Business case competitions cover one of the most interesting chapters of university life. Some might say these competitions are the best parts of the university life letting one learn more than what one can learn from the classroom; some might take the fun part out of it keeping the learning goals aside; some might simply brush it off as a waste of time.
With numerous business competitions taking place all around and a sea of opinions revolving around those, it begs the question-- why should one participate in business case competitions? In a business case competition, organisers provide a case with specific instructions and a time frame. The participants compete to create the best solution and reach the next rounds.
Most competitions require teams of four, and the time frame ranges anywhere from hours to week(s). There are several types of business case competitions-- branding, financial modeling, investment banking, consulting, stock pitches, research, data analysis, marketing strategizing, etc. These competitions give students the chance to evaluate new ventures and resolve management dilemmas along with the opportunity to win prize money at the end.
Initially, case competitions help out with personal skill development, including presentation and communication skills, especially for those who have not been active in any extracurricular activity ever. Such competitions enable participants to apply critical thinking under pressure, research and formulate plans, and verbalise their ideas effectively within a time constraint.
However, the more convincing reasons behind participation go beyond simply skill development. The learning opportunities that a good case competition offers are unparalleled. This experience blends the theoretical and work experience more than any other kind of competition. Any well-made case provides contestants with detailed background on the relevant industry or company pertinent to the topic. While working on that, contestants learn more about the tangible ways of the world than they ever would academically. In many cases, such as marketing or financial modeling cases, participants need to learn how to utilise the necessary tools which put them ahead of their classmates.
The most sought-out reason people continue to participate in case competitions is, however, the recognition and networking opportunities. Well, the recognition that comes with winning or reaching the finales of a prestigious competition is already lucrative. The situation presents contestants with the chance to meet senior-level executives of various companies.
Arka Rahman, a third year BBA student of IBA at Dhaka University, believes winning a case competition provides privilege to a student in securing a job or internship ahead of others. He remarked, "Recently I made it to the finale of an investment strategy based competition. We got the chance to present directly to the CFO of the company that sponsored the competition."
There is no specific time for starting to participate in case competitions. However, as the saying goes-- the sooner, the better to get the hang of the ropes. Most competitions allow undergraduate students and above to participate, so anytime starting from one's first year at university is fine.
Despite all the benefits of case competitions, the most apparent crisis in recent years is the lack of well-built cases. Mainly during the pandemic, case competitions started springing up like mushrooms. Many pointed out, the cases have been very disappointing, with them being generic and having not nearly enough background information.
The lack of a great background inclusive of relevant market shares and industry growth, key competitors, and consumer insights often frustrates the contestants. The inconsistency between what the competition was made out to be before registration and what it ends up asking from the contestants is another major problem. Many organisers call for participation in a case solving competition but ask to make marketing strategies or even ad making competitions after registration.
However, the sheer thrill of competing in business case competitions with well-built cases is something else entirely. The case competitions do make contestants go into an infinite loop of insanity and pray for time to dilate until the solution is in perfect shape. Still, the adrenaline rush and gratification from submitting a somewhat well-made plan after the grueling hours of research and brainstorming, the learning curves and a good time with the team make it all worth it.
To participate or to not participate is not even a question as it seems. Instead, it is about which competitions to join in and when.
The author is a second year BBA student at IBA, University of Dhaka.
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