NUS Business School clinches top prize at global case competition

A determined team of NUS Business School undergraduates comprising Andre Ong, Clarisse Gan, Ernest Koh and Kevin Darmawan raced against time and surmounted hurdle after hurdle to clinch the top prize at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) STAR Case Competition – one of the world’s most prestigious business case competitions.

The RSM STAR Case Competition is an opportunity for sixteen teams from top business schools worldwide to compete with one another by presenting their solutions for real-life business cases.

The seventh edition of the Competition took place from 16 to 23 Apr. The topic this year focused on Future Growth where students had to present innovative solutions for future growth and development for case competition partner companies.

The road to victory was not a smooth-sailing one. The team was off to a discouraging start when they placed second last in their division in the first round, which involved cracking a case based on Coca Cola within 12 hours.

Undaunted, the team resolved to turn things around. The second round held a higher weightage, so the team knew they still stood a good chance.

The comeback kids

They were raring to go. The task was to analyse the business position of Docubird, a Dutch document management start-up, and within 24 hours recommend how to grow the business.

This time, the team made sure to allocate enough time for creative brainstorming. Being finance majors, the team leveraged their strengths in data analysis and projections to identify Docubird’s key pain points.

They concluded that Docubird had to emerge as the thought leader to truly succeed. The team developed strategic solutions that aligned with Docubird’s strengths and put forth ideas that could be implemented by the company. Each recommendation was also paired with animated mock-ups to highlight its feasibility. Underpinning these recommendations was a set of robust financials that mapped out growth for the client in several scenarios.

The hard work paid off. The team topped their division this time, earning them a spot in the finals.

In the final round, the team faced strong competition from Copenhagen Business School, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Rotterdam School of Management as they argued their case for Docubird. Confident of their ideas, the team stood their ground, defending their position with unwavering conviction.

Hard work and preparation pay off

In a unanimous vote by the judging panel, the team was named overall Champion. Their win was due to the strong analysis of the case company fundamentals and creative recommendations that were backed by robust financials. The judges from Docubird were extremely impressed by the detail of work produced, and were excited to begin implementing the team’s strategy for their global market expansion.

Despite arguing their case remotely from their own spaces due to COVID restrictions, each team member felt a collective and overwhelming sense of pride, having come a long way to attain victory.

Reflecting on the entire process, Clarisse said, “I think the excitement from the competition kept the team’s energy levels high despite little sleep. It brought out the best of our ideas and helped pushed us to the limits of our creative thinking. We also devoted a lot of time and effort preparing for this competition, and I am glad it has paid off.” Indeed, to prepare for the competition, the team sacrificed many weekends to build team camaraderie, problem solving abilities, and presentation skills. They also received valuable feedback from the NUS Business School Case Consulting Group’s club members and faculty mentor Associate Professor Tan Soo Jiuan during the case trainings.

Assoc Prof Tan observed, “During our training sessions before the competition, the students never failed to surprise me with their good learning attitude and they were very committed in wanting to excel in the competition. Hence, I was not surprised that they really bounced back from their defeat during the preliminary round. I am very happy and proud of them for winning the Docubird case, which was a very challenging case to solve.”

She added, “To me, the most notable part of the team’s win was that they earned praises from the Commercial Lead of the company who was very impressed by how strategic and practical the recommendations were. This speaks volumes about the team’s achievement and underscores the importance of having our students compete in international case competitions. My heartiest congratulations to the team!” 

Ernest concluded, “The diversity of thought and character that each team member brought to the competition played an important role in our win. All of us in the team share a passion for case competitions, and I think this was the key ingredient that allowed us to give our best effort. The experience is truly a memorable one and I speak for us all when I say the valuable lessons learnt in this process will define our future careers.”