline will lead to counter-productivity. This approach forced us to be efficient as well as effective. We employed an iterative model and spent over 65 hours in fine-tuning our solution. We prepared a skeleton of our solution, made a bank of ideas, researched extensively through primary and secondary market research methods, consulted our faculty members for their suggestions, re-worked on our solution and came up with the final presentation.
The most challenging phase of the entire journey was to get relevant and reliable data sets to work on. Our guesstimates and future sales projections were made on certain assumptions and to figure and lock this out was one of the toughest parts of the problem. A good team is the one which challenges an individual and gets the best out of her/him. It was an enriching experience working with Aditya and Karthik. It is important for a team to have offline engagement as well in order to work in sync and symbiosis. The synergy that is developed over time is inimitable and this advantage possibly gave us an edge over the others.
Needless to say, there were many conflicts but the understanding among the team members and the mutual goal of tasting victory always kept us on our toes to resolve any differences. Every point of conflict was heard, brainstormed, debated and locked with a feasible outcome. This process required a lot of persuasions but the by-product of this was an instant activation of our reasoning abilities, which further helped us in the Q&A round.
Every individual member had something to get to the table. While Karthik was good at ideation, Aditya was good at research and I would work on the written and verbal communication delivery of the proposed solution. There’s always room for improvement in one’s personal contribution and the delta change in the solution was always achieved through recommendations from other team members. Our collective positive attitude towards in-depth research & analysis and a data-driven approach to our study propelled us in refining our solution and backing it up with reliable evidence.
There were 15 national finalist teams in the finale. The event was structured in a presentation + Q&A format. Since we did not get to see the final presentations of any other team (as it would lead to an advantage for the other teams based on similar questions asked) it’s difficult to pick the toughest competitor. However, our interaction with other national finalists gave us an epiphany of sorts that the competition was tough and we have to be better than the best!
The competition was very well organized event. The HUL team pampered us with a comfortable stay in their humongous campus. We were showered with a lot of goodies, a colorful and attractive campus tour and a rich interaction with important HUL stakeholders who are custodians of some of the biggest brands in the country. The judging quality was highly appreciated as the Q&A round had intense cross-questioning and attention to detail to the minutest recommendation in our study.
One of the key takeaways from the experience was to keep calm, give your best shot and be positive. Our institute’s founder and dean Dr. Bala V Balachandran always encourages us to take calculated risks to realize attainable rewards. We kept this mantra in mind and proceeded with our recommendations. Another key point is to have faith in your faith and doubt in your doubts. Once a point of recommendation is locked, it is futile to have second thoughts on it.
With regard to any special moments – the sheer joy of walking up to the grand stage and holding the winning amount, certificate and trophy will always be a memorable moment.
-Deepak Narang holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) University in Mumbai. He has 3 years of experience in business development and account management in the internet space and holds a deep interest in marketing and strategy. He has learned about online advertising and digital marketing while working with the Yahoo! Bing Network Contextual Ads Program at Media.net (Directi) in Mumbai. He is currently pursuing MBA from Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai.