Friday, December 6, 2013

B-School Competitions

If you've arrived at this page looking for clues to crack B-School case study competitions, you are leading a sad, sad life and I suggest you press 'ctrl+w' rightaway. 

Phew! Now that everyone has left, I can express my opinions freely.
For starters, I must say this post was long overdue. 
Must say any post from this space was long overdue. 
The date on my last entry reads July 17th.
So what makes me write after an interval of almost 5 months? I think a better question would be what prevented me from writing in the first place. 
I am tempted to say it was a sabbatical. But then sabbatical from work gives birth to hobbies. Sabbatical from hobbies, on the other hand, might lead you to (a) Nowhere, or (b) Back to work; places you wouldn't want to see yourself in. 
So let me just say it.
A majority of my time (R2=0.15) was spent in solving case studies floated by various companies that usually come for recruitment. At the very onset, the Holmes (Jasoos Vijay, for some) in us becomes suspicious. Why would corporates spend lakhs of rupees finding solutions from ‘cannot-manage’ MBA students on by-in-large hypothetical business challenges faced by hypothetical managers at their allegedly esteemed organizations? Well, on paper, they come scrounging for ideas, a fresh perspective, they call it. Well, of course. The McKinseys, the BCGs and the Bains may be very big names and might well have dedicated teams for these sectors with years and years of experience, but then they certainly can’t beat the ideas and insights presented by timid-yet-cocky MBA students in flashy Powerpoint templates finished 5 minutes before the twice-extended deadline, not proof-read and with ‘company’ misspelt as ‘comapny’ in the very first slide. So much for ideas. But then, hey, out of those that ‘supposedly’ solve these case studies, they also look for candidates worthy enough to work for their ‘supposedly’ esteemed organizations. Sure. If the verdict of the 1% (rounded off from 0.51%) who have converted the subsequent interview is anything to go by, this is all true. So what are we left with? In my (humble) opinion, I’ve shortlisted the following rationales the corporates have for organizing such events:
(i)                 A part of their CSR initiative, given how debt ridden B-School students are
(ii)               Spreading Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation’s ‘Keep calm and make ppt’ message
(iii)             Complementing academics with academic exercises.
Like we do in these case studies, rating the above tree alternatives on factors such as (a) Likelihood, (b) Impact, (c) Short term profit potential, (d) Long term profit potential, and (e) Intuition; and giving relative weights of 0,0,0,0 and 1 to these factors, I can conclude that taking part in a B-School competition is an academic exercise.
Now that the company’s motto is clear, let’s take the students’ viewpoint. The reason why students do these case studies with the fraction of the total students mentioned in brackets is (a) Money (100%), (b) Understanding more about the sector (0%), (c) Understanding more about the company (0%), and (d) Enhancing ppt making skills (0%).
Now that there is a clear motif mismatch, I can go ahead with how students approach them.
Every great presentation consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Procrastination". The team sleeps until its two days before the deadline. Perhaps people log on to the competition website to see if the deadline has indeed changed. But of course... it probably hasn't. The second act is called "The Steal". The team rips off an extraordinary something inherited from Hostel seniors and reduces it to something ordinary to avoid the vulture’s eye and sneak underneath the radar range. But copying something blatantly isn't enough; you have to make it appear different. That's why every presentation has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Facade”. It consists of the student forcefully fitting in totally unrelated frameworks; fabricating ‘extensive, intensive, exhaustive, whatever-ive’ surveys with 297 respondents from the length and breadth (sometimes even depth) of the state (sometimes even the country, sometimes even abroad); conducting clandestine focus group discussions between 5 participants: him and the four walls of his room, and, interviewing industry experts which is again an exercise in introspection.
Add your suit-clad-boots-inivisible-face-constipated-hair-gelled-totally-clerk-like photograph from your first month here on the cover slide and there you are! The perfect presentation is ready.
And then comes the submission. You punch in the most beautiful words you’ve ever learned in English literature. Words such as ‘dear’, ‘sir’ and ‘please’. You put them together in one legendary paragraph. Attach the presentation to the email and hover over the ‘send’ button for what seems like ages and then, finally, press it.
A week hence, you think of the most unintelligent person of your batch, the kind who never submitted a single curricular assignment on time, free-rode every group the two of you were part of, couldn’t expand ‘CAGR’ and wonder how on earth could he win a B-School competition…again.
You aren’t disappointed. In fact you are indifferent to any such feeling. All you’re sure of is that the last competition, like the one before it (and the one before it), would be your last.
You go back to your den, power on your laptop and open Outlook. At the top of the stack, lies an email announcing the launch of yet another event by yet another corporate. A few swear words later, the cursor hovers over the ‘Register’ button… again.


  1. Loved it, except a small generalization towards the end...(y) (y)

  2. Best blog post ever recommended to me.

    Cheers! \m/

  3. @Debu: Generalizations are generally false. My bad.
    @MachMan: Thanks bud!
    @Sudeep: Special thanks to the one who recommended it :)

  4. Love reading your blogs bhai... U make me proud every single day... god bless.. :)

  5. Been there , done that feeling! Awesome blog