ISU students win Big 12 Case Competition

Chelsea Davis

A team of four ISU students won the Big 12 Case Competition at Gerdin last weekend.

Out of the 12 schools, 11 competed. The competition took place in 24 hours, with each school trying to figure out the problem of the case, come up with a solution and prove it to a panel of judges.

The ISU team consisted of Dan Hinz, Srivani Harish, Gayathri Samarasingha and Scott Groh, all graduate students in business administration.

“In the case, there was no direction, question or problem to solve,” Hinz said. “It took a lot of time to figure out what the problem was and how to solve it, and then decide how to make it profitable and prove that it was profitable.”

While it is difficult for the teams to prepare for a case they’ve never seen before, they began some preparations a month in advance.

“The preparation started a month before the competition and involved working through multiple practice cases. In the process, the team members developed their capabilities to work as a team,” said Andreas Schwab, assistant professor of management.

“This involved, for example, establishing a clear internal division of labor and developing a formal time line for the sequencing of their tasks. I believe these extensive pre-competition activities paid off during the actual competition.”

The teams were presented with information about Amazon and other companies involving e-books and e-reader markets.

The ISU team decided to prove to judges that while Amazon is good at selling items online, they are not necessarily good at making devices, such as the Kindle. They also focused on analyzing foreign markets in electronic books and textbooks.

“We were the only team to come up with our type of solution,” Harish said. “The judges were happy because we had the numbers to prove it.”

Baylor University, coming in at second place, came up with an idea for a Kindleberry, a combination of the Kindle and the Blackberry.

“It was a good idea and was very well thought out, but they didn’t have a lot of numbers behind it,” Hinz said. “Our numbers and financial analysis are what gave us the winning edge.”

The 24-hour deadline for the competition created yet another challenge for the teams.

“Without sleep it made everything else in the world a lot easier to handle,” Hinz said. “I ended up staying up the entire time while my other three teammates took one-and-a-half-hour naps. But that still isn’t a whole lot of sleep.”

Harish said she had a great team to work with, and their many different backgrounds gave them the opportunity to play off each other’s strengths and decided who would do what.

“It was a great experience in itself,” Harish said. “The judges are like a board of directors.”

Schwab said case studies and case competitions present greater learning opportunities.

“The Big 12 case competition challenges students to apply their analytical skills to a specific business problem,” Schwab said. “This successful integration of knowledge and skills is the ultimate goal of our MBA program and will determine the success of our students in their future jobs.”

The team was able to back up their idea with financial analysis and included how much Amazon would lose if they didn’t follow this strategy.

“It was a great learning experience, and I worked with a talented group of people,” Harish said.

Schwab is proud of the work his students accomplished.

“I am absolutely confident that Srivani, Gaya, Dan and Scott have bright business careers ahead of them,” Schwab said.