Case Study Competitions – How to make the best of opportunities!

Hear out Shubham who is an Industrial Engineer by qualification. He has completed his MBA from IIM Kashipur (Batch 2019-21) and has been recognized as the Top Competitive Leader from the Institute featuring him in Forbes India.

“The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.”

Corporate competitions have been an integral and consistent part of my MBA journey. Especially in the 2nd year, when the entire classroom program was shifted to online mode, there was hardly any day when I wasn’t involved in brainstorming ideas for any competition. Hearing about being the Top D2C Champion from IIM Kashipur and my Institute being ranked 4th, particularly when I was finishing my MBA journey, was the best way I could have summed up the significance of all my efforts.

Participating and investing time in multiple corporate competitions is indeed a difficult decision, especially amidst the conventions of a B-School, where a student has various academic commitments, projects, case studies with sacrosanct deadlines. There have been times when we had overlapping deadlines-prioritizing became the key factor there. There have been times where my team had to discuss and devise strategies working remotely, or work on competitions during the end term examinations as well. However, the extent to which these competitions enhanced my managerial learning by providing a parallel exposure to real-time industry-wide business problems, and a platform to evaluate my approach to these problems, made me keep the spirit alive and kept me going at every point.

During this time, I explored various domains, ranging from proposing a new product line in Market research for Thoucentric Bottoms-Up to preparing a Business Development Plan for CarEasy Spark. While proposing Supply Chain strategy for Tier-2 cities in the Flipkart Wired helped me gain perspective of the logistics industry, building a healthcare ecosystem in Infosys Ingenious and Optum Stratethon provided the insights of the technological advancements of this sector. Participating in 3M-CII helped us build a tech enabled product with a social impact. AGS Horizon navigated us through the emerging domain of hyperlocal fintech. In addition to this, I also participated in multiple B-School level competitions and managed to win a few. With this, I ended up with 2 National Winners, 1 Runners Up, 3 National Finalist, and 5 National Semi-Finalists in my tally.

Some key aspects that MBA aspirants should keep in mind, though these are not exhaustive:

  1. In the initial year, experiment with building your team for the first few competitions until you get the right dynamics. Try to build a core team that will have zilch or constructive friction and no free-riders. Find members who have expertise, say it be market research, designing or technical domain knowledge. Motivate them. Teach them. Learn from them. And improve each other.
  2. Making the most of your network, connecting with industry professionals to gain relevant key insights is of paramount importance.
  3. The execution should be kept in mind so the idea should be minimalistic. Be thorough with your ground research and workflow. Try incorporating frameworks/models learnt in class.
  4. During the presentations you need to ensure that you cover all the important content in the stipulated time frame. Try to make it as crisp and concise as possible. Ideally you can follow the approach – Problem Statement, Research, Insights, Ideas, Feasibility, Financials and Timeline.

Consistency and meaningful participation in competitions can increase your MBA learning to a great extent. Instead of taking it as only participating, take these as learning curves. If you want to make the most of your MBA journey, competitions undoubtedly provide a platform for you to learn and unlearn. My suggestion to juniors will be to participate in maximum number of competitions, keep yourself updated about recent developments and innovations, and always keep the hunger alive.

About the Author:
Shubham is an Industrial Engineer by qualification. He has completed his MBA from IIM Kashipur (Batch 2019-21) and has been recognized as the Top Competitive Leader from the Institute featuring him in Forbes India. He is an IT professional with 2 years of experience in ZS Associates. In his past time, he likes sketching & playing video games. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

Journey of winning ‘ICICI Bank Beat the Curve 2019’ – A step towards being 4th in D2C Competitive B schools 2021

From the beginning of the campus rounds, we focused on the aspect of bringing the youth’s (millennial) perspective to our case solution. For the competition, ICICI Bank Beat the Curve 2019, we chose to suggest an innovative product that will help attract people from 20 to 30 years of age towards the services of the Bank.  

The Challenge

We started by gathering a lot of primary data by getting responses from more than 1000 individuals of varied age groups and localities. The competition had three stages – a campus round, Stage 2 (semi-final), and a Final round. We spent close to 20 hours on the semi-final and the final rounds. The mentorship provided during the semi-final round was particularly very useful. There we understood what aspects of our solution we need to focus upon.

The Winning team – Team Ideates

There were 6 teams who made it to the Grand finale of the competition. They were from institutes like IIFT, FMS, JBIMS, IIM R, etc. During the presentations of the final round, we particularly felt that the team from JBIMS had put in a lot of research in building their solution. But we were confident about our solution as well as the presentation. Both Shubham and I were part of a winning team even in the first year of our MBA. The experience and learning during that competition certainly helped us here. We had confidence in each other. While preparing for the presentation, we helped each other out in finding faults critically and correcting each other. One of us was a late-night worker and the other was an early bird. Instead of quarreling over finding a common time to work, we took it as a plus point. We worked over this across time, building on each other’s work and just cross-checking before submitting the work when we were short on deadlines!

The moments that mattered

The panel of judges was from the leadership team at ICICI Bank. The competition had a unique and amazing judgment criterion. Along with the jury panel, the audience that comprised 50 senior-level executives of ICICI Bank, scored the different teams on 4 parameters. It was based on parameters like research depth, presentation quality, innovation of the solution, and the QnA round. One key learning in this competition was that the delivery of your presentation is as important as the hard work done while building the solution. Also, it is important that you look at your solution from the audience’s perspective. This helps you judge your own presentation before anyone else does! Well, there were two amazing moments for us. One was during the QnA, where we could justify a question put up by a senior executive sitting in the audience. Later, when we took our seats after the presentation, he came to us and praised our solution. That was really reassuring. The second was obviously during the declaration of results when our team, ‘Team Ideates from IIM Kashipur‘ was announced as the National Winners of ICICI Bank Beat The Curve 2019 and we were called on stage!

About the Author:
Chirag Dixit, MBA from Indian Institute of Management Kashipur and currently works with Bloomberg in their Financial Products team.
He has also been a part of the Placement Committee of the institute for both years and has worked in fostering relationship between the institute and industry on various levels. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

IIM Kashipur emerges as a rising star in the Dare2Compete Awards 2021!

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”  – Rabindranath Tagore 

Let’s start with the journey of a student who gets admission in a prestigious institute like an IIM after persistent preparation and trading off career opportunities. With dreams of flying higher and higher, this student has a feeling of great achievement and an equivalent responsibility to do justice with this success. He sees a glorifying career ahead in the upcoming two years and is highly enthusiastic about making the most of his MBA life. But how does he paint the canvas of these two years? Which hues does he select? This entirely depends on his strong will and determination towards learning clubbed with the opportunities and motivation offered by his institute. 

IIM Kashipur takes pride in playing a phenomenal role in the life of this student who enters the institute with the thirst for knowledge and the zeal to realise his dreams. During two years of post graduation, the institute instils in the students the feeling of “never settling down”. One of the integral parts of the culture is motivating the students to participate in case study competitions. IIM Kashipur faculties, the Placement Committee and Team Corpus leave no stones unturned to cultivate this culture of corporate and B-school competitions in the current and upcoming batches. They dedicatedly work round the year in this direction to bring the institute to unfathomable heights.

With these constant efforts, the institute has exceptionally performed in Dare2Compete (D2C) Awards 2021 securing 4th rank in D2C Competitive B-Schools 2021 Rankings.

Achieving this milestone, IIM Kashipur has joined the league of other older prestigious institutions like IIFT, IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore and IIM Kozhikode that appeared in the top 5 ranks. Not only this, IIM Kashipur has become the only 2nd generation IIM to have made its place in the top 10 ranks.  

This remarkable success is a reward for the diligence and determination of the students. Each and every honest participation and winning has contributed to the achievement. Throughout the year, students of both the years have meticulously planned for the competition season burning the midnight oil in the quest for their holistic development. Team Corpus created Corpus Community – a student group that dedicatedly works together to discuss and ace in the case study competitions. This community boosts collaboration among the students and with the resources as well as mentorship provided by them, it helps in optimising the hard work of all the participants. This creates a competitive environment and acts as a continuous source of motivation for the students. Also, viewing it from the other lens, Dare2Compete provides an excellent platform to the students to hone their skills in various domains by giving them a chance to participate in real-life case study competitions floated by eminent institutes and reputed companies. Hence, there is an air of unstoppable learning and fuelling the competitive spirit surrounding the student community. 

The enthusiasm of the students can be reflected in the level of participation in a large number of competitions ranging from B-school to corporate. With these sincere initiatives, IIM Kashipur has got 8 National Winners, 5 National Runners up, 4 National 2nd Runners up, 24 National Finalists and 12 Semi-Finalists throughout the competition season who have bagged positions in reputed competitions like L’Oréal Sustainability Challenge, Xiaomi Mi Summit 2.0, Virtusa Business Cipher Challenge, CarEasy Spark, TVS Credit Analytics challenge, and many more. These competitions encompass different domains of management and thereby help the students to develop various skills like problem-solving, teamwork, creative thinking, fact-finding, and mental agility, especially relevant for employability.

Also, it is a moment of pride for the institute to see 9 Champions from the institute who have secured positions in the Top 100 Dare2Compete Competitive Leaders 2021. Shubham Vispute, Rahul Choudhary, Deepansh Goyal, Prajwal Vaichalkar, G Prashanth, Vishesh Jain, Himanshu Singasene, Abhinav Yadav and Udit Arunav have exhibited a commendable performance and their relentless hard work has helped the institute in accomplishing new heights. 

IIM Kashipur is soon going to complete its 10 glorious years of establishment. This achievement has added to the magnificence of the celebration and has entrusted bigger responsibilities upon the fraternity.

This recognition is just the beginning of an extraordinary journey that will go on and on adding colourful feathers to the hat of laurels!

How National Winners of case study competitions approach the case!

“I wish to improve my skill set and learn from real-life scenarios.”

The statement mentioned above is one of the most common reasons why candidates wish to pursue an MBA degree.

Immersed in an arduous curriculum following a case-based pedagogy, a B-school graduate learns to look at various challenges an organization faces from multiple angles, analyze potential areas of improvement, and design campaigns or reforms accordingly, all within the confines of the classrooms. These case-study competitions thus serve as arguably the best means for B-School students to satisfy their ultimate objective of solving live industry problems, honing their skillset, and applying all that they have learned in a classroom environment.

Cracking case study competitions comes with its own thrills. Working in teams with people possessing diverse skillsets, brainstorming together to understand the problem statement at depth, formulating the feasibility of alternative solutions, and finally presenting your best solution in front of current business leaders. All this fills you with a rush of adrenaline which remains unparalleled and functions as a vital cog in the holistic development of candidates as a future business leader.

As important as it is to understand the objectives of participating, it is equally important to choose the competitions you wish to ace. For those who are beginning their journey of case study competitions, the best thing you can do for yourself is to grab every opportunity that comes your way. It is imperative to experience problem statements from different domains and analyze the feasibility, scalability, and practicality of your solutions to maximize your learnings from respective domains. As you learn to analyze your performance in each domain better, you can play to your strengths and give preference to competitions that lie in your area of strength. However, the general advice here would still be to continue attempting cases from various domains as it helps in the overall development across multiple disciplines, which is the ultimate objective behind participating in such competitions.

Furthermore, one should emphasize on research and execution behind each competition. The guiding principle behind acing case-study competitions is to provide solutions that are backed by data, and this requires extensive research. Platforms like IBEF, Statista, multiple college databases, Google Scholar, and research papers from top companies should be your go-to for researching and trying to understand what lies between the lines in these case-study competitions. Outside of the means of secondary research mentioned above, always look to conduct some primary research for your topic as it is crucial to gauge the understanding and requirements of your potential customer-base while formulating any solution.

We know, this must sound hectic at first, but in reality, it is manageable if the team works in full cohesion. It is of paramount importance to team-up with members having diverse skillsets for each competition and then distribute the work accordingly. Not only does this allow you to work with people possessing varied sets of skills and learn from them, but also helps you manage your workload so much so that these case-study competitions feel a part of the regular MBA curriculum.

A final word of advice for all our readers: As you begin your journey, you will face multiple challenges in almost all aspects of these case-study competitions. Thus, it becomes equally essential not to get bogged down by a few results. For each case-study competition that you don’t win, you enrich yourself with the experience. Learn from each endeavour, and then it will just be a matter of time before you win your first competition, which will only be the beginning of many more victories to come in the future.

Stay focused, stay determined, and most importantly, stay hungry!

Team Data Crunchers

[Pranav Bhardwaj, Sahil Sondhi, and Aditya Bharadwaj (MBA Batch 2019–21)]

National Winners, ( Udyami by IIT Madras, Brand Aficionado by IIM Visakhapatnam)

How National Winners of Vigyaapan — The Advertising Challenge by IIT Bombay approached the case!

Ever since I started pursuing an MBA, my interest in marketing and advertising started increasing. So, whenever I saw any competition related to this field, I got excited to work on it. Neeraj also has a similar interest in marketing, so it was relatively easy to work with him even though he had just started his MBA journey. Your core values and beliefs should match when you want to form a team, and that happened when I met Neeraj.

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‘Vigyaapan- the advertising challenge’ by IIT Bombay precisely had all in store for us. On the surface, it looks like an advertising challenge, but it was not just making an advertisement for a known brand or product. After the quiz round, they shared with us some products that don’t exist at all in the real world. So first, we had to create a product strategy, give it a name, price, packaging, and everything related to product development. After a lot of brainstorming and considering all pros and cons, we chose to work on ‘Intoxicating Tea’. The case was simple. We had to plan a campaign for this product and execute it on social media in the form of an image and video. So, we researched tea and alcohol brands, studied their social media advertising and communication strategy. Then in the second round, we created a brand logo, product package, brand tagline, and structured an STP for the launch of the campaign. I have worked on Adobe illustrator before so creating a poster was a bit easy task but most of the time went into the creation of the advertising copy.

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We discussed a lot of ways in which we can tell our message, but everything was lengthy and complicated. We wanted something in minimal illustration with the right message. Eventually, we came to a consensus and went ahead with ‘teacup and a man going high with the fumes of the tea above the cup’. Later the idea was appreciated by the judges in the finale round.

The difficulty arose in the finale round where we had to submit the video ad as Neeraj and I were not in the same city. We could easily address this problem by compiling some stock images and showing something. But we believed originality is the key to winning and thought of producing our own film. So, we needed a script considering parameters such as ease of editing, minimal dialogues as we didn’t have proper cameras, and most importantly, a good story. Storytelling is the most crucial part of your communication strategy when you advertise. We needed a story where the consumer will have a surprising element by aligning it with the product benefits.

Beginning with this complex task, we first divided the work. Neeraj took the recording and editing work as he had some equipment and I worked on the script and direction. It was the first-ever experience of doing remote work in the direction of the film. We realized that challenges are inevitable and can be handled with proper communication and teamwork. There was a point where we thought we should give up as Neeraj had his exams while we were in the finale round. But his exams finished just two days before the presentation round. So, we had only two days to work on the script, then shoot it and post it on social media. But he worked all day and night and then created the final copy with all iterations that I had suggested. At the same time, I worked on the deck, which was to be presented in front of the judges.

Judges liked our idea, the out of the box thinking, and the way of storytelling. When the results came out, we were thrilled and thought that our sleepless nights have finally paid off. The experience in this competition was marvelous and unforgettable. On a leaving note, I would like to give a message — be focused, be original, push yourself a little harder, and you will find the key to winning hearts.

-by Rohit Jagtap

Team The Vikings [Rohit Jagtap (MBA Batch 2019–21), and Neeraj Tulsani (MBA Batch 2020–22)]

National Winners, Vigyaapan — The Advertising Challenge by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

How National Winners of DigiBytes, IIM Bangalore approached the case!

B-school competitions are the first and foremost thing that the students are required to prepare for soon after they enter college. Let alone winning or losing, just by taking part in a competition and honestly putting efforts into research and data collection — which are the starting points of the competition can make one learn a lot. B-school competitions are an invaluable experience and an essential part of an MBA.

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When it comes to choosing a team for a competition, it is important to remember that all of the members need not be the best in everything — this may work reverse bringing in a lot of rework and discussions that forever go on a loop instead of adding value to the team. A short description of our team for DigiBytes a digital marketing competition conducted by IIM Bangalore will help you get the perspective rightly. One of the team members is a good initiator. With an idea in hand, he knew from where to initiate and was able to give a face, body, and life to the idea. The second member of the team is good at crunching numbers, bringing in facts to support the idea, and draw out revenue plans and cost structures, in short, a person good with data interpretation and understanding numbers. Our third member is a person who is creative, good at presenting his ideas simply, and understandably without diluting the essence of all the efforts that the team has put into building the case solution. Having diverse members in a team helps in bringing different perspectives and formulating a unique winning strategy. Adding on to the above merits, dividing work among the team becomes easy when the team is diverse, which saves a lot of valuable time given our hectic MBA schedules.

The context of DigiBytes case was to launch a new product in a given set of industry sectors and market them organically on social media handles. We can break down our approach in the following steps. The first step is to understand the category (fitness, food and beverages, chocolates, etc.) in which you are competing, whether the category is already established or it is new and developing.

The second step is to identify your immediate competitors and other competitors. For example, for launching new chocolate, its immediate competitors would be other chocolates such as Dairy Milk, Snickers, Milky bar, etc. and other competitors could be native Indian confectioneries, cookies, cakes, etc.

The third step is to understand the offerings of the competitors, what are the benefits that the competitors are communicating to their target group. This process will help in finding white spaces where your product can cash in and win.

The fourth step is to list down a set of your potential target customers, prepare a discussion guide, and conduct in-depth interviews. The fifth step is to identify your final target customer group, define his/her characteristics in-depth by answering questions like who is he, what is his behaviour and why does he behave so. This will help not only in understanding your target group better but also enables you to find tension or say a need state for your target group that you will go on to fulfill with your product.

The sixth step is to create an effective communication strategy for your product which is in line with your brand strategy and purpose, which serves the need of your target group that you identified in the previous step. The final brand communication must be impactful and should guide your target group from their current state to the desired state. For example, the current state of the target group is “ I believe starting my day early is good and healthy, but doing so is difficult, and I don’t find a motivation to do so”. The desired state is “Winners and achievers wake up early and start working towards their goals, and results don’t come easily, one has to work hard to achieve one’s goals”. The brand communication for your product should act as a bridge that moves your consumer from his/her current state to their desired state. For example, “I want my target consumer to believe that A cup of Sleepy Owl coffee is the best possible way to start my day and stay active throughout the day”.

The next step goes on to developing creatives and running campaigns that will take this brand communication to the desired target group. Better content categorization can be done using a funnel approach. The success of this step depends on the impactfulness and creativity of the campaigns.

To conclude, working towards winning a B-school competition along with the regular academic rigour not only adds value to the CV but also sparks innovation, shows the competitive part of you that you never knew existed. Humans are competitive and have been competing over territories, food, mates, etc., for hundreds of years now, and competition makes you better in what you do. The high that you get from winning will push you towards expanding your limits and thrive more for success. All the best. Keep working towards a better tomorrow. The right idea, at the right time and the right place will definitely win.

Team Black Clover

Aravind R, Gaurav Gopal, and Vignesh M (MBA Batch 2019–21)

National Winners, DigiBytes organised by IIM Bangalore

How National Winners of L’Oréal Sustainability Challenge 2020 approached the case!

IIM Kashipur has been building a culture among the students to participate in the case competitions and find ways to express themselves by competing with the other B-schools. Last year, IIM Kashipur saw success in numerous competitions making the culture even stronger. We got to know about corporate case competitions after joining the MBA program at IIM Kashipur. The first year of MBA was no less than a roller-coaster ride, spent in learning key business concepts and time management, we decided to participate diligently in the second year. It took us a while to understand how the case competitions work and what needs to be done to crack them. Firstly, we would say, selecting a good and coordinating team is of utmost importance. A team should consist of members who respect each other’s opinions and believe in having constructive discussions. The strengths and weaknesses of members should be known and utilized well. Above all, there must be strong bonding and a 100% commitment towards teamwork. Three of us worked together on an academic project in the first year and gelled up well. Consequently, we decided that we will team up for case competitions and started preparing for the same. We focused specifically on the presentation skills and having done multiple class presentations in the first year helped us a lot in this aspect.

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The next thing is to select the right competition. With the busy curriculum of the MBA, it is difficult to compete in all the case competitions. Therefore, it is better to research and select a few competitions based on your domain, interest, or industry and work hard towards understanding and approaching those competitions. At the end of the first year, we had prepared a list of all the competitions and their tentative dates that we were expecting to be floated during our second year. We even tried to plan our electives and other curriculum activities accordingly.

Coming to the competitions, no matter how much you prepare for the case challenges, you will not be able to reach the case study round, unless you clear the preliminary elimination rounds which are usually quiz or simulation rounds. Hence, it is important to take them seriously with a fitting approach specific to each competition. It is important to stay calm and focused even when you are not able to make through the first round in a few competitions. We always tried to stay positive and looked forward to moving ahead.

The main challenge comes after clearing the first round. It is important to understand the case problem clearly. The companies generally organize a webinar or doubt clearing sessions after floating the case. We preferred to attend these sessions — well prepared with our doubts to get everything clarified. Also, efforts should be made to understand the ‘expectations of the jury’ and ‘judgement parameters’ set by the organizer.

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L’Oréal Sustainability Challenge 2020

L’Oréal Sustainability Challenge was a challenge of ideation, where we had to provide an innovative solution on how L’Oréal could enable its consumers to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the use of its products. Now that is a challenge specific to the behavioral change of L’Oréal’s consumers and at the same time open to any idea which is feasible and scalable to the world. Hence, we focussed on the novelty and simplicity of our idea. We believe that extensive research from reliable sources and brainstorming are the keys to get a novel idea.

For the preparation of the Grand Finale, we thought and discussed on every aspect being brought to our notice by the mentors from L’Oréal. We prepared the final presentation following their suggestions. We tried to keep it as simple as possible to understand, such that it included all the nitty-gritty of the idea. We also kept backup calculations in the appendix. We felt that the Q&A session plays the most crucial role in winning a competition, the jury would be ready to dive deep in your solution and we had prepared for every possible question in advance, at least the ones we could think of.

Winning the L’Oréal Sustainability Challenge was an enriching experience and gave us some key learnings. We faced quite a few challenges as we had our midterm exams just before the final round and the virtual setup had its concerns to deal with. But with some luck, and some sleepless nights of hard work, we are happy that we were able to sail through.

Our Learnings

“If you try to win, you might lose, but if you do not even participate, you lose for sure”

So, participation should be done leaving all the expectations aside. Winning or losing depends on a lot of factors that are difficult to define. Some things are not in our hands. That said, we can always focus on a few factors which have the potential to create a difference.

If we are to say three things that helped us in our journey, it would be Confidence, Simplicity, and Dedication.

Team Insight

Abhinav Yadav, Saransh Jain, Udit Arunav (MBA Batch 2019–21)

National Winners, L’Oréal Sustainability Challenge 2020

Small Big Bang: A book by Ashwin Murali

Ashwin Murali (student of IIM Kashipur, PGP2013 batch) published his first book “Small Big Bang” with Grey Parrot publications.
Small Big Bang has been an experience of a lifetime for many. Here’s what Ashwin Murali, a key member of the SBB team, from IIM Kashipur has to say,

‘Small Big Bang’ is a dream come true for budding writers like me. I was overjoyed when I got selected for the project. The project took off and it was a whole new experience in itself – meeting the entrepreneur, chatting with him, interviewing him, the audio recordings, the videos, chronicling his story, trying to do justice to his story through my words. It was an experience that I’d cherish forever. Not just my experience, but the entrepreneur’s story was so inspiring that it gave me the courage to take risks and try out new things in life. I an indebted to Grey Parrot Publishers for this opportunity and I sincerely believe that this is a start for many more to come.’

A tete-e-tete with Tata MindRover Season 3 winners – Ankita and Sulabh

It was an exhilarating experience to be among the top five teams of one of the most coveted competitions, ‘Tata MindRover Season 3’, after successfully competing with thousands of entries. We, Team “Balle Balle” (Sulabh Arora and Ankita Sharma), were to embark on an unprecedented journey to Mumbai in order to challenge the best in the business. On reaching the destination for the presentations, both of us were anxious but at the same time were thrilled to be at such a position.

We got to meet the top level management of Tata Motors and the interaction with them was splendid and rich. Meanwhile, waiting for our turn to showcase our analysis, we got an opportunity to interact with the other contenders who too were from reputed B-schools. After delivering our presentations, Tata Motors had a panel discussion in which all the participants were given opportunities to ask any queries that we had and we received great insights.

The team of TATA Motors clearly showcased unity, fun and dedication towards the company, which was highly inspirational. We secured the 3rd prize at the event for which TATA presented us with PPIs, certificates, and goodies. We had received warm hospitality from TATA Motors during the whole event tenure, which made us feel like a part of the TATA family.

Rakesh Kumar from PGP ’12 on clearing the CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) exam

APICS (The Association for Operations Management) CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) program is the only certification of its kind in the field of operations and supply chain management

PGP ’12 student, Rakesh Kumar, recently cleared CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) exam. He shared his insights on importance of CSCP and approach that is required to clear it.

1) What is APICS CSCP Program and what is its scope in today’s context?

APICS (The Association for Operations Management) CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) program is the only certification of its kind in the field of operations and supply chain management. CSCP becomes even more important with enhanced role of supply chain management in success of business in prevailing cut throat competition, changing technological and economic dynamics. Accordingly this certification or designation is subject to renewal after five years as it becomes outdated after that due to obvious reasons like change in the ecosystem, technology, etc.

CSCP program requires prior work experience of two years as eligibility criterion along with bachelors’ degree. CSCP has only one exam, which consists of three modules (listed below) each having equal weightage-

  • Supply chain management fundamentals
  • Supply chain strategy, design, and compliance
  • Implementation and operations

All these modules expose you to the essential terminology, concepts, and strategies related to demand management, supplier planning, sales and operations planning, and more.

2) Who should pursue this program? How does CSCP add value to a regular MBA?

CSCP program is essential if you want to acquire comprehensive understanding of supply chain management right from the supplier’s supplier to end customer. This program becomes very relevant if you are interested in making carrier in operations field and to be specific in supply chain consulting or ERP systems.

CSCP helps you in enhancing your knowledge and skills in the areas like risk management, sustainability, SRM, CRM, ERP, six sigma, lean production, and continuous improvement, etc. Not only that it also enables you to comprehend and compare various practices and tools against each other at one place which is not the case with regular MBA. In regular MBA the things or courses are taught or learned in fragmented manner depending up on the availability & timing of the electives. Further CSCP program exposes you to various challenges, best practices, trends and developments of supply chain industry in a consolidated manner.

3) Do you think the popularity of the CSCP is growing? If yes, what advantage do students have in placements if there are already many people having cleared CSCP exams?

Since its inception in 2006, more than 13000 professionals in 77 countries have earned APICS CSCP designation, which is pretty much an indicator of its popularity in the business world.

In India companies across various sectors like IT, FMCG, consumer durables, consulting, etc. do spend money and time to make their employees undergo this certification. Hence having CSCP certification (along with at least two years of work experience) distinguishes you as an industry expert with specialized, high level knowledge and skills. It indicates that student has an ambition to make a carrier in this particular field. Strategically speaking this gives you an edge when you are doing MBA from an IIM as after completing this certification, you will be having most sought after combination i.e. an MBA from a college like IIM and CSCP from a body like APICS.

4) How should candidates prepare for CSCP considering academic rigor in MBA?

Here is what I did/suggest –

  • When to take exam?- APICS Exam is conducted every 3 months (March, June, September, December). To leverage the exam to the max during the final placements, I decided to take the CSCP exam just after completing my summer internship and not in first year. I made the decision keeping in mind the following points:
    • Knowledge retention while facing the final interviews.
    • Extended validity of the certification after graduating, as the certification is valid for only 5 years. Taking the certification in first year would have lead to wastage of 1 year of certification during the second year of academics.
    • To be ready with the scorecard so as to include it in my profile at the onset of campus recruitment season given that it takes one month to get the score-card/result.
    • Avoid clash with academic rigor, although it’s a risky affair considering the fact that if you don’t clear the exam in 1st attempt you will have to wait till September for a retake and it will be already November by the time you will have your certification/score in hand. So one might want to consider taking this exam in March rather than in June.
  • What to study? – CSCP study material provided by APICS is a must as most of the questions are based on the concepts/ terminology mentioned in those modules. There are many useful references in these modules for those who want to study some concepts in detail. As far as the exam goes, I believe the given study material is sufficient.
  • How much to study? – Ideally two readings of APICS content is must. First reading should be done with the motive to learn in general, while the second reading should be focused towards passing the exam.

In a nutshell, a candidate should be ready to spend at least 100hrs towards the preparation. If you are taking the exam with academics in parallel then you should start at least two months before the exam so as to have a reasonable spread of the load. The week before exam is “the showdown week” where you must put in more number of hours and take as many practice tests as possible.