The Leaders – Next in Line: UCLA Global Business Leadership Case Competition

From left: Megha Mittal, Karla Hotchkiss, Richard Rubnan, Saurabh Kaushik & Apurbakanti Mukherjee

The NUS MBA Team won runners-up position at the UCLA Global Business Leadership Case Competition 2009. They share their experience here.

We kept looking at our watches, waiting for 4:15 pm, but it seemed like time had come to a standstill. We were in sunny Los Angeles representing NUS Business School at the UCLA Global Business Leadership Case Competition. The results for the preliminary stage were to be announced at 4:15pm and four out of the twelve teams from top MBA schools worldwide would make it to the next round.

The journey to UCLA started two months before with the MBA office inviting applications from students. After an initial screening followed by an interview by our faculty advisor Prof. Jane Lu, the five of us, Saurabh Kaushik, Karla Hotchkiss, Megha Mittal, Richard Que and Tony Mukherjee, were chosen based on our complementary backgrounds and strengths.

Getting chosen to represent the school was both an honor and a huge responsibility at the same time. We knew we were up against some stiff competition from teams like Chicago Booth,London Business School (LBS), Queens School of Business, HEC Paris among others. But all of us shared the drive and hunger to ‘bring home the bacon’ and we knew that we had a chance.

However, if you witnessed our first practice session, you might have written us off altogether. Even before this, we first met with the NUS team that had competed in this competition and got their feedback. Over the next four weeks, we devoted our weekends practicing cases, simulating the exact competition format by locking ourselves in a meeting room to analyze the case and then prepare the powerpoint presentation. When we were not taking cases apart, we were researching leadership frameworks, reading relevant articles and watching crisis management videos on Youtube. Also helping out with the preparations was Prof. Marleen Dieleman who along with Prof. Jane critiqued our progress and gave us encouragement along the way.

We reached LA on Sunday the 29th. The competition wasn’t until Thursday the 2nd. In effect we had four days of sight seeing or *team building* in the city of angels. We made good use of those four days and squeezed in everything from trips to Malibu and the central wine country near Solvang, Universal studios and Palisades beach along with the usual tourist hotspots of Sunset Boulevard, Melrose and Venice Beach.

By Thursday we were well rested and over our jet lag and ready to get on with the real purpose of our trip. We had a welcome dinner reception for all the teams at our hotel where we also met our ambassador Ray Chiao who would prove to be a life safer during the competition.

Friday the 3rd, the 1st day of the competition and the shuttle bus was going to pick us up at 6:15am which meant a 5:30am wake up call and lots of coffee. After a good breakfast we were given our 1st case at 8:00am and had three hours to analyze and present our reasons for not going ahead with a Joint Venture (JV) between 2 companies. The team that we were going head to head against, which turned out to be LBS, was to defend its position in favor of the JV.

Once we were inside that meeting room, our weeks of training kicked in. We had a designated tim keeper, we already had a case discussion framework in place, and we soon mapped out all the issues on the whiteboard. We deliberated, discusses, pondered, argued and finally came to a consensus after which we had the equally hard task of mapping our discussion out into a 10 minute power point presentation.

The presentation to the judges went quite well and we held our own against LBS in the debate as well. LBS was quite impressed with our presentation quality in the short time frame, for which credit goes to Richard. The 2nd round was interesting in that they had mixed up the teams. So you have only an hour to work with four people from four different schools and come up with a press release in response to a public outcry over bonuses at our bank, one of the leading banks in the UK. My team had a student from Chicago Booth with a convincing Scottish accent to play the role of CEO. The judges were brutal in their questioning and it was a challenge staying calm and sticking to our statement.

This marked the end of the 1st day of the competition and we met up with the LBS and Fudan teams for dinner at a popular UCLA hangout called Palomino’s for dinner and drinks before retiring for the night.

The case for the 2nd day was one of the most complicated cases I’ve worked on and this time we had five hours to work on it. There was a lot of critical info buried deep inside and a lot of unnecessary information trying to lead us down the wrong path. Luckily, it was a case on Bollywood, which is the name given to the Indian film industry since it is based in Bombay and we had three Indians on the team. It involved the recent acquisition of Speilberg’s Dreamworks by Anil Ambani’s Reliance BIG Entertainment company and the subsequent integration.

We decided to do a role play to make things more interesting and also started our presentation with a Bollywood song. The judges loved it from the start and we knew that we stood a chance now, since this stage was worth 50% of the total scoring. This is when our excruciating wait started for 4:15 pm when we would know if we made it to the finals or not.

Finally the results were announced and ours was the 1st name called. We were ecstatic but now the real challenge began. We had to repeat our last presentation again, but this time in front of a full auditorium.

Queens School of Business from Canada came 1st followed by us in 2nd place ahead of Chicago Booth. It was a great end to an awesome week, with many new friends made and memories that will last for a while.

Apurbakanti (Tony) Mukherjee
Class of 2010