Demystifying case competition



Students from across India are spending considerable time participating in case competitions such as HUL Lime, Flipkart Wired, Godrej Voice, etc. It has tasked the already overburdened calendar of the MBA students, with classes, guest lectures, assignments, placement preparation, and what not!

Let’s look at how to go about cracking a case competition. For all it is worth, it will reduce your time in preparing for one, and free up some time to pursue other priorities.

A good case has loads of data in the form of exhibits. It is accompanied by the problem statement as faced by the CXO. What does it take to win the competition?

Think through what the judging panel is looking for.

Problem definition

Have you been able to define the problem statement accurately? Sometimes it may be given, or it may be obvious. But the symptoms shown could point to a deeper malaise. Have you been able to figure this out? If you are chasing the wrong root problem, your solution will be a quick fix, and not a sustainable solution. Have you put all possible options on the table, ruled out the ones not possible, and arrived at the core?

Data decluttering

Can’t see the wood for the trees? Some of the data may be irrelevant to the problem statement on hand. If you spend time in analyzing the data, you are spending unnecessary time in deciphering data. Sometimes, data is given to confuse you, as the judges want to see how quickly you can recognize the significance of “valuable” data and “good to know” data.

Non- linearity in approach

Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance, even though some co-relation can be established. Are you trying to extrapolate the learning from previous data, and predicting the future? Or are you bringing in non-linearity in your thoughts. This is a critical element, non-linearity of thought. Sometimes a butterfly effect can create a significant difference in the market scenario. If you base your forecast on a linear model, you might likely lose out on the bigger picture. The judges will give you credit, if you bring these elements in your decision making.

Scenario building

Most times, results will not pan out as per plan. Have you created the base case, best case, worst case scenario? If yes, have you stated the actions to be taken for each likely scenario? A good business planner anticipates uncertainty and always keeps the backup plan ready.


Financial

Have you only considered the traditional approach to financials or looked at innovations in finance? It could be both in the sources and usage of funds. “Innovations in finance” sounds a bit whacky, but it is possible.

Data visualization

A picture is worth a thousand words. Have you explored all ways to show your findings through graphical, easy to understand ways? It is tempting to use jargons of “models”, “Bubble charts”, etc., but have you been able to show your information in a simple way? The key in today’s complex world is simplicity. Make things simple for everyone to comprehend fast.

Softer aspects

Most of the time, we are drawn by data. Numbers. It is easier to handle, as they are quantifiable. But business is more than numbers. It is about people. Have you considered this angle for the case in hand? Will the success of your recommendation be based purely by numbers or have you included the softer aspects too. Many times, plans fail, as the softer side of business is not given importance. Typical examples happen in M&A cases.

 In summary, look at the broader picture, avoid making things more complex than they already are, show critical thinking & analysis, non-linearity of thought, innovation, and you are on your way to cracking the case.

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