It was an emotionally overwhelming moment. To see your hard work getting recognized by the heavyweights of the industry is reassuring to the fact that you are on the right track of your career. When the CEO of the company congratulates you and says, “Welcome to the PepsiCo family”, it is a feeling which cannot be described in words.
Corporate competitions are a good platform to test your knowledge and learn new things. The challenge given is real-life based. The stakeholders are looking for practical solutions and only serious and practical submissions make it to the top. The most talented teams from all around the world fight it out on a common platform. Ultimately, there are rewards like job offers and prize money.
PepsiCo takes everything to a higher level. From the format of teaming up random people to granting $100,000 to implement the project, I knew that if there is a competition that is perfect in all aspects, it has to be this one. The problem with Plastics has been around for a very long time. There have already been numerous attempts to solve it. This makes it very challenging to innovate. Also, since we were expected to present a business model, it made it even more difficult.
We spent so many sleepless nights reading research papers, exploring new technologies and understanding the current setup. Then, one day, it clicked and we knew instantly that this was going to be our solution. It is a very interesting story. My teammate Utkarsh Garg and I lived just 2 rooms apart and yet we had never spoken to each other except for exchanging a few casual greetings. PepsiCo teamed us up after the initial test and this was how we got to know each other really well and realized how similar we were on so many levels. Our thought processes were so aligned that it made working together very smooth.
Of course, there were conflicts but we didn’t let our egos come in the way of our work. Whenever we had a difference in opinions, we had open discussions and took decisions based on their merits. And for the moments when it was difficult to compare each other’s proposals on merits, we vetoed or backed down on an equal number of occasions. This was easier for us because we had mutual confidence in each other. We were also very clear on each other’s scope of work. We complemented each other. If one person was able to think deep on a topic, the other person was keeping track of the bigger picture. If one proposed an idea, the other suggested ways to make it even bigger and better. If a person was occupied with one thing, the other took the initiative of completing something else. And this was all possible because we trusted each other. There were 10 teams in the India Region Finale.
As the presentations were carried out behind closed doors with only the jury, it is not possible to pick the toughest competitor. The problem statement was clear. The format was very unique as the first round depended on individual performance and the subsequent rounds were team-based. The jury not only comprised of the PepsiCo leaders but also of external experts which made it even fairer. The organizers were very approachable and accommodating. The biggest learning has been the importance of team dynamics. We wouldn’t have achieved it if our team didn’t have such amazing dynamics.