Updated: Oct 8, 2020
If you thought the title was too much in your face, wait till you reached the rest of the article!
In the Term-1 survival guide, we talked about all the possible reasons you might be interested in participating in a case competition, ranging from “there is a chance for PPI if we win this” to “I desperately need CV points” to the obligatory “because it is compulsory to register, duh!”
Whatever your reason, you can’t shun the importance of these competitions- whether it be the CV spike, the sought after PPIs/PPOs, the cash prize, the bragging rights or an opportunity to establish your presence in the campus outside of your usual peer group. Additionally, case competitions can become an interesting talking point in placement interviews as well.
With all the noise around the company case competitions, I thought it would be interesting to check if the competitions are really worth it, how to win them, how much time to invest in them among other things that might be on your mind.
EXPERIMENT & LEARN
With all the CV verification pressure, assignments, quizzes, pre-reads, case studies and Summers prep, it is humanly impossible to put in your best efforts in the ~40 case competitions that happen. So, you need to pick your battles and figure out which competitions are worth your maximum effort and which you don’t plan on taking on too seriously.
For the other non-serious cases, expand beyond your usual peer group and network with people from other backgrounds. A group of 4 “marketing enthusiast” commerce guys might not always be the best team combination here.
Network with different people, experiment and find out your strong areas- whether it is working on presentations, doing the research work, extracting all the secret ingredients from previous years’ campus winners, crunching numbers like a maniac or generating the stand-out unique ideas.
There are generally more than enough competitions before the Summers, but as with other things, you will not have enough time to experiment properly, it’s for you to figure out how many competitions you are willing to potentially lose out on for experimenting.
Sometimes, luck might play spoilsport to a supposedly perfect submission, so don’t forget to take that into account. Probability of getting shortlisted for further rounds and then probability of actually winning in the finals means you cannot “experiment” for 20 competitions!
GET YOUR DREAM TEAM TOGETHER
Hopefully, you will have identified your strengths, weaknesses and befriend people with complementary skills for future cases, courtesy of your experimentation and networking. The next step is to figure out which competitions you wish to target, based on the expected serious participation, topic of the case and the submission requirements.
Now, having a common group for all group assignments & competitions seems alluring at first, you get familiar with each other’s work style and the bonding as a group becomes really strong. But in a time crunch, the most efficient solution for meeting these multiple deadlines might be a one-man per project/case scenario, severely limiting your growth opportunities and generating a greater output that would have been there with the effort of the whole group. Different groups, though a bit more tedious to manage, somewhat ensures that tasks are not put-off till the end and, to some degree, reduces procrastination and free-riding.
There are different case competitions- branding cases, GTM cases, strategy cases and so on. Even the required submission is different- 5/7 slide deck, 1-slide submission, or a pre-defined presentation format. One-size-fits-all sadly, does not apply here, you and your team might not be best suited for all these different variants, and you need to be selective in choosing the competitions you are going for.
You will realize if you are better working in the defined flow and template by the company, or you work best in fitting all your analysis and proposal in a single slide. Talking to seniors & previous year winners is a good way to get an idea of how to approach each case, what style of presentation every company prefers, and sometimes also for deciding which competition is more suited for your team.
MBAs JUST MAKE PPTs ALL DAY!
With the large no of submissions for each competition, and consequently the less time allotted for evaluation per entry; more often than not, you will realize how you present your ideas & findings is at least as important, if not more, than the actual idea (at least in the qualifying round).
Hate it or love it, being good and quick at making PPTs is not only a skill that will help you sail through the 2 years here, but will also be much-valued later on. Presentation skills becomes essential for winning. Having pre-designed framework slides and templates help in organizing your thought process, letting you think over the flow of your PPT and the story you want to tell, and significantly improve the quality of your final submission. Extra perk, you save time on those final edits as well.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Are the case competitions worth it?
YES! Other than the obvious CV and placement perks, competitions are a great avenue for learning & networking. So, my suggestion is to make the best you can out of them!
How to win these competitions?
It’s the same as an investor asking “How do I beat the market every time”?
There is no one rule that guarantees a win but some practices might make you more likely to succeed. Collaborate with different people on different projects/competitions and figure out a best team with complementary skill-sets, choose which competitions to target and put your best effort in them.
Additionally, interact with previous year winners and other seniors to gain insights for specific competitions and companies, improve your PPT and presentation skills. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best!!