Every MBA student might have realised that case study competitions are an integral part of those two years of MBA degree. Undoubtedly it gives you lot of value addition and yes a CV pointer too. Solving real-life business problems for brand likes HUL, ITC, L’Oréal and more, gives you a great rush. Having said that, few missteps even lead brightest minds away from victory. While working on the case, intermittently this question keeps on bothering us that “How do we approach it”?
So let me give you two cents based on my experience so far.
Identify the right team - Well experimentation is the key here.
Team expertise in the diverse background do work since analytics, financials, marketing plan together need to be synchronised.
Find a team that has constructive friction and yes, no free riders to be welcomed.
Plan your time wisely.
Have strong presentation skills across the team.
Teach them, motivate them, learn from them. Improve each other. Your co-operation will only lead you all to be better - get out of the idea that helping somebody will diminish your competitive advantage.
Defining the objectives in terms of a key variable (e.g., improving the sales, improving profits, increasing market share, etc.)
Read your case again and again and discuss within the team.
Do a bit of secondary research on macro environment analysis for the industry on which case is based.
Study all information about the company which lies in the purview of case study and identify the target market.
Do a bit of idea generation if possible.
Perform your primary and secondary research thoroughly - Generally, a lot of your idea generation can be validated in your primary research.
Identify your TG well in advance and limit your survey accordingly.
Frame your survey questions in crisp.
Also, make sure this survey gets done on people who may give unbiased responses.
Based on your primary research, perform your analysis thoroughly to have consumer insights. Say, for example, My consumer is shelling out x amount for competitor’s product so what is the key driving force behind it.
Validate all insights gathered from primary research with secondary research.
Note- It is always advisable to not to manipulate with the data.
Idea Generation - Point of Differentiation: At the end of the day, this is where the buck stops but it is good to limit the boundaries in going out of the box. Sometimes in our endeavour to be innovative, we come up with something impractical and impossible for the company to implement. It is very difficult to find mistakes in your own baby and while working on these cases your solution becomes your baby. Although it is difficult to accept faults in your solution in case of defeat. It is a good practice to look out for shortcomings and learn from them. That lands us in the most practical/feasible solution(s). Prioritise those by finding the ones with the greatest impact. Brownie points if you actually go ahead and plan a detailed implementation timeline for the proposal you are putting forth.
For the deck, keep these points in mind -
- The information entered in your presentation should be intuitive and should come across as a story.
- Use a lot of infographics, charts, and proper headers and axes titles. Use company’s logo colours since judges then connect better.
- Use talking-headers/action-titles. They essentially summarise the slide in one sentence. Do mention key takeaway at the end of each slide
For the on-stage performance,
Get into your best suit, be calm and composed. Keep in mind it is the most important opportunity to sell all your hard work done so far. Feel like a consultant (well, it worked for me), motivate your team members. Highlight on important points of slides and takeaways.
More than this, the presentation should be a story-telling exercise. Go to a board, draw out the story you want to present, back it up with your findings from the analysis and then make a deck with action titles.
- These competitions usually tend to judge you on a few criteria.
Structure: Focus on your structure. Your approach is of greater importance and impact than finding the actual solution.
Assumptions: Try not to assume anything. If you assume, state them (explicitly). Your assumption should also be practicable - should not be from a parallel universe.
Flow: Your structure should flow in a logical and intuitive manner. When you move from one part/section of the structure to another, synthesise before you proceed. Engage your client. Your client should be able to easily grasp the full context of the discussion.
Feasibility of solution: It is great if your solution is innovative/out-of-the-box; but it should be implementable at the same time.
- Guesstimates: You might need to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations or guestimations during the Q&A session. Practice those and have a good knowledge about order-of-magnitude of different parameters.
- Timeline and Financials: Adding financials, the timeline of rollouts for your recommendations.
- Moreover, quality of presentation.
Many others might perceive these competitions differently. Hard-work, discipline and dedication always fetch you immense learning. So keep working hard and enjoy these case studies.