Thursday May 26, 2022

Varsities’ students compete to solve Harvard case study

January 25, 2020

In a lecture hall of the Karachi School of Business and Leadership (KSBL) on Stadium Road, Dr Jawaid Abdul Ghani, a professor of strategy and marketing research, briefs an audience of around four dozen students about a Harvard case study that they would try their hands at a couple of hours later while working in 12 different teams.

The case study is about a real life corporate situation. The students need to solve it early because there is an unavoidable comedy night ahead and the next day, a panel of external judges, who may include some gurus from the industry, are going to evaluate their simulations.

The KSBL is one of the few institutions in the country, including the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), that teach Harvard Business School’s case studies and have included business simulations in their courses.

This unique selling point appears to be the reason why students from the Institute of Business Administration, Barrett Hodgson University, Bahria University, Institute of Business Management, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan, PAF Karachi Institute of Economics and Technology, and LUMS have converged there to participate in its annual competition SiMERGE that began on Friday.

Though, a fee of Rs2,000 was just required to participate in the three-day event, no student from any public varsity registered for the event. Organisers say they approached the University of Karachi and NED University but the former did not show any interest and examinations were going on in the latter.

“What is a decision,” Dr Ghani asked out loud to the participants and after picking up a few answers from the benches continued to explain why the use of business terminologies in their arguments will give them an edge in their communications. He said a businessperson at the Bolton Market, arguably the largest wholesale market in the city, may not know of these terminologies, although could understand these if explained thanks to their business sense – but knowing them simplifies things.

The students, after the session, left for separate breakout rooms to prepare their presentations which are scheduled to be discussed today (Saturday) in the same hall.

During a conversation later, Dr Ghani described that his sessions were about a particular situation facing a manufacturer which has a choice of building up a premium brand or going as a private label. “I think it is an issue which is important in the Pakistani context. In the sense that do we simply become a player in a larger value chain and simply provide something without our own design, without our own branding and become a supplier to a larger brand – or we can indeed build up our own brand. This is a basic issue,” he said.

Dr Ghani explained that solving such a case study required students to consider various factors as choosing one of the alternatives over the other involved a trade-off. “The whole issue of industry evolution, the fact that the retail structure is changing, the fact that consumers are changing – so there is a whole set of issues that need to be taken to consideration when one is making this level of decision at the firm level,” he remarked.

He maintained that in order to successfully solve such cases, students need to have analytical abilities so that they could work with data and facts and a good business sense so that they could take into consideration subtle facts.

He opined that it is a combination of business acumen and understanding of the real world with very sharp analytical and communication abilities which is what is required in the very competitive professional management world. About the participants, he said, it was delightful to see some fine individuals from across the country in terms of their write-ups. “I think that these people can compete anywhere in the global workspace.”

Sharing her experience of the first day of the event, Ramsha Mehmood, representing LUMS, said the case studies chosen for them were very interesting and they were something that somebody who was an undergraduate student or a freshman like her could get all involved with.

“It was not something too hard, I actually quite enjoyed that part. There were a lot of things I did not know and I was not intimidated because the instructor would [explain] everything to the basics,” she said, adding that such activities helped build the students’ confidence and polish the way they spoke.

KSBL Dean Dr Zeehsan Ahmed, in a statement, commented: “The three-day intense program that focuses on real-life decision making skills and analytical competences in a business environment, SiMERGE, is a truly unique business competition, unlike any other. The Harvard case studies and simulations challenge students to think outside of the box and channel whatever they have previously learned into a more real-life context.”

The event will continue until January 26 and the winning teams will be awarded cash prizes Rs100,000, Rs75,000 and Rs50,000 for the first, second and third positions respectively.