Acing the Cases – From the Horse’s Mouth

Case competitions are an integral part of B School life- not only because you get a kind of exposure but also the enormous amount of learning involved with it. Undoubtedly, academics form the basic ingredient of B School but also fine-tune yourself by participating in several International, National & Corporate Competitions. In one such international competition I participated (Zurich Enterprise Challenge), we did not manage to get into the Semi finale stage, but the problem statement was what attracted us the most. The statement demanded the vision for businesses & multinational enterprises post-Covid world.

Amidst the cramped schedule of a B School life, you would not get the time to do all the cases and do proper justice to them. So, picking and choosing the cases becomes a key aspect. “Pick a case and absolutely slaughter it” – should be the mantra. This indeed goes a long way, as a proper approach to a case requires a lot of research and groundwork & it effectively drains out oneself. Picking up simultaneous case competitions will not be a smart choice as the effort gets divided. There’s no fixed one-size-fits-all for the competitions. The main aim of competition varies on a case-to-case basis – sometimes it’s the PPO/PPI/ personal brand building, sometimes it’s the brand and sometimes it’s just the learning one can get by participating in it.

During my 2 years in IIM Kashipur, one thing I effectively learned is “perseverance holds the key to success.” In the first year, I did not participate much effectively in competitions except the only one in which our team won the title of National Winners in IIM Trichy. I felt that with the second year in the fold, it was wise to participate in the competitions that were restricted only to the first years. 

In the second year, it becomes clearer as the domain gets selective – for example, in the second year, I mostly participated in Marketing, Consulting, and Strategy competitions. Moreover, you learn a lot from your mistakes, in fact, the bitter pills you swallow shape up for the upcoming ones. In one such corporate competition organized by Infosys, a minor mistake from our end did cost our entry to the next round. So, these competitions, indeed serve as a replica, to what one might expect from the corporate world – “there are no free lunches incorporated.” One great aspect of participating in various case competitions is that you get to know in-depth about specific sectors you work in while preparing for the cases. The cases are handpicked live industry cases where the participants work towards developing a feasible and sustainable solution.

Lastly, one key aspect of nailing case competitions is having a core team that is well aware of their capabilities & weaknesses. There would be issues cropping up, arguments but the key is the light at the end of the road – a potentially feasible solution. A good team can indeed be a game-changer. Everybody must have set, defined roles within the team.

With this, I ended up with 2 National Winners, 2 Runners Up, 1 National Semi-finalist, and 3 National Finalists in my tally. Of course, you win some and lose some, but the key thing is “Never Stop, Never Settle.” The entire journey of participating in several competitions (National/ Corporate/ International) plays a pivotal role in shaping up one’s journey. For me, it was about going beyond the stereotypes, building and rebuilding myself. Always remember “What brought you here, won’t take you there.”

Each individual has a different story to tell, but selecting the right atmosphere is of utmost essential. I would like to thank IIM Kashipur and the stakeholders for putting up commendable effort and providing individuals with the right kind of atmosphere in which they can rebuild and transform themselves throughout their stay.

About the Author:
Rahul is an Electronics & Communication Engineer by qualification & completed his MBA from IIM Kashipur (19-21 batch). He has been recognized as the Top 100 Competitive Business Leaders’2021 by Dare2Compete and has been featured in Forbes India. He is an IT professional with 2 years of experience in Cognizant. In his past time, he likes solving puzzles & binging on OTT platforms. 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 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

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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.’